The Politics of Abolition Revisited

- classic republished in new and extended version.

Originally published in 1974 and the recipient of the Denis Carroll Book Prize at the World Congress of the International Criminology Society in 1978, Thomas Mathiesen’s The Politics of Abolition is a landmark text in critical criminology. In its examination of Scandinavian penal policy and call for the abolition of prisons, this book was enormously influential across Europe and beyond among criminologists, sociologists and legal scholars as well as advocates of prisoners’ rights.

Forty years on and in the context of mass incarceration in many parts of the world, this book remains relevant to a new generation of penal scholars. This new edition includes a new introduction from the author, as well as an afterword that collects contributions from leading criminologists and inmates from Germany, England, Norway and the United States to reflect on the development and current state of the academic literature on penal abolition.


Contributing With articles from the Department are:

  • professor Hedda Giertsen
  • professor Knut Papendorf og
  • post.doktor Jane Dullum.

‘Forty years after its original publication in English, Thomas Mathiesen’s The Politics of Abolition Revisited boldly re-enters the debate on the future of imprisonment. With the rise of a global prison industrial complex, contemporary engagements with the prison – from the U.S. to Australia and from Europe to Africa – have been compelled to address not only issues of class, but of race and gender as well. This classic text reminds us once more of the importance of deep critique and of the "visionary nature of the unfinished".

Angela Davis, Distinguished Professor Emerita, Department of History of Consciousness and Feminist Studies, University of California, Santa Cruz, USA

‘In an age of mass incarceration and dismally low expectations for penal reform, Thomas Mathiesen’s book shines like a beacon of hope and inspiration. Mathiesen’s commitment to abolition, his concept of the unfinished, and his insider’s account of Nordic penal politics make for thrilling reading and serve to renew our sense of what should be possible. Forty years on from its first publication, there has never been a better time to revisit The Politics of Abolition.'

David Garland, Professor, School of Law and the Department of Sociology, New York University, USA

By Per Jørgen Ystehede
Published Oct. 17, 2014 11:43 AM - Last modified Oct. 17, 2014 11:43 AM