Journal Article

Global Networks and Local Prison Reforms: Monarchs, Bureaucrats and Penological Experts in Early Nineteenth-Century Prussia

Thomas Nutz

in German History

Published on behalf of German History Society

Volume 23, issue 4, pages 431-459
Published in print October 2005 | ISSN: 0266-3554
Published online October 2005 | e-ISSN: 1477-089X | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1191/0266355405gh353oa
Global Networks and Local Prison Reforms: Monarchs, Bureaucrats and Penological Experts in Early Nineteenth-Century Prussia

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This essay takes the Prussian prison reforms of the first half of the nineteenth century as an example to demonstrate the emergence of specific networks of penological experts which crossed national boundaries as well as the seemingly clear division between state and non-state agencies. It is based on the actor-network approach as developed initially in the works of Bruno Latour and others. The paper tries to show that this approach can help us to understand how state reform processes actually worked. Building on this, it argues that networks of such different groups as state administrations, monarchs, lawyers and penological experts overlapped in the penitentiary as the central tool of the state's treatment of prisoners. These groups claimed for themselves a monopoly on defining the function, construction and legitimization of the reforming machine. For each of these groups, the prison meant something different, but no group could implement its ideas without the support of the others. Each group had to seek allies in order to overcome resistance, whether from the interests of other agents or technological faults. Reform, therefore, must not be understood as a one-way process in which one reforming party translates its ideal type of prison into practice. Rather, it must be seen as a process of adaptation in which power relations between the actors balance each other out via networks.

Journal Article.  0 words. 

Subjects: European History

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