Library Header Image
LSE Research Online LSE Library Services

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

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

Text - Accepted Version
Download (514kB) | Preview

Identification Number: 10.1177/1462474517751911


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 distil 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 levelled 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 considerable doubt over the pertinence of neoliberalism as an organising concept for analysis of emergent penal currents.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2018 The Authors
Divisions: Social Policy
Subjects: J Political Science > JA Political science (General)
Date Deposited: 23 Nov 2017 11:14
Last Modified: 07 Jun 2024 21:30

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year

View more statistics