Imprisonment rates are presumed to have risen in the west, and it is argued by certain social scientists that this can be explained by a comprehensive process of economic neoliberalisation. In this paper, we develop an alternative explanation, focussing on the rise of a ‘new political culture’. Longitudinal cross-national analyses are performed to test the tenability of these theories. First, it is demonstrated that some countries have been witnessing a trend of penalisation, but that there is no overall trend. Second, economic explanations for variations in imprisonment rates prove to be untenable. Third, it is shown that a new-rightist demand for social order, which is not found to be inspired by economic neo-liberalisation, provides a better explanation. This leads to the conclusion that high incarceration rates can be understood as being part of a right-authoritarian politico-cultural complex.

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Keywords Sociale verandering, sociale processen en sociale conflicten, Sociologie, Sociology, imprisonment, neo-liberalisation, new political culture, new-rightist politics, penalisation, social change, sociology
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de Koster, W., van der Waal, J., Achterberg, P.H.J., & Houtman, D.. (2008). The Rise of the Penal State: Neo-Liberalisation or New Political Culture?. The British Journal of Criminology: an international review of crime and society, 720–734. Retrieved from