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Differentiating among penal states




This review article assesses Loïc Wacquant's contribution to debates on penality, focusing on his most recent book, Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity (Wacquant 2009), while setting its argument in the context of his earlier Prisons of Poverty (1999). In particular, it draws on both historical and comparative methods to question whether Wacquant's conception of ‘the penal state’ is adequately differentiated for the purposes of building the explanatory account he proposes; about whether ‘neo-liberalism’ has, materially, the global influence which he ascribes to it; and about whether, therefore, the process of penal Americanization which he asserts in his recent writings is credible.

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