Crime, Law and Social Change

, Volume 56, Issue 4, pp 439–441 | Cite as

Book review: theorizing order, justifying punishment: conceptions of economic sphere and penal practices

Bernard E. Harcourt: The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2011
  • Reza Barmaki
Book review

The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Orderis an interesting read. The cover of this nicely-packaged book beautifully depicts a falling leaf and the palm of hand underneath of it as though trying to stop its fall. The table of content reflects an interest in a particular intersection of economic and penal thought. The introductory chapter reveals that the author is interested in the rise of the conception of ‘market’ as a self-regulating sphere of exchange, and its consequences for penal theories and practices. He aims to challenge two key neo-liberal ideas. First, that free market is a self-regulating, and therefore the most efficient and incorruptible, mechanism of exchange and resource allocation. Second, that the main role of government is the maintenance of ‘social’ (non-market) order. As he somewhat awkwardly puts it, he wants to know “how a certain mode of rationality rendered natural a conception of the penal sphere as lying outside the free market...

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of Toronto MississaugaMississaugaCanada

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