BIROn - Birkbeck Institutional Research Online

    Whither Neoliberal penality? The past, present and future of imprisonment in the US

    Xenakis, Sappho and Cheliotis, L.K. (2019) Whither Neoliberal penality? The past, present and future of imprisonment in the US. Punishment & Society 21 (2), pp. 187-206. ISSN 1462-4745.

    This is the latest version of this item.

    Whither Neoliberal Penality Xenakis and Cheliotis.pdf - Author's Accepted Manuscript

    Download (262kB) | Preview


    Debates about the trajectory of prison rates in the US, on one hand, and about the prospects of the neoliberal international order, on the other hand, suggest the time is ripe for a reappraisal of penological scholarship on the relationship between neoliberalism and imprisonment. With the aim of responding to this challenge, this article considers the relevance of the so-called ‘neoliberal penality thesis’ as a framework through which to interpret recent and ongoing developments in US imprisonment. We first set out the core propositions of the thesis, and engage with a range of critiques it has attracted regarding the role of crime and government institutions, the evolution and functions of state regulation and welfare provision, and reliance on imprisonment as an indicator of state punitiveness. We then outline the principal arguments that have arisen about the direction of contemporary prison trends in the US, including since Donald Trump was elected to the presidency and took office, and proceed to distill their commonly opaque treatment of the intersections between neoliberalism and imprisonment, also clarifying their respective implications for the neoliberal penality thesis in light of the main critiques leveled previously against it. In so doing, we go beyond the penological field to take into account concerns about the vitality of neoliberalism itself. We conclude that international politico-economic developments have cast doubt over the pertinence of neoliberalism as an organising concept for analysis of penal trends in the near future.


    Item Type: Article
    School: Birkbeck Faculties and Schools > Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences > School of Social Sciences
    Depositing User: Sappho Xenakis
    Date Deposited: 13 Dec 2017 12:48
    Last Modified: 02 Aug 2023 17:37

    Available Versions of this Item

    • Whither Neoliberal penality? The past, present and future of imprisonment in the US. (deposited 13 Dec 2017 12:48) [Currently Displayed]


    Activity Overview
    6 month trend
    6 month trend

    Additional statistics are available via IRStats2.

    Archive Staff Only (login required)

    Edit/View Item Edit/View Item