Chair: Zelia Gallo

The political economy of punishment today. Visons, debates and challenges.

Building: B
Room: 11


Author: Melossi Dario, University of Bologna

Title: Between Struggles and Discipline: Marx and Foucault on Penality and the Critique of Political Economy
In his contribution to The Political Economy of Punishment Today, Dario Melossi reconsiders the significance of the discipline of living labor for the political economic analyses on punishment, a topic that was at the centre of his book, co-authored with Massimo Pavarini, The Prison and the Factory (recently reissued). He claims that such a view was also at the center of Michel Foucault’s path-breaking work, Discipline and Punish. Melossi emphasizes the relevance of class revolts and struggles in the crisis that has accompanied change in the overall system of social control and penality since the 1970s. Drawing also upon the recently published Foucault’s lectures, The Punitive Society, Melossi argues that, from the perspective of a Marx-oriented political economy of punishment, the teaching of obedience and the subordination of (frequently ethnicized) outcast populations have been, and continue to be, also in post-industrial capitalism, the principal ideological characteristics of the contemporary penal project.
Keywords: Prison, Discilpline, Struggle
Author: Brandariz Jose A. , University of A Coruna

Title: Prison Downsizing and the Political Economy of Punishment
The political economy of punishment has traditionally claimed that, in terms of penality, economic crisis periods are characterised by rising punitiveness, and particularly by rising incarceration rates. Whether this correlation between economic turmoil and penality is mediated by rising inequality, increasing unemployment rates or the reinforcing of labour exploitation, it has been one of the main conclusions of the politico economic interpretation of penal variations. This conclusion is generally shared by the neoliberal penality thesis. In stark contrast to this, the global financial crisis that begun ten years ago and its wide-encompassing effects in terms of both impoverishment and economic inequality and strengthening of neoliberal policies have been simultaneous to a significant prison downsizing that has affected many Global North jurisdictions, especially in the US and the EU. This paper aims to explore this apparently puzzling relation between economic crisis and prison decline. More precisely, it examines which forces have enabled the recent decline in incarceration rates and how a renewed political economy of punishment framework may account for this penal turn.
Keywords: political economy of punishment, economic crisis, prison downsizing, neoliberal penality
Author: Sozzo Maximo E. , National University of Litoral

Title: Inequality, Welfare and Punishment. Comparative Perspectives on Economy, Politics and Punishment in Contemporary Societies.
For some years now, in the sociology of penality, a certain rebirth of the connection between political economy and punishment has been generated in a comparative perspective, making substantially more complex schemas and arguments previously raised in the literature from the 1970s onwards. An interesting line of this work has been conducting empirical analysis that relate economic and social indicators -levels of income inequality, levels of social spending/investment- and penal indicatores -levels of imprisonment- through different national contexts from the Global North. In general terms, they have reached similar conclusions: more inequality = more imprisonment, less social investment = more imprisonment. These relationships are deployed in some cases to account for the evolution over time and in other cases for the variation in space. Other works, without making such empirical analyzes, have incorporated their results as a substantial part of their theoretical arguments This paper presents a similar empirical analysis on Latin America from the beginning of the 1990s to the present, exploring both temporal and spatial variations. These national cases do not seem to support the associations drawn around the Global North. That dissonance is interpreted in this paper in order to account for this alternative path. But it also intends to introduce a theoretical and methodological reflection on this type of comparison and its limits and on the challenges of "travelling South".
Keywords: Inequality, welfare, punishment, comparison
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