Over the past twenty-five years, a range of critical - that is, Marxist, poststructuralist and, less frequently, feminist - perspectives has been brought to bear on the subject of punishment and, in particular, on the question of imprisonment in western capitalist societies. Considered together, these critical views constitute a formidable challenge to traditional ways of conceptualising punishment. Yet, for all the advances made, the new critical perspectives remain deeply flawed in a significant, but as yet barely acknowledged way - with very few exceptions they are profoundly masculinist. Punish and Critique begins the task of exploring what a theoretically-informed feminist analysis of penality might look like and, in the process, uncovers a series of disjunctions in the recent critical analyses - for example, disjunctions between social histories' of prison regimes imposed on men and feminist histories of the imprisonment of women.
Most crucially, the book unveils radical disengagement between two current critical theoretical projects: the masculinist, analysing the emergence of punishment regimes in the context of the state's power to punish and the feminist, mapping the differential impact of disciplinary power on lived female bodies. In Punish and Critique Adrian Howe argues that a more fully social understanding of punishment must be informed by feminist research on women's imprisonment and by poststructuralist studies of the disciplining of women's bodies. Punish and Critique will be invaluable reading to all students, lecturers and professionals in criminology, women's studies and sociology and well as to those working in prisons and the probation service. Adrian Howe is Lecturer in Legal Studies at La Trobe University, Australia.