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

46 Pages Posted: 13 Aug 2009 Last revised: 16 Oct 2009

Bernard E. Harcourt

Columbia University; Columbia University

Multiple version iconThere are 2 versions of this paper

Date Written: 2009

Abstract

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.

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

JEL Classification: Political Theory

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: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1450904

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

Columbia University ( email )

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HOME PAGE: http://polisci.columbia.edu/people/profile/1685

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