Surplus populations and the state: A criminological view


Publication date


Series/Report no

International Journal for Crime, Justice and Social Democracy;Vol 8 No 1 (2019)


Queensland University of Technology

Document type


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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