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Death and Other PenaltiesPhilosophy in a Time of Mass Incarceration$
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Geoffrey Adelsberg, Lisa Guenther, and Scott Zeman

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780823265299

Published to Fordham Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.001.0001

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From Commodity Fetishism to Prison Fetishism

From Commodity Fetishism to Prison Fetishism

Slavery, Convict-leasing, and the Ideological Productions of Incarceration

Chapter:
(p.43) From Commodity Fetishism to Prison Fetishism
Source:
Death and Other Penalties
Author(s):

James A. Manos

Publisher:
Fordham University Press
DOI:10.5422/fordham/9780823265299.003.0002

This chapter argues that punishment is neither the effect of crime nor solely the effect of economic needs. Rather, punishment is an independent causal force that has shaped the economic organization of neoliberalism. To support this claim, it builds on the work of critical theorists Rusche and Kirchheimer, authors of Punishment and Social Structure (1935). By placing their argument within the framework of Marx's discussion of the inherent relationship between primitive accumulation and incarceration, it preserves their account of the centrality of the relationship between the dispossession of capital and punishment, while critiquing the primary role they assign the modes of production in determining the modes of punishment. After setting up the framework of dispossession and punishment, the chapter then turns to slavery's effect on the modes of punishment in the postbellum South. It argues that, with the rise of convict-leasing as a dominant mode of punishment, we see punishment as restructuring the modes of production and not as the effect of the modes of production. Taking account of this shift demands that we examine the prison not from the metaphysical framework of commodity fetishism but from the framework of prison fetishism. This means moving our analysis of the growth in incarceration from the extraction of surplus value from prisoners' labor to an understanding of how prisons produce convicts as a stigmatized and dispossessed class.

Keywords:   punishment, Georg Rusche, Otto Kirchheimer, economic organization, neoliberalism, convict-leasing, slavery, prisons, incarceration

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