Carceral Capitalism
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"Carceral Capitalism" Characters Analysis

By Jackie Wang

nonfiction | 359 pages | Published in 2017

Essays on the contemporary continuum of incarceration: the biopolitics of juvenile delinquency, predatory policing, the political economy of fees and fines, and algorithmic policing.What we see happening in Ferguson and other cities around the country is not the creation of livable spaces, but the creation of living hells. When people are trapped in a cycle of debt it also can affect their subjectivity and how they temporally inhabit the world by making it difficult for them to imagine and plan for the future. What psychic toll does this have on residents? How does it feel to be routinely dehumanized and exploited by the police?—from Carceral CapitalismIn this collection of essays in Semiotext(e)'s Intervention series, Jackie Wang examines the contemporary incarceration techniques that have emerged since the 1990s. The essays illustrate various aspects of the carceral continuum, including the biopolitics of juvenile delinquency, predatory policing, the political economy of fees and fines, cybernetic governance, and algorithmic policing. Included in this volume is Wang's influential critique of liberal anti-racist politics, “Against Innocence,” as well as essays on RoboCop, techno-policing, and the aesthetic problem of making invisible forms of power legible.Wang shows that the new racial capitalism begins with parasitic governance and predatory lending that extends credit only to dispossess later. Predatory lending has a decidedly spatial character and exists in many forms, including subprime mortgage loans, student loans for sham for-profit colleges, car loans, rent-to-own scams, payday loans, and bail bond loans. Parasitic governance, Wang argues, operates through five primary techniques: financial states of exception, automation, extraction and looting, confinement, and gratuitous violence. While these techniques of governance often involve physical confinement and the state-sanctioned execution of black Americans, new carceral modes have blurred the distinction between the inside and outside of prison. As technologies of control are perfected, carcerality tends to bleed into society.


Estimated read time: 3 min read

List of Characters

Character Name
Jackie Wang

Role Identification

In the book "Carceral Capitalism" by Jackie Wang, the author herself is the central character and the narrator. Jackie Wang plays a multifaceted role, serving as an observer, researcher, and activist, as she delves into the complex web of capitalism and the prison-industrial complex. Through her personal experiences, academic knowledge, and interactions with various individuals, Wang provides a critical analysis of the systemic issues at play.

Character Descriptions

Jackie Wang is a Chinese-American writer, academic, and prison abolitionist. She is known for her work on the intersections of race, class, and criminal justice. As the author and main character of "Carceral Capitalism," Wang brings her personal experiences and scholarly insights to shed light on the ways in which the prison system perpetuates racial and economic inequality.

Character Traits

Wang exhibits several notable character traits throughout the book. She is intellectually curious, relentlessly seeking knowledge and understanding about the mechanisms of capitalism and the prison-industrial complex. Wang is also empathetic and compassionate towards those affected by these systems, often sharing personal stories and anecdotes to humanize the individuals impacted. Additionally, she is courageous, unafraid to challenge societal norms and power structures, while advocating for radical change.

Character Background

As an Asian-American woman, Wang's character background brings a unique perspective to the analysis of carceral capitalism. Growing up in a working-class family, she witnessed the effects of poverty and racial discrimination firsthand. This background has shaped her commitment to understanding and dismantling oppressive systems. Wang's academic background in sociology and African American Studies further informs her analysis, allowing her to draw upon critical theories and research to support her arguments.

Character Arcs

Throughout "Carceral Capitalism," Wang undergoes a personal and intellectual character arc. Initially, she begins her exploration of the prison-industrial complex from a more detached and academic standpoint. However, as she engages with individuals impacted by incarceration, she becomes increasingly invested in the real-world implications of her research. This emotional and intellectual transformation propels her towards advocacy and activism, as she seeks to raise awareness and challenge the status quo.


As the central character, Wang interacts with various individuals throughout the book. These relationships provide valuable insights into the experiences of those impacted by carceral capitalism. She forms connections with formerly incarcerated individuals, activists, and scholars, enabling her to gather diverse perspectives. By sharing these relationships, Wang emphasizes the importance of collective action and solidarity in the fight against systemic oppression.

In conclusion, Jackie Wang's character in "Carceral Capitalism" is a passionate and insightful narrator, researcher, and activist. Through her personal experiences, academic background, and relationships, Wang sheds light on the complex issues of capitalism and the prison-industrial complex. Her character arc showcases her transformation from a detached observer to an engaged advocate. Wang's work serves as a call to action, urging readers to critically examine and challenge the oppressive systems that perpetuate inequality.