Punishment, Neoliberalism, and the Welfare State


Victor Lund Shammas


This project is an ongoing, ten-year-long investigation into the relationships between social democracy, neoliberalism, and punishment. What is the role of the welfare state in shaping incarceration? What sorts of questions does a close engagement with social theory lead us to ask about the prison system? How does neoliberalism transform the ways in which we punish convicted offenders? From California to Scandinavia, this project combines archival studies, ethnographic fieldwork, interviews, document analysis, and critical theorizing to assess the points of convergence between political economy and punishment, drawing on thinkers like Bourdieu, Hegel, Foucault, and Deleuze, alongside the ideas of Sweden and Norway’s interwar social democrats and the postwar neoliberal economists and philosophers of the Mont Pèlerin Society.


Dr. Victor L. Shammas is a Researcher at the Work Research Institute (AFI), Oslo Metropolitan University and a Visiting Researcher in the Department of Criminology and Sociology of Law (IKRS), University of Oslo, Norway. He is a recent co-recipient of a Peder Sather Grant from the Peder Sather Center for Advanced Study, University of California, Berkeley. His work has appeared in journals such as the British Journal of Criminology, Constellations, Punishment & Society, Law & Critique, Capital & Class, Continental Thought & Theory, and Criminology & Criminal Justice and can be found on his personal website: www.victorshammas.com.

Selected publications


Shammas, V. L. (2018; forthcoming) “The dissolution of social democracy: How law and order came to Norway.” Federal Sentencing Reporter.


Shammas, V. L. (2018) “Burying Mont Pèlerin: Milton Friedman and neoliberal vanguardism.” Constellations, 25(1): 117-132. DOI:10.1111/1467-8675.12322.


Shammas, V. L. (2018) “Bourdieu’s five lessons for criminology.” Law and Critique, 29(2): 201-219. DOI:10.1007/s10978-017-9218-3.


Shammas, V. L. (2018) “The pains of sovereignty: On the joyous passion of the self-punishing subject.” Journal of Extreme Anthropology, DOI:10.5617/jea.6388.


Shammas, V. L. (2017) “Superfluity and insecurity: Disciplining surplus populations in the Global North.” Capital & Class. DOI:10.1177/0309816817738319.


Shammas, V. L. (2017) “Prisons of labor: Social democracy and a triple transformation of the politics of punishment in Norway, 1900-2014.” In: Ugelvik, T. and Smith, P. S. (eds.) Scandinavian Penal History, Culture and Prison Practice: Embraced By the Welfare State? London: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 57-80.


Shammas, V. L. (2016) “Who's afraid of penal populism? Technocracy and ‘the people’ in the sociology of punishment.” Contemporary Justice Review 19(3): 325-346.


Shammas, V. L. (2016) “The rise of a more punitive state: On the attenuation of Norwegian penal exceptionalism in an era of welfare state transformation.” Critical Criminology 24(1): 57-74.


Shammas, V. L. and Sandberg, S. (2016) “Habitus, capital, and conflict: Bringing Bourdieusian field theory to criminology.” Criminology and Criminal Justice 16(2): 195-213.


Shammas, V. L., Sandberg, S., and Pedersen, W. (2014) “Trajectories to mid- and higher-level drug crimes: Penal misrepresentations of drug dealers in Norway.” British Journal of Criminology 54(4): 592-612.


Shammas, V. L. (2014) “The pains of freedom: Assessing the ambiguity of Scandinavian penal exceptionalism on Norway’s Prison Island.” Punishment & Society 16(1): 104-123.