Nov. 12 lecture examines the US as world’s largest ‘free market’ and biggest penal colony

Jonathan Nitzan head shot

The United States is often hailed as the world’s largest free market, but this ‘free market’ also hosts the world’s largest penal colony, which holds more than seven million adults, or roughly five per cent of the labour force, in jail, prison and on probation.

In a special lecture titled, “No Way Out: Crime, Punishment and the Capitalization of Power,” Jonathan Nitzan, professor of political economy at York University, will explore this phenomenon. The free public lecture, which is presented by the Department of Political Science in York’s Faculty of Liberal Arts & Professional Studies, is particularly timely given the results of the US election. Nitzan’s presentation takes place Monday, Nov. 12 from 2:30 to 4:30pm in the Verney Room, S674 Ross Building onYork’s Keele campus. All are welcome.

Jonathan Nitzan head shotJonathan Nitzan

In his presentation, Nitzan will address a number of provocative questions: Is the rise in the American penal colony population an anomaly, or does the ‘free market’ require massive state punishment? Why did the population in correctional institutions in the US start to rise in the 1980s in tandem with the onset of neoliberalism? How is this increase related to the upward redistribution of income and the capitalization of power? Can soaring incarceration sustain the unprecedented power of dominant capital, or is there a reversal in the offing?

Nitzan teaches political economy  at  York University in  Toronto.  His  publications,  interviews  and courses  are  available  at  The  Bichler & Nitzan Archives. He is the co-author with Shimshon Bichler of Capital As Power: A Study of Order and Creorder, published 2009. Their writings focus of the nature of capital in capitalism and provide an alternative view to that of Marxist political economy and neoclassical economics. In their theory, capital is the quantification of power. Central to their theory is the concept of differential accumulation where capitalists strive to beat the average rate of profit and augment their power.