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Tracing the Relationship between Inequality, Crime and PunishmentSpace, Time and Politics$
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Nicola Lacey, David Soskice, Leonidas Cheliotis, and Sappho Xenakis

Print publication date: 2021

Print ISBN-13: 9780197266922

Published to British Academy Scholarship Online: May 2021

DOI: 10.5871/bacad/9780197266922.001.0001

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PRINTED FROM BRITISH ACADEMY SCHOLARSHIP ONLINE (www.britishacademy.universitypressscholarship.com). (c) Copyright British Academy, 2022. All Rights Reserved. An individual user may print out a PDF of a single chapter of a monograph in BASO for personal use.date: 04 July 2022

Prison, Subordination, Inequality: Again on a Marxist Perspective

Prison, Subordination, Inequality: Again on a Marxist Perspective

(p.301) 12 Prison, Subordination, Inequality: Again on a Marxist Perspective
Tracing the Relationship between Inequality, Crime and Punishment

Dario Melossi

British Academy

This Chapter advances two claims which are related and sustain each other. The first is that in the contemporary “post-Fordist” world, the coupling of imprisonment and production persists in a relationship, if not between “the prison” and “the factory” – as Dario Melossi and Massimo Pavarini wrote 40 years ago – rather between “the prison” and “subordination”, because what all the multiple forms of “labor” and “non-labor” have in common – and have in common with the origins of protoindustrial capitalism – is subordination. The second is that the traditional reading of the “Rusche and Kirchheimer hypothesis” on the relationship between economic cycles and imprisonment depends on the specific conjuncture and class composition of the capitalist social formation to which it is applied. One thing is economic development in the period of Fordist mass industry and another in the globalized and fragmented labor market of neo-liberalism. Often imprisonment promotes phases of capitalist development rather than crises and recessions. Furthermore, subordination and inequality are strictly linked and feed on each other. Inequality promotes subordination, by putting the squeeze on those who are at the bottom of the social hierarchy; but subordination at the same time promotes inequality, by making sure that those who occupy those bottom positions, stay there. One strong link in the chain of subordination to inequality is penality, because penality reinforces inequality by reaffirming subordination. Data about long-run empirical relationships between imprisonment rates and inequality measures for the US and Italy are discussed.

Keywords:   Prison, Factory, Subordination, Inequality, Marxism, Post Fordism, Rusche and Kirchheimer hypothesis, Labour, Penality

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