Punitive Reform and the Cultural Life of Punishment: Moving from the ASBO to its Successors

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This paper explores the process of punitive reform through a cultural theory lens. The existing literature focuses on high-end punishments of historical pedigree e.g. imprisonment or the death penalty. This paper instead takes as its focus low-end, contemporary punishments. In doing so, it provides original insights into the utility a cultural methodology can bring to understanding punitive reform in the digital age. It tests the applicability of Philip Smith's theory of the cultural life of punishment to case studies of the Anti-Social Behaviour Order (ASBO) and its replacements in England and Wales, the Criminal Behaviour Order and the Injunction. The ASBO was a punitive zeitgeist of its time becoming rooted in popular culture. However, it was ultimately abolished after attracting a predominantly negative cultural narrative. Thus far, after attracting some controversy at the legislative stage, the Criminal Behaviour Order and Injunction have received minimal scrutiny, despite being more problematic than their predecessor. This paper argues that the lower cultural impacts of the new punishments are responsible for the lack of scrutiny.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)90-107
Issue number1
Early online date26 Feb 2019
Publication statusPublished - 2020


  • Anti-Social Behaviour
  • ASBO
  • Culture of Punishment
  • Criminal Behaviour Order; Culture of Punishment; Public Imagination; Punitive Zeitgeist
  • Public Imagination
  • Punitive Zeitgeist


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