The Situationist

Archive for October 30th, 2009

Bernard Harcourt on “Neoliberal Penality”

Posted by The Situationist Staff on October 30, 2009


Bernard Harcourt, the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law and professor of political science at the University of Chicago, presented his fascinating paper “Neoliberal Penality: The Birth of Natural Order, the Illusion of Free Markets” at the third annual conference on Law and Mind Sciences, “The Free Market Mindset: History, Psychology, and Consequences,” which took place on March 7, 2009 at Harvard Law School.  The abstract for his talk is as follows:

In the Encyclopédie in 1758, under the entry “Grains,” Francois Quesnay declared that “It is quite sufficient that the government simply not interfere with industry, suppress the prohibitions and prejudicial constraints on internal commerce and reciprocal external trade, abolish or diminish tolls and transport charges, and extinguish the privileges levied on commerce by the provinces.” Quesnay’s vision of an economic system governed by natural order led to a political theory of “legal despotism” that would stand on its head an earlier understanding of a more seamless relationship between economy and society. By relegating the state to the margins of the market and giving it free rein there and there alone, the idea of natural order facilitated the unrestrained expansion of the penal sphere. It gave birth to our modern form of neoliberal penality.  In this presentation, I will trace a genealogy of neoliberal penality and explore the effects it has had in the field of crime and punishment specifically, and in the area of economy and society more generally.

To watch his fascinating talk (in three nine-minute sections) click on the videos below.

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For a sample or related Situationist posts, see “The Situation of Racial Profiling,” “Conference on the Free Market Mindset,” and “The Categorical Situation of ‘Money’.”

Posted in Abstracts, History, Ideology, Law, Legal Theory, Video | Tagged: , , | Leave a Comment »

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