A Postneoliberal Turn? Variants of the Recent Penal Policy in Argentina


This paper analysed the connection between the emergence and consolidation of a postneoliberal political program and alliance – Kirchnerism – and penal policies in Argentina. Three key moments are identified in this recent period. After the experience of an intense punitive turn during the 1990s and early 2000s, Kirchnerist political alliances tried to deploy a progressive political discourse and agenda on penal issues. Nevertheless, this initially coincided with a strong wave of penal populism ‘from below’ that continued the precedent trend towards increasing punitiviness.  Since 2005, and for a brief moment, this tendency stopped. However, after that and during the presidencies of Fernandez de Kirchner a more volatile and contradictory scenario was generated. The incarceration rate between 2002 and 2014 in Argentina grew substantially as did the rate of convictions. Meanwhile the percentage of suspended sentences as part of the total convictions and the percentage of custodial sanctions both fell. Especially in relation to incarceration, these levels of change are not as stark as those of the preceding decades. However, the trends persist. Therefore, the question of how to transcend the dynamics of the punitive turn remains a pending and urgent political subject. The article argues the importance of analysing why a punitive turn is interrupted and presents an explanation of it.

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Published: 2017-03-01
Pages:205 to 223
Section:Dossier: Postneoliberalism and Penality in South America
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How to Cite
Sozzo, M. (2017) “A Postneoliberal Turn? Variants of the Recent Penal Policy in Argentina”, International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy, 6(1), pp. 205-223. doi: 10.5204/ijcjsd.v6i1.390.

Author Biography

Máximo Sozzo is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the Universidad Nacional del Litoral (Santa Fe, Argentina). He is Director of the MA in Criminology, Director of the Program for University Education inside Prisons and Director of the Social Involvement Program "Crime and Society" at the same university. He has been adjunct and associate professor of sociology and criminology at various Argentinean universities during the last ten years. As a visiting professor he has taught graduate courses in criminology at several universities in Argentina, Chile, Brazil, Ecuador and Spain. He has been visiting research fellow at the universities of Bologna, Toronto, Barcelona and FLACSO Ecuador. He has been consultant on issues related to crime and punishment for different national and local governments and international organizations. His research over the last fifteen years has related to different themes in the field of criminology: police violence and accountability, police reform, crime prevention discourses and practices, history of psychiatry and criminal justice, cultural travels of discourses and practices on crime control, history of criminology and metamorphosis of prison and crime control in late modernity. He has published on these themes four books and many book chapters and essays in academic journals.