Research Output

The political rationality of restorative justice

  This paper investigates the political conditions which have enabled the development of restorative justice, in England and Wales, over the last 30 years. The rise of restorative justice is considered integral to the emergence of a (rather incoherent) range of political problematics, addressed by a panoply of governmental technologies, and informed by competing political rationalities. By applying a governmentality approach, the work aims to shed light on the assemblage of ambivalent principles and values which constitute restorative justice by linking them to context-specific political contingencies. This could have implications in understanding both the fragmentary growth of restorative justice in England and Wales, and, more generally, the political dimension of restorative practices, beyond the British borders. Introduction The political context of RJ has been extensively explored by both RJ advocates (Braithwaite). The present work can be located within the limited province of the literature on the political background of RJ applying a governmentality mode of analysis (Lippens, 2014; O'Malley, 2009; Pavlich, 2005; Richards, 2011). The paper revolves around the idea that the spreading of legal/policy measures, as well as practical and theoretical interest around RJ, in England and Wales, over the last 30 years, has been possible due to the parallel rise of a combination of political rationalities – that is, ​ ethopolitics (Rose 1996b, 1999a) – informing the governmental practice in the relevant geo-historical setting. To think in terms of 'political rationalities' (Foucault, 1982, 1991, 2008) helps to offer an inclusive, productive and politically engaged approach which connects social, cultural and ethical dimensions of the practice of government with penal discourses, institutions and practices. The paper starts by describing the methodological and theoretical orientations which drive this work. After drawing a working definition of RJ, the research maps out a number of context-specific political problematics and technologies relevant to the rise of RJ. The paper finally distills the political rationalities which inform this landscape, and their subjectivating effects. Some final reflections are also offered. This works aims to be helpful to those interested in deepening their understanding of the development of RJ by linking this to specific political mentalities. This could have implications both in terms of reframing the steady but patchy growth of RJ in England and Wales and of rethinking the political drive and effects of restorative practices, beyond the British borders.

  • Type:


  • Date:

    05 February 2018

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  • Library of Congress:

    HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare

  • Dewey Decimal Classification:

    364 Criminology

  • Funders:

    Edinburgh Napier Funded


Maglione, G. (2018). The political rationality of restorative justice. Theoretical Criminology, 136248061875636.



Restorative Justice, Ethopolitics, Michel Foucault, Governmentality

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