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Punishing the Poor: The Neoliberal Government of Social Insecurity First edition, paperback issue Edition

4.2 out of 5 stars 9 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0822344223
ISBN-10: 082234422X
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Editorial Reviews

Review

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

From the Publisher

"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

"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

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 384 pages
  • Publisher: Duke University Press Books; First edition, paperback issue edition (May 22, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 082234422X
  • ISBN-13: 978-0822344223
  • Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 1.1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (9 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #662,968 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

By Ian M. Buchanan on August 30, 2009
Format: Paperback
This should be essential reading for anyone interested in what 'welfare reform' really means: as Wacquant shows, it doesn't mean creating a better deal for the needy, it means extinguishing both the right and the expectation that the needy will get help from the government. Wacquant argues that the so-called 'war on crime' in the US is nothing other than a war on the poor with the aim of making them less visible. The irony is that it is costing government more to incarcerate the poor than it would to put them on welfare. So what has to be explained is why government would should the more expensive and obviously far less humane option. Given that the UK an Europe seem anxious to follow the same path as the US on this subject, Wacquant's claim that his research has a prophetic value is justified. This book is part of a trilogy and is obviously the product of a long and obsessive amount of research that has left no stone unturned.
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'Punishing the Poor' is the second part of a Trilogy beginning with 'Urban Outcasts: A Comparative Sociology of Advanced Marginality' and ending with 'Deadly Symbiosis: Race and the Rise of the Penal State'.
In Punishing the Poor Wacquant elucidates the connection between Prison and Welfare. Both of these institutions serve the same demographics with the same purposes. According to Wacquant the rise in prison populations are in proportion to the dismantling of welfare and the deindustrialization of the urban core. Incarceration serves the function of removing undesirables from view while extending state surveillance and control beyond the prison itself through parole, probation and welfare. Welfare 'Queens' and 'Dangerous' criminals serve the function of displaced anger while the state proceeds with it's neoliberalism program of retrenchment.
There is a lot going on in this book which required a careful reading by me. Very thought provoking!
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Format: Paperback
Loic Wacquants dense and detailed book "Punishing the Poor" charts the changes in Public Welfare and Penal policies during the Neo-Liberal era. His critique is compelling: States have retreated from their responsibilities to the majority of the population in the economic sphere, turned welfare into machine for forcing workers into the ever growing precarious sector of the labour market, and dealt with those areas, classes and ethnicities who have suffered the most at the hands of the lack of stable employment opportunities and adequate social security with relentless and intruisive policing followed up with grotesque levels of incarceration.

The focus is primarily on the experience of the United States. Part 1 - "The Poverty of the Social State" details the welfare reforms of the post-civil rights era that culminated in the Clinton era "Workfare" act of 1996. With respect to the black population, as well as latinos, a strong case is made for regarding the changes to the labour market and welfare entitlements as functioning as a further stage of repression following slavery and the post-reconstruction "Jim Crow" era following the gains of the civil rights movements of the 1960's.

Part 2 - "Grandeur of the Penal State" charts the inexorable rise of incarceration during the Neoliberal era, the class and "race" dimensions of this immense (2,000,000+) penal obsession. Wacquant regards "workfare and prisonfare" as two sides of the same coin: workfare attacking the welfare of women to encourage them en masse to participate in a precarious labour market where they are no better off, and prisonfare as being the response to the troublesome lower class casualties of a Neoliberal economy that is not able, nor meant to, offer them employment or other prospects.
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Format: Paperback
Neoliberalism has long possessed the irony of combining fanatic rhetorical promotion for free market and relentless deployment of state power in enacting market-based economy and suppressing social dissent. Loic Wacquant attempts to reconcile this internal conflict by providing a “historical anthropology” of the state, especially the its penal function, crackdown on criminal activities and mass incarceration in USA and France.
Following the footsteps of Marx and Foucault, Wacquant sees the antagonism between state and society as an inherent feature of capitalist production regime; the expansion of state’s governmentality in the area of penal function, for Wacquant, not only approximates the coercive disciplining of mass workers in factories, it also constitutes a necessary component in dealing with the social consequences of dissolving of workers’ social ties in a market economy. In the era of Neoliberalism, the state does revoke many of its social and economic responsibilities. However, massive reduction in social welfare, privatization of public goods provision and commodification of social needs has produced a whole new group of povertized, marginalized social poor living in turbulent lives without much support from an elaborate social network, requiring on the other hand a more severe and encompassing system of criminal detection and punishment to keep it at bay. Wacquant refers to Pierre Bourdieu’s bureaucratic field in describing state tactics in the expansion of its penal function: as bureaucratic organizations of the state intrudes into legislative and judiciary branches, they increasingly erodes the democratic process of the former and independence of the latter and incorporates penalty of crimes into its “rational”, bureaucratic sphere.
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