In search of neoliberalism: confronting the enigma of neoliberal justice

The thesis of ‘neoliberal penality’ has been widely condemned, and the utility of ‘neoliberalism’ as a sociological category thereby challenged. In large measure this rests on critiques of vagueness or inconsistency in definitions of neoliberalism and of the ways ‘neoliberal justice’ is identified. While accounts of neoliberal penality are often problematic, nevertheless such critiques rest on an equally problematic understanding of the nature of neoliberal governmentalities and the impossibility of identifying a single ‘type’ against which empirically existing justice assemblages may be measured. Examination of the penal theories of the Chicago school illustrates both how almost mutually antithetical justice strategies may emerge – even when starting from a shared neoliberal governmentality – and how this variability reflects constitutive elements of neoliberalism. Rather than abandoning neoliberalism this suggests the need to analyse more closely the genealogies of its historical forms and of the institutional strategies they generate.

Pat O’Malley is Distinguished Honorary Professor in the School of Sociology at the Australian National University and Adjunct Research Professor in Sociology at Carleton University in Canada. Current research focuses on the future of money sanctions in contemporary law, rethinking risk in the 21st century, and the implications of the internet for justice and criminology.

Date & time

Mon 16 Apr 2018, 2–3.30pm


Larry Saha Room 2175, Level 2, Haydon-Allen Building, ANU


Professor Pat O'Malley, ANU


Updated:  11 April 2018/Responsible Officer:  Head of School/Page Contact:  CASS Marketing & Communications