Neil Smith



Global Social Cleansing: Postliberal Revanchism and the Export of Zero Tolerance

Smith discusses the relationship of neoliberal macroeconomics to the carceral state. For Smith, the trajectory begins with New York City’s fiscal crisis of the 1970s, resolved through austerity measures that signaled the demise of liberal urban policy in the U.S. and — as a prototype for later IMF structural adjustment programs — the first intimations of global neoliberalism. The “vacuum of authority” created by the neoliberal state’s abdication of social responsibility is being filled by a range of authoritarian practices, such as zero-tolerance policing, traced here from its origins in the now-discredited “broken windows” thesis to its official implementation in New York and subsequent export to cities around the globe. Smith also points to the pseudo-scientific gloss of zero tolerance that lends an aura of professionalism and efficiency to corrupt police forces (precisely its function for the New York Police Department).

carceral state, police, social cleansing; zero tolerance globally; criminal justice — Great Britain; discrimination — classism; Great Britain — police; racism

Citation: Social Justice Vol. 28, No. 3 (2001): 68-74