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Market society utopianism in penal politics




This chapter examines the utopian intellectual origins of some strands of contemporary free-market ideas and practices from their post-war revival via thinkers such as Friedrich Hayek, whose ideas went on to influence the New Right following the economic and political crises of the 1970s. The discussion then draws on Karl Polyani’s (1945) Origins of our Time: The Great Transformation, where he first gave theoretical expression to the concept of a 'market society’. Published just after the Second World War and in the context of emerging welfare states, these thinkers marked out the ideological cleavages that have dominated political-economic thought since. The chapter considers the pre-eminence of free market ideology with regards to its impact on penal politics and thinking. It concludes by noting that predictions of the withering away of outsourcing and competitive regimes in the aftermath of the financial crisis of 2007-8 appear to be a ‘false dawn’. However, a change in direction may be imminent in the wake of controversial and costly terminations of penal service contracts.

Acceptance Date Jul 1, 2019
Online Publication Date Mar 10, 2021
Publication Date Mar 10, 2021
Publicly Available Date May 26, 2023
Publisher Cambridge University Press
Pages 15 - 30
Book Title Privatisation and Marketisation in Criminal Justice