Crafting the neoliberal state Workfare, prisonfare and social insecurity Cover Image

Crafting the neoliberal state Workfare, prisonfare and social insecurity
Crafting the neoliberal state Workfare, prisonfare and social insecurity

Author(s): Loďc Wacquant
Subject(s): Social Sciences
Published by: Editura Eikon
Keywords: state; prison; welfare; workfare; poverty; regulation; neoliberalism; citizenship; Bourdieu

Summary/Abstract: In Punishing the Poor, I show that the ascent of the penal state in the United States and other advanced societies over the past quarter-century is a response to rising social insecurity, not criminal insecurity; that changes in welfare and justice policies are interlinked, as restrictive 'workfare' and expansive 'prisonfare' are coupled into a single organizational contraption to discipline the precarious fractions of the postindustrial working class; and that a diligent carceral system is not a deviation from, but a constituent component of, the neoliberal Leviathan. In this article, I draw out the theoretical implications of this diagnosis of the emerging government of social insecurity. I deploy Pierre Bourdieu's concept of 'bureaucratic field' to revise Piven and Cloward's classic thesis on the regulation of poverty via public assistance, and contrast the model of penalization as technique for the management of marginality in the dual metropolis to Michel Foucault's vision of the 'disciplinary society', David Garland's account of the 'culture of control' and David Harvey's characterization of neoliberal politics. Against the thin economic conception of neoliberalism as market rule that echoes its ideology, I propose a thick sociological specification entailing supervisory workfare, a proactive penal state and the cultural trope of 'individual responsibility'. This suggests that we need to theorize the prison, not as a technical implement for law enforcement, but as a core political capacity whose selective and aggressive deployment in the lower regions of social space is constitutively injurious to the ideals of democratic citizenship.

  • Issue Year: 8/2010
  • Issue No: 03
  • Page Range: 5-23
  • Page Count: 1
  • Language: English