When Risk and Populism Collide

  • John PrattEmail author
Part of the Palgrave Studies in Risk, Crime and Society book series (PSRCS)


From the 1980s, risk-driven penal arrangements have come to play an increasingly significant role in the jurisdictions of the main Anglo-American societies. In various ways, these innovative measures have undermined the framework on which criminal law and punishment had been built in modern society. Their emphasis is on efficient risk protection, if necessary at the expense of previously unbreachable constraints such as nulla poena sine lege. In such ways, these measures can be seen as helping to sustain the economic and social reconstruction of these societies during this era—a way of managing the divisions and inequalities that have come with this. While individuals have been expected to take more responsibility for their own risk protection, these interventions demonstrate its willingness to take action against those risks that are seemingly uninsurable against and likely to cause irreparable harm. Prioritizing public safety over individual rights becomes a way of bolstering social cohesion while demonstrating that governments are still steering the ship of state. But what happens when risk collides with the populist forces that have recently surfaced? These demand an end to risk and insist that life should be knowable and predictable again: security of jobs and wages and the restoration of a homogeneous national identity. As a consequence, the category of those thought to put public safety at risk has broadened to include immigrants, asylum seekers, refugees and so on. The likely outcome is that criminal law and punishment will become still more diverse and amorphous while soaking up these new suspect populations. Furthermore, the anti-science and anti-Establishment thrust of populism is likely to further cement in the redefinition of human rights that risk control has been engineering: from protecting individual rights against excesses of state power, to using such excesses to protect public safety from those who put this at risk.


Neo-liberalism Immigration Global Financial Crisis Populism Trump Brexit 


  1. Asthana, Anushka. 2017. “Public Sector Employment is at 70-Year Low, Says GMB Report.” The Guardian, September 17, 2017.
  2. Australia. AUS Parliamentary Debates. House of Representatives. Vol. 208. 10 September 1996.Google Scholar
  3. Australia. AUS Parliamentary Debates. Senate. 14 September 2016.Google Scholar
  4. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2001. Liquid Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  5. Bauman, Zygmunt. 2002. “Violence in the Age of Uncertainty.” In Crime and Insecurity, edited by Adam Crawford, 52–74. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  6. Baxstrom v. Herold, 383 U.S. 107 (1966).Google Scholar
  7. Beck, Ulrich, and Elisabeth Beck-Gernsheim. 2001. Individualization: Institutionalized Individualism and Its Social and Political Consequences. Translated by Patrick Camiller. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  8. Branson, Richard. 2017. Finding My Virginity: The New Autobiography. London: Penguin.Google Scholar
  9. Brittan, Samuel. 1973. Capitalism and the Permissive Society. London: Macmillan.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Burns, Alexander, and Nick Corasaniti. 2016. “Donald Trump’s Other Campaign Foe: The ‘Lowest Form of Life’ News Media.” New York Times, August 12, 2016.
  11. Cavendish, Camilla. 2008. “The Roulette Wheel is Spinning Far Too Fast.” The Times, September 19, 2008.Google Scholar
  12. CBC News. 2008. “Toronto Councillor Apologizes for ‘Orientals’ Comment.” March 31, 2008.
  13. CBC News. 2011. “Harper says ‘Islamicism’ Biggest Threat to Canada.” September 6, 2011.
  14. Deacon, Michael. 2016. “Michael Gove’s Guide to Britain’s Greatest Enemy … The Experts.” The Telegraph, June 10, 2016.
  15. Dillow, Chris. 2008. “Why aren’t Hedge Funds Failing as Fast as Banks?” The Times, September 17, 2008.Google Scholar
  16. Duff, R. Antony. 2010. “Perversions and Subversions of Criminal Law.” In The Boundaries of Criminal Law, edited by R. Antony Duff, Lindsay Farmer, Sandra Marshall, Massimo Renzo, and Victor Tadros, 88–112. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Ericson, Richard, and Kevin Haggerty. 1997. Policing the Risk Society. Oxford: Clarendon Press.Google Scholar
  18. Feeley, Malcolm, and Jonathan Simon. 1992. “The New Penology: Notes on the Emerging Strategy of Corrections and its Implications.” Criminology 30 (4): 449–474.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Fuller, Lon. 1964. The Morality of Law. New Haven: Yale University Press.Google Scholar
  20. Giddens, Anthony. 1991. Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Cambridge: Polity Press.Google Scholar
  21. Gillespie, Tom. 2016. “Beggars Belief—‘Disabled Limping Migrant’ Who Uses a Crutch While Begging in London is Exposed as a Fraud When He Is Seen Strolling off to Buy a Takeaway.” The Sun, September 16, 2016.
  22. Handy, Charles. 1989. The Age of Unreason. London: Arrow Books.Google Scholar
  23. Hastings, Max. 2013. “The Danger is we’ve Become Immune to Human Rights Lunacy. It’s Vital we Stay Angry, says Max Hastings.” Daily Mail, July 10, 2013.
  24. Hayek, Friedrich. 1960. The Constitution of Liberty. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.Google Scholar
  25. Hirst v. United Kingdom, [No 2] [2005] E.C.H.R. 681.Google Scholar
  26. Home Office. 1925. Report of the Departmental Committee on Sexual Offences Against Young Persons. Cmd. 2561. London: HMSO.Google Scholar
  27. Howard, Colin, and Norval Morris. 1964. Studies in Criminal Law. London: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  28. Jenkins, Simon. 2019. “Trump Created a Storm over Kim Darroch. Boris Johnson will bring a Hurricane.” The Guardian, July 11, 2019.
  29. Kansas v. Hendricks, 521 U.S. 346 (1997).Google Scholar
  30. Kershaw, Ian. 2018. Roller-Coaster: Europe, 1950–2017. London: Penguin Books.Google Scholar
  31. Labour Party. n.d. “Making Immigration Work for New Zealand.” Accessed August 23, 2019.
  32. Levitz, Jennifer, Ilan Brat, and Nicholas Casey. 2008. “Wall Street’s Ills Seep into Everyday Lives.” Wall Street Journal, September 19, 2008.Google Scholar
  33. McSherry, Bernadette. 2020. “Predictive Algorithms, Risk and Preventive Justice.” In Criminal Justice, Risk and the Revolt Against Uncertainty, edited by John Pratt and Jordan Anderson. London: Palgrave Macmillan.Google Scholar
  34. NBC News. 2019. “Donald Trump, interviewed by Chuck Todd.” Meet the Press with Chuck Todd, June 23, 2019.
  35. New Zealand. NZ Parliamentary Debates. Vol. 693. 18 September 2013.Google Scholar
  36. NZPA (New Zealand Press Association). 2004. “Peters Warns of ‘Immigrant Invasion’.” July 6, 2004. Factiva: NZPA000020040706e0760003n.Google Scholar
  37. Perring, Rebecca. 2016. “EU Loophole could see 77 Million Turks Head to Britain, Warn Farage and Johnson.” Daily Express, April 18, 2016.
  38. Peters, Winston. 2005. “Address by Winston Peters to Members of Far North Grey Power.” Far North Community Centre, Kaitaia, NZ. July 28, 2005.Google Scholar
  39. Pratt, John. 2016. “Risk Control, Rights and Legitimacy in the Limited Liability State.” British Journal of Criminology 57 (6): 1322–1339.Google Scholar
  40. Pratt, John and Jordan Anderson. 2016. “‘The Beast of Blenheim’, Risk and the Rise of the Security Sanction.” Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology 49 (4): 528–545.Google Scholar
  41. Press Association. 2019. “Half of Britons Socialise with Family and Friends at Most Once a Month.” The Guardian, June 17, 2019.
  42. Reiner, Robert, Sonia Livingstone, and Jessica Allen. 2001. “Casino Culture: Crime and Media in a Winner-Loser Society.” In Crime, Risk and Justice: The Politics of Crime Control in Liberal Democracies, edited by Kevin Stenson and Richard Sullivan, 174–194. Cullompton: Willan Publishing.Google Scholar
  43. Report of the Penal Policy Review Committee. 1981. Wellington: Government Printer.Google Scholar
  44. Serwer, Adam. 2019. A Crime by Any Name. The Atlantic, July 3, 2019.
  45. Slack, James. 2016. “Enemies of the People: Fury Over ‘Out of Touch’ Judges Who Have ‘Declared War on Democracy’ By Defying 17.4m Brexit Voters and Who Could Trigger Constitutional Crisis.” Daily Mail, November 4, 2016.
  46. Standing, Guy. 2014. The Precariat. The New Dangerous Class. London: Bloomsbury.Google Scholar
  47. Tappan, P. 1957. “Sexual Offences and the Treatment of Sexual Offenders in the United States.” In Sexual Offences. A Report of the Cambridge Department of Criminal Science, edited by Leon Radzinowicz, 500–516. London: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  48. Trump, Donald (@realDonaldTrump). 2016. “I have a judge…” Twitter, May 30, 2016, 9:54 AM.
  49. Trump, Donald (@realDonaldTrump). 2019a. “Our border patrol people …” Twitter, July 3, 2019, 12:31 PM.
  50. Trump, Donald (@realDonaldTrump). 2019b. “If illegal immigrants are …” Twitter, July 3, 2019, 1:22 PM.
  51. United Kingdom (UK). Parliamentary Debates. House of Commons. Vol. 405. 20 May 2003.Google Scholar
  52. Vinter (and Others) v. United Kingdom [2013] ECHR 786.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Institute of CriminologyVictoria University of WellingtonWellingtonNew Zealand

Personalised recommendations