Antoine Garapon

Neoliberal Justice Publication date : October 21, 2010

Antoine Garapon, the author of notably Le Gardien des promesses (1996) and Bien juger (2001), is the director of the Institut des Hautes Etudes sur la Justice (IHEJ) and a member of the editorial board of the French magazine Esprit. His other works include Peut-on réparer l’histoire? (2008), Juger en Amérique et en France (2004), Des crimes qu’on ne peut ni punir ni pardonner (2002) and Et ce sera justice (2001).

The French legal system has entered a new era based on a new model — that of neoliberal justice. Cost control, performance indicators, judges’ remuneration indexed on merit, generalised treatment of penal affairs in real time, introduction of a French version of the guilty plea, generalisation of transactions, mandatory minimum sentences, extended detention (on public safety grounds, beyond the expiry of the term of imprisonment), judging the mentally ill: these controversial innovations cannot be dismissed as the product of authoritarian whims or of a passing trend.

But how should we consider them? Do they deserve to be demonised, as has frequently been the case? Or, on the contrary, if the legal system needs to be reformed, do these developments constitute the direction that should be taken?

After describing the new neoliberal model — both in terms of the internal French legal system and of global international justice since they go hand in hand — this book evaluates the difficulty in judging neoliberalism because it rests on a much deeper consensus than is generally believed, and thus cannot be denounced as a new form of totalitarianism (which it opposes). Instead, this consensus is based on a new idea of liberty, one that would enable us to manage our lives and to become modern human beings — while ignoring the difficulties posed by democracy.

That is why this book concludes by adopting a critical position and arguing in favour of a renewed conception of justice.

• Beyond technical discussions and party politics, this is an in-depth analysis of the very coherent evolution that French justice has undergone in the past few years.

• An indispensable tool of critical thought to reach an independent opinion.