Last modified on 22 September 2014, at 14:55

Bernard Harcourt

Bernard Harcourt is a leading critical theorist with a specialization in the area of punishment and political economy. He is the chair of the Political Science Department, professor of political science and the Julius Kreeger Professor of Law at the University of Chicago.


The Illusion of Free Markets: Punishment and the Myth of Natural Order (2011)Edit

  • By an odd amalgam of liberal economic theory and Beccaria on punishment, nineteenth-century thinkers would replicate this exceptional relationship between markets and punishment: natural orderliness in the economic sphere, but government intervention in the penal realm. This is most evident in Jeremy Bentham’s work. The contrast between Bentham’s presumption of quietism in economic matters and his arch-interventionism in the penal domain effectively reproduced and reiterated the Physiocratic duality of economy and police. On the public economy side, Bentham tended toward Adam Smith’s liberalism. His Manual of Political Economy, written in the mid-1790s, rehearsed a presumption of governmental quietism based on his stringent belief in the superiority of individuals’ information and self-interest. But on the punishment side, Bentham embraced Beccaria’s philosophy whole cloth—especially Beccaria’s notion that policing is a sphere of human activity that must be shot through with government intervention. In fact, the criminal code, for Bentham, was precisely a “grand catalogue of prices” by means of which the government set the value of deviance. The penal code was a menu of fixed prices—the polar opposite of laissez-faire.
    • p. 36

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