Gendered States of Punishment and Welfare : Feminist Political Economy, Primitive Accumulation and the Law book cover
1st Edition

Gendered States of Punishment and Welfare
Feminist Political Economy, Primitive Accumulation and the Law

ISBN 9780367878733
Published December 12, 2019 by Routledge
216 Pages

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Book Description

This book presents a feminist historical materialist analysis of the ways in which the law, policing and penal regimes have overlapped with social policies to coercively discipline the poor and marginalized sectors of the population throughout the history of capitalism. Roberts argues that capitalism has always been underpinned by the use of state power to discursively construct and materially manage those sectors of the population who are most resistant to and marginalized by the instantiation and deepening of capitalism. 

The book reveals that the law, along with social welfare regimes, have operated in ways that are highly gendered, as gender – along with race – has been a key axis along which difference has been constructed and regulated. It offers an important theoretical and empirical contribution that disrupts the tendency for mainstream and critical work within IPE to view capitalism primarily as an economic relation. Roberts also provides a feminist critique of the failure of mainstream and critical scholars to analyse the gendered nature of capitalist social relations of production and social reproduction. 

Exploring a range of issues related to the nature of the capitalist state, the creation and protection of private property, the governance of poverty, the structural compulsions underpinning waged work and the place of women in paid and unpaid labour, this book is of great use to students and scholars of IPE, gender studies, social work, law, sociology, criminology, global development studies, political science and history.

Table of Contents


The Anglo-American Lockdown

Towards a Feminist Historical Materialism

Competing Explanations

A Note on Case Studies and Approach

Outline and Organization of the Argument

1. The Making of Global Capitalism: A Feminist Historical Materialist Analysis

Premise 1: The Law as Primitive Accumulation

Premise 2: Primitive Accumulation as a Gendered Process

Premise 3: The Law as Part of the Gendered Social Ontology of Capitalism

2. The Law, Private Property and the Gendered Poor in the Transition to Capitalism

Poverty, Poor Laws and the Bloody Legislation

The Legal Regulation of Gender

The Early Capitalist Gender Order

3. The Liberal Governance of Criminality and the Myths of Laissez-Faire

The Rise of ‘Liberal’ Governance: Legitimacy, Crowd and the Problem of Poverty

The (Gendered) Ideology of Liberal Political Economy

Disciplining and Responsibilizing the Poor and Criminalized Population: The New Poor Laws, Prisons and the Police

The Gendered Dimensions of Nineteenth Century Governance

4. The Modern Governance of Poverty and Criminality: Penal-Welfare Paternalism

The Rise of Penal-Welfare Paternalism: Monopoly Capitalism, Organized Labour and the Breakdown of Laissez-Fairism

Theorizing Penal-Welfare Paternalism

Reproducing Class, Gender and Race through the Paternal Penal-Welfare State

5. Governing of Social Marginality in an Era of Disciplinary Neoliberalism

The Neoliberal Governance of Criminality

The Neoliberal State and the Power-Production-Social Reproduction Nexus

On-Going Primitive Accumulation and the Criminalization of Homelessness

6. Producing Gendered Precariou

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Adrienne Roberts is Lecturer in International Politics at the University of Manchester, UK. She works in the areas of IPE, feminist political economy, finance, debt and debt-driven development. Her work has been published in a number of leading academic journals.


'Timely and trenchant, Roberts cogently demonstrates how primitive accumulation, punitive legislation and gendered oppressions are constitutive of capitalism’s historical and contemporary practices – with corollary implications for centralizing gendered and racialized processes in analyses of, and struggles against, today’s global lockdown.' - V Spike Peterson, University of Arizona, Tucson, USA

'In this fascinating study, Adrienne Roberts combines a historical analysis with the so called ‘extra-economic’ forms of coercion. As such it focuses on crime, criminalization, discipline and punishment from a feminist historical materialist perspective. By including these ‘extra-economic forms’ it sheds light on a largely neglected area in IPE of the increasing criminalization of poor women.' - Brigitte Young, University of Münster, Germany

'Powerfully argued, well documented, and treating a subject at the center of social activism and political debate, Adrienne Roberts' book is a major contribution to a feminist analysis of the disciplining of women in capitalist society.' - Silvia Federici, Hofstra University, USA