Surplus Populations and the State: A Criminological View
Surplus populations are back on the political agenda. With the rise of automation technologies and the advent of the hyperflexible ‘gig economy’, millions of individuals across the post-industrialised world will likely become supernumerary or consigned to low-quality jobs in the service sector. Neoliberalism signalled the abdication of the state’s responsibility for ensuring full employment and providing high-quality employment. However, criminology has largely forgotten the central roles played by both in preventing the spread of social pathologies. Against the logic of neoliberalism, what is needed is a state capable of counteracting the formation of surplus populations, or an anti-surplus state. A second New Deal would enact infrastructure investments and re-embed superfluous populations into meaningful employment relations. Following Bourdieu’s criticism of a scientistic ‘flight into purity’, criminologists should adopt the lessons learned by Sweden’s interwar social democrats and advocate policies capable of preventing the augmentation of social superfluity.
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