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    The neoliberal state: then and now

    Fletcher, Samantha and McGowan, William (2023) The neoliberal state: then and now. In: Demystifying Power, Crime and Social Harm: the work and legacy of Steven Box. Critical Criminological Perspectives . Palgrave Macmillan, Cham, pp. 181-202. ISBN 9783031462122 (hardback); 9783031462139 (ebook); 9783031462153 (softcover)

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    Abstract

    This chapter explores Steven Box’s contribution to our understanding of the neoliberal state, both when Power, Crime and Mystification (1983) was published, and today. After situating the book in political context and establishing a working, if orthodox, definition of neoliberalism, we go on to unpack the text’s eponymous subject matter—power, crime, and mystification—as each relates to the neoliberal state. Having given Box a fair reading and highlighted a number of key contributions he makes, we argue that his concept of mystification provides an underdeveloped account of power, whether applying it to ‘crime’ and social harm then, or now. If Box’s ‘mystification’ does not adequately account for power, then we might similarly conclude that his text fails to accurately theorise the state as an underlying relation determining a range of possibilities for social action rather than directly setting them on course. However, an important caveat we conclude with is the disciplinary environment in which Box was working. Set against orthodox, administrative, or mainstream accounts of crime and criminology, Power, Crime and Mystification kept alive a radical agenda, rendering the state and its agents legitimate and intelligible as critical criminological research objects. In sum, Box’s contribution to our understanding of the neoliberal state can, and should, be read two ways: as an intellectual project with strengths and flaws, and as a political project with a practical and enduring legacy for as long as his concerns are echoed by contemporary scholars, activists, teachers, and students.

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