Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name



Criminal Justice


Kevin Wolff

Committee Members

Amy Adamczyk

David Green

Robert Apel

Subject Categories

Comparative Politics | Criminology | Criminology and Criminal Justice | Economic Policy | Inequality and Stratification | Politics and Social Change | Sociology of Culture


neoliberalism, individualism, punitiveness, penal populism, group threat, cross-national, othering


A large body of research has been produced to explain global punitive trends in recent decades. Neoliberalism, an economic philosophy expressed by market deregulation, privatization, and the retrenchment of social supports, has been offered as an explanation for increases in cross-national punitiveness. According to neoliberal penality theory, neoliberalism has shifted principles guiding punishment practices and the treatment of offenders, which has resulted in harsher national responses to crime. However, many tenets of this theory have not yet been tested empirically. Drawing heavily on propositions from neoliberal penality, group-threat, and penal populism literature, this dissertation examines the relationship between economic shifts, cultural ideologies, and political arrangements to explain variations in punitiveness cross-nationally.