Neoliberalism and criminalization of poverty

Eliezer Markowich Lissitzky, Wedge with Red Square (gouache on paper), undated


Preface to the recently released book, organized by Terçália Suassuna Vaz Lima

The last quarter of the XNUMXth century marked a significant inflection point in the history of the capitalist mode of production, as well as in the trajectory of the State and the set of institutions created by it since the revolutionary processes that took place in England, the United States and France, during the XNUMXth and XNUMXth centuries.

After a brief period of approximately thirty years in which, in the global North, capitalism was “organized” due to the destruction generated by the First and Second World Wars, by the construction of the frightening communist world created around the Soviet Union, by the struggles of working class within its borders and due to the cyclical crises of the mode of production itself, in the mid-1970s a turning point was reached in which the capital system once again appealed to the systematic use of the barbarism that had always characterized within its geopolitical limits and, especially, in its relations with the countries and peoples of the global South, since its primitive process of accumulation.

The naked barbarism that returns to the historical scene from which it had never been completely absent was – and remains so to this day – the result of the implementation of a formula responsible for exponentially increasing the levels of exploitation and oppression of capitalism, that is , its rates of inequality, poverty and violence.

This formula is called neoliberalism and the Penal State. It resulted in phenomena such as the criminalization and control of poverty, mass incarceration, lack of social protection for children and adolescence, the preservation and increase of commercial sexual exploitation of children and adolescents and child labor – phenomena covered in the book that I am pleased to say to preface at a moment of transition in Brazilian history, resulting from the defeat of the extreme right led by the army reserve captain (of a neoliberal and punitive nature, by the way) in the last presidential election for the Broad Democratic Front that was formed around of Lula's candidacy.

Organized by the doctor in Social Service from the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) and professor at the State University of Paraíba (UEPB), Terçália Suassuna Vaz Lima, the book entitled Neoliberalism and Criminalization of Poverty brings together ten articles written mostly by postgraduate social workers, many of whom already teach in higher education, in public and private universities, including former students of mine in undergraduate and postgraduate courses in Social Work from UFPE and teaching and research colleagues in higher education – a fact that once again expresses the quantitative and qualitative growth of production carried out within the scope of Social Work.

However, beyond merely academic criteria, the book in question expresses the ethical-political commitment of a group of professionals who shift their gaze to (and in defense of) one of the portions of the Brazilian population that feel most in their body and on the soul the impacts of the reduction of resources destined to the social area of ​​a State that has never been provided with a structure close to that of the Social Welfare State of the countries of the global North and that reproduces a slave and patriarchal past that it insists on not passing. A past of social and ethnic-racial inequalities, among many others, which is enhanced by macroeconomic policies and neoliberal value systems.

A portion of the Brazilian population that suffers in body and soul the consequences of the advance of punitive practices that, to deny the false discourse of Brazil as a country of impunity, selectively penalize children and adolescents who are children of a working class – mostly black – increasingly precarious and devoid of rights and social guarantees and, concomitantly, increasingly “managed” by the containment policies of the Penal State and its necrophilic culture.

For these reasons, Neoliberalism and criminalization of poverty deserves to be read by all people interested in sharpening their critical spirit in order to intervene in the struggles against the Neoliberal Penal State in Brazil.

*Marco Mondaini, historian, is a professor at the Department of Social Work at the Federal University of Pernambuco (UFPE) and coordinator and presenter of the Trilhas da Democracia program.


Terçália Suassuna Vaz Lima (org.). Neoliberalism and criminalization of poverty. Social (lack of) protection for childhood and adolescence in Brazil. Campina Grande, EDUEPB, 2023, 392 pages.

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