Diffusion, differentiation and resistance in comparative penality

AuthorTim Newburn
Published date01 November 2010
Date01 November 2010
Subject MatterArticles
Diffusion, differentiation
and resistance in
comparative penality
Tim Newburn
London School of Economics, UK
The contributions to this issue respond to various aspects of two of Loïc Wacquant’s
recent volumes in his prodigious output. My focus, rather than taking the broad sweep of
Wacquant’s work, is concerned with one relatively small sub-theme that appears most
clearly in Prisons of Poverty (2009): namely, his analysis of the flow and spread of neo-
liberal penality through and across the modern advanced economies.
The most significant scholarly activity has a number of consequences, perhaps the
most important of which is that it provokes new work – either through emulation, repli-
cation, and expansion and/or through critique and revision. Thus, within the general field
of contemporary criminology, the power and influence of David Garland’s (2001) The
Culture of Control can be seen in the strength of its arguments and the subtlety of its
analysis, and through its influence over a generation of scholars who have drawn on it as
a means of illuminating and framing their own work. Its impact is also illustrated by the
fact that it has stimulated a great deal of new criminological activity, primarily by
prompting an increasing number of researchers to examine the penal trajectories of their
own and other nations, and to engage anew with comparative research (see, for exam-
ples, the essays in Tonry, 2008). Few scholars can expect to have such an impact. Though
too early to assess its influence, it seems likely that Nicola Lacey’s (2008) The Prisoners’
Dilemma will fall into a similar category, setting out, as it does, a programme of theoreti-
cal and empirical inquiry for a new generation of comparative researchers.
Loïc Wacquant’s Prisons of Poverty (and his related scholarship) also seems set to
have a considerable future influence in a number of areas, not least in exploring the com-
plex interface between systems of welfare and punishment. Indeed, although it has a
publication date (in English) of 2009, it can already be said to have had an appreciable
impact in the field of study of convergences and divergences in penal practices under
advanced liberalism. Wacquant’s observations on this subject were initially set out in
reasonably extended form in ‘How penal sense comes to Europeans’, published in the
journal European Societies (Wacquant, 1999), and now appearing in revised form as the
Corresponding author:
Tim Newburn
Email: t.newburn@lse.ac.uk
Criminology & Criminal Justice
10(4) 341–352
© The Author(s) 2010
Reprints and permission: sagepub.
DOI: 10.1177/1748895810382381

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