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From Modern To Postmodern Penality? A Response to Hallsworth.

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date11/2003
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Number of pages14
Original languageEnglish


In a recent article, Hallsworth (2002) seeks to defend the claim that contemporary changes in penal practice indicate the rise of a postmodern penality. Hallsworth proposes that the modern-postmodern distinction is both a legitimate and valuable framework within which to situate recent developments in penal practice. In this paper, we argue that Hallsworth has several questions yet to answer before he can sustain claims for a postmodern penality and for the modern-postmodern distinction as the most useful analytical framework for analysing this transition. We identify three issues raised by Hallworth�s argument, encompassing methodological, empirical and conceptual questions. We argue that his approach exhibits some methodological problems, especially in respect of his use of an �ideal type� method; that there are important empirical gaps in his account, in that he fails to deal adequately with counter-factual evidence; and that his account exhibits a conceptual conflation between �postmodernity� as a social formationand �postmodernism� as an antifoundational epistemology for social inquiry. Given these methodological, empirical and conceptual lacunae, we suggest that a convincing case for a �postmodern penality� has not been made.

Bibliographic note

The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Theoretical Criminology, 7 (4), 2003, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2003 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Feminist Theory page: http://tcr.sagepub.com/ on SAGE Journals Online: http://online.sagepub.com/