Punishing the Poor

9780822344049: Hardback
Release Date: 22nd May 2009

9780822344223: Paperback
Release Date: 22nd May 2009

21 illustrations

Dimensions: 156 x 235

Number of Pages: 408

Series Politics, History, and Culture

Duke University Press Books

Punishing the Poor

The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity

A sociologist explains how over the past two decades neoliberal societies have sought to control the poor through a combination of penal sanction and welfare supervision.
Hardback / £97.00
Paperback / £25.99

The punitive turn of penal policy in the United States after the acme of the Civil Rights movement responds not to rising criminal insecurity but to the social insecurity spawned by the fragmentation of wage labor and the shakeup of the ethnoracial hierarchy. It partakes of a broader reconstruction of the state wedding restrictive “workfare” and expansive “prisonfare” under a philosophy of moral behaviorism. This paternalist program of penalization of poverty aims to curb the urban disorders wrought by economic deregulation and to impose precarious employment on the postindustrial proletariat. It also erects a garish theater of civic morality on whose stage political elites can orchestrate the public vituperation of deviant figures—the teenage “welfare mother,” the ghetto “street thug,” and the roaming “sex predator”—and close the legitimacy deficit they suffer when they discard the established government mission of social and economic protection. By bringing developments in welfare and criminal justice into a single analytic framework attentive to both the instrumental and communicative moments of public policy, Punishing the Poor shows that the prison is not a mere technical implement for law enforcement but a core political institution. And it reveals that the capitalist revolution from above called neoliberalism entails not the advent of “small government” but the building of an overgrown and intrusive penal state deeply injurious to the ideals of democratic citizenship.

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Tables and Figures ix
Prologue: America as Living Laboratory for the Neoliberal Future xi
1. Social Insecurity and the Punitive Upsurge 1
Part I: Poverty of the Social State
2. The Criminalization of Poverty in the Post-Civil Rights Era 41
3. Welfare "Reform" as Poor Discipline and Statecraft 76
Part II: Grandeur of the Penal State
4. The Great Confinement of the Fin de Siècle 113
5. The Coming of Carceral "Big Government" 151
Part III.
6. The Prison as Surrogate Ghetto: Encaging the Black Subproletarians 195
7. Moralism and Punitive Panopticism: Hunting Down Sex Offenders 209
Part IV: European Declinations
8. The Scholarly Myths of the New Law-and-Order Reason 243
9. Carceral Aberration Comes to French 270
Theoretical Coda: A Sketch of the Neoliberal State 287
Acknowledgments 315
Endnotes 319
Index 367

Loïc Wacquant is Professor of Sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, and Researcher at the Centre de sociologie européenne, Paris. He is a MacArthur Foundation Fellow and recipient of the 2008 Lewis Coser Award of the American Sociological Association. His recent books include Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality, Body & Soul: Notebooks of an Apprentice Boxer, and Pierre Bourdieu and Democratic Politics. He is a co-founder and editor of the interdisciplinary journal Ethnography.

Punishing the Poor is an incisive and unflinching indictment of neoliberal state restructuring and poverty (mis)management. It brilliantly exposes structural and symbolic consonances between ‘workfare’ and ‘prisonfare,’ and between emergent, transnational policy orthodoxies in social and penal policy. Loïc Wacquant delivers a trenchant, radical, and entirely compelling analysis.”—Jamie Peck, author of Workfare States

“This masterful treatment of contemporary punishment policies relocates the entire field within the political sweep of the twentieth-century ascendance of economic neoliberalism and the evisceration of the welfare state. Loïc Wacquant skillfully weds materialist and symbolic approaches in the best tradition of Marx and radical criminology, on the one hand, and Durkheim and Bourdieu, on the other. This provocative book is the counter-manifesto to neoliberal penality, a must-read for all students of criminal justice and citizenship.”—Bernard E. Harcourt, author of Against Prediction: Profiling, Policing, and Punishing in an Actuarial Age

“This powerful book shows that America’s harsh penal policies are of a piece with our harsh social policies and that both can be understood as a symbolic and material apparatus to control the marginal populations created by neoliberal globalization. A tour de force!”—Frances Fox Piven, co-author of Regulating the Poor: The Functions of Public Welfare