Neoliberalism, Crime and Criminal Justice

25 Pages Posted: 10 Feb 2016

See all articles by Pat O'Malley

Pat O'Malley

The University of Sydney Law School

Date Written: February 8, 2016


Neoliberalism has played a prominent role in criminological accounts of criminal justice and penal policy. Neoliberalism’s place ranges from the core of neo-Marxist visions of a systematic global crime control program, through its place as one element in a punitive Anglophone ‘culture of control’, down to more modest claims that neoliberal shaping of risk techniques has transformed specific aspects of policy and practice. In such work neoliberalism is inconsistently defined, and linked with divergent changes in criminal justice. International studies indicate major differences between different ‘neoliberal’ regimes’ stances on crime control. There are often tenuous and very variable connections made between neoliberal politics and crime policies. The necessary interplay of neoliberalism with other factors (other political rationalities, prevailing local conditions etc.) in shaping criminal justice make the impact of neoliberalism unclear. As a result, there are increasing calls to abandon the use of neoliberalism as an explanatory category and move to more specific understandings of how politics shapes the governance of crime.

Keywords: Neoliberalism, penality, criminal justice, Chicago School, governmentality, criminology, criminological theory

JEL Classification: K10, K14, K30

Suggested Citation

O'Malley, Pat, Neoliberalism, Crime and Criminal Justice (February 8, 2016). Sydney Law School Research Paper No. 16/10, Available at SSRN: or

Pat O'Malley (Contact Author)

The University of Sydney Law School ( email )

New Law Building, F10
The University of Sydney
Sydney, NSW 2006

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