British Punitiveness and the Negation of Subjectivity

Veronique Voruz, University of Leicester

This presentation will bring to light the increasing negation of subjective particularity performed by the evermore represssive British criminal justice system. Indeed, over the last decade we have witnessed the development of an impressive array of repressive measures openly aiming at the incapacitation of the vaguely defined category of 'persistent' offenders, at the expense of a genuine engagement with the offender's particular circumstances. British punitiveness being at its most striking when dealing with children and young offenders, I will outline some of the recent provisions enacted and implemented by New Labour in the sensitive area of youth justice. The multiplication of control devices at the disposal of law enforcement agencies, on the one hand, and the Government's wish to ascribe the responsibility for juvenile offending solely to the offender and his family, illustrate once again the political convenience of the 'Third Way', the artful ethics of which combine formal justice and the individualisation of responsibility, thereby excusing the State from those forms of interventionism which do not exclusively concern the offender in question. Insights derived from psychoanalytic theory will then lead me to argue that a sense of personal responsibility rarely arises through imposed culpability, no more than control and containment are likely to provide a propitious framework for the emergence of each subject's contingent solution to his problematic inscription in the contemporary social bond.

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Updated 05/20/2006