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Shifting Sands: The reconfiguration of neoliberal youth penality

Gray, Patricia; Smith, Roger

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Patricia Gray


This article begins by tracing the emergence of ‘therapeutic surveillance’ as a new formula for neoliberal disciplinary power. It maps and interrogates the reconfiguration of a hybrid array of neoliberal rationalities and technologies for the penal governance of young people who offend. It then engages with the challenges posed by critical realists to the governmentality position by questioning how human agency can contest, subvert and resist the dystopian reach of ‘therapeutic surveillance’ in action. While ‘therapeutic surveillance’ is steeped in a disciplinary logic of individualization and responsibilization, we argue that it also opens the space for a more transformative youth penality to be articulated; one which challenges the constraints of structural disadvantage in the pursuit of social justice. The article concludes by arguing that newly emerging youth justice configurations which have appeared in response to dramatic cuts in public spending offer a plausible or transformative challenge to the regulatory logic of neoliberal youth penality.


Gray, P., & Smith, R. (2021). Shifting Sands: The reconfiguration of neoliberal youth penality. Theoretical Criminology, 25(2), 304-324.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jul 2, 2019
Online Publication Date Sep 18, 2019
Publication Date May 1, 2021
Deposit Date Sep 4, 2019
Publicly Available Date Sep 20, 2019
Journal Theoretical Criminology
Print ISSN 1362-4806
Electronic ISSN 1461-7439
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 25
Issue 2
Pages 304-324


Accepted Journal Article (762 Kb)

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Copyright Statement article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 License ( which permits non-commercial use, reproduction and distribution of the work without further permission provided the original work is attributed as specified on the SAGE and Open Access pages (

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