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Neoliberal Penality: The Birth of Natural Order, the Illusion of Free Markets

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University


APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper

What work do the categories “the free market” and “regulation” do for us? Why do we incarcerate one out of every one hundred adults? These seemingly unrelated questions, it turns out, are deeply interconnected. The categories of free and regulated markets emerged as an effort to make sense of irreducibly individual phenomena - unique forms of market organization. In the process, these categories helped shape our belief that the economic realm is characterized by natural order and equilibrium, and that the only legitimate sphere of government intervention is policing and punishment. The consequences have been devastating: first, in distorting and expanding the penal sphere beyond our worst possible imagination, and, second, in naturalizing and masking the regulatory mechanisms of contemporary markets that massively redistribute wealth. In this paper, Professor Harcourt challenges the categories themselves and asks us to imagine a world where the terms “free” and “regulated” markets no longer exist.

Number of Pages in PDF File: 46

Keywords: Natural order, neoliberalism, punishment, free markets, regulation

JEL Classification: Political Theory

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Date posted: August 13, 2009 ; Last revised: October 16, 2009

Suggested Citation

Harcourt, Bernard E., Neoliberal Penality: The Birth of Natural Order, the Illusion of Free Markets (2009). APSA 2009 Toronto Meeting Paper. Available at SSRN: http://ssrn.com/abstract=1450904

Contact Information

Bernard E. Harcourt (Contact Author)
Columbia University ( email )
Jerome Green Hall, Room 515
435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10027
United States
HOME PAGE: http://www.law.columbia.edu/fac/Bernard_Harcourt
Feedback to SSRN

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