Chapter

The Victimology Trap

Roger N. Lancaster

in Sex Panic and the Punitive State

Published by University of California Press

Published in print March 2011 | ISBN: 9780520255654
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520948211 | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/california/9780520255654.003.0009
The Victimology Trap

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This chapter explores the connection between the punitive turn, with its expressly authoritarian politics, and the liberal political tradition, with its emphasis on individual rights. It also explores how the punitive state is related to capitalism, especially the privatized, deregulated variant known as neoliberalism. The “victimology trap,” the need to see victims of injustice as pure, innocent, and good, disapproves of the accuser's subsequent harsh treatment. In the nineteenth century, liberal conceptions of freedom implied “property and personhood” for some and poverty and deracination for others. Twentieth-century variations of liberalism, with their emphasis on victimized identities, foster new forms of power and control. If liberalism begins with the idea that there might be too much law, it might be better to say that victimist statutes represent a disintegration or involution of liberal norms. Neoliberal penal policy aims at a balance between the curves of the supply of crime and negative demand, before notions of risk, cost, and benefit came to be distorted by panic. The point is to show how the implications of liberalism and capitalism are worked out in unpredictable ways under changing conditions. The history presented here suggests a reworking of the usual causal claims about the relationship between neoliberalism and the punitive state. The punitive turn prepared the way for the neoliberal turn, not vice versa.

Keywords: liberalism; capitalism; neoliberalism; victimology trap; neoliberal turn

Chapter.  4847 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology

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