Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order: Walling the Welfare State. By Vanessa Barker. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018, Abingdon, Oxon.

Date01 September 2019
Published date01 September 2019
pages of her book (210–11), “It doesn’t work. Prison does work to
reproduce the harms that perpetuate offending: social and eco-
nomic marginalisation; mental illness; homelessness and housing
insecurity; exaggerated models of masculinity; substance abuse
and addiction; family disruption and trauma; intergenerational
violence and criminality; and punitive, retributive norms.” Being
and Becoming an Ex-Prisoner will be an invaluable resource for
scholars and students of the criminal justice system as well as for
activists and policy makers committed to reforming it.
Nordic Nationalism and Penal Order: Walling the Welfare State.
By Vanessa Barker. Abingdon, UK: Routledge, 2018,
Abingdon, Oxon.
Reviewed by Ron L evi, Munk School of Global Affairs & Public
Policy and Department of Sociology, University of Toronto
In his Colle
`ge de France lectures On the State, Pierre Bourdieu
reflects on analyses of the state that do not attend to the often
simultaneous strategies that are part of the official accumulation of
power. “This is the ambiguity,” Bourdieu argues, “of all those state
structures involved in the ‘welfare state,’ about which you never
know whether they are institutions of control or of service; in fact,
they are both at the same time, they control all the better by serv-
ing” (2015: 142).
Bourdieu’s concern is similarly reflected in the sociologies of
law and crime. Here, the welfare state has generally been under-
stood in the benevolent terms in which it presents itself. Some, of
course, would periodically remind us that Keynesian state agen-
cies could also widen the net of social control—yet, this came to
be understood as an unintended consequence of benevolent poli-
cies and institutions. With the emergence of the neoliberal era,
the image of the Keynesian welfare state would gain ever more
purchase as the benevolent social imaginary against which the pol-
icies of the neoliberal era would be juxtaposed and assessed.
Vanessa Barker’s new book on Nordic Nationalism and Penal
Order: Walling the Welfare State offers a brilliant rejoinder and cor-
rective to this literature. Through a deep dive into how Swedish
state agencies control migrants, mobility, and the border, Barker
demonstrates that strong welfare states—of which Sweden is, of
course, a paradigmatic example—do not necessarily provide a
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