Criminology and Criminal Justice, 10(4) pp 393-404

Mae'r cynnwys hwn ar gael yn Saesneg yn unig.

Punishing the Poor avers not only that the United States has shifted from the single (welfare) to the double (social-cum-penal) regulation of the poor, but also that the ‘stunted development of American social policy’ skilfully dissected by Piven and Cloward stands in close causal and functional relation to America’s uniquely overgrown and hyperactive penal policy. The misery of American welfare and the grandeur of American prisonfare at century’s turn are the two sides of the same political coin. The generosity of the latter is in direct proportion to the stinginess of the former, and it expands to the degree that both are driven by moral behaviourism.
(Wacquant, 2009a: 292–3, original emphasis)

I wish I could write like Loïc Wacquant. Not only in terms of the volume of published material, but also in terms of the quality of that rich output: how many articles and books in a relatively short period of time and on a variety of topics? Wacquant has made a massive contribution to social science, and has extremely rare qualities indeed. Passion and the power of persuasion drive his text repeatedly – sentence after sentence, paragraph after paragraph of layered arguments on the materialist anatomies of post-Fordist society, its urban forms, and contradictions. I have had the pleasure of meeting him, twice. The first time was at a conference in Chicago on neoliberalism and its spaces, in September 2001 (see Brenner and Theodore, 2001). The second time was in London, in October 2009, where I was invited as the geographer to comment on his last two books, Punishing the Poor (2009a) and Prisons of Poverty (2009b), which collectively chart the arrival of the ‘penal state’. I rehearsed there some of the arguments that I am presenting in this article. On both occasions, his elegantly written research was matched by the elegance of its oral delivery, captivating the audience with a machine-gun-like argument on the interactions between state, class, and race. Bang, bang, bang . . . No ‘fancy’ PowerPoint slides, no close reading from his notes or a pre-prepared script, just a diagram representing a triangular relationship between the concepts under consideration and a rapid, engaging, and passionate dialogue with his audience.