William & Mary Law Review


Bruce Waller


When examining the future impact of neuroscience on the law, the first step requires narrowing the scope of the inquiry: advances in neuroscience are exciting, but the beneficial or harmful effects of those advances will depend on the specific culture in which they occur. In some cultures—such as in Norway or Sweden—integrating advances in neuroscience into the criminal justice system is likely to enhance understanding and improve the treatment of offenders and potential offenders. In the neoliberal culture of the United States, advances are more likely to exacerbate the profound wrongs of the criminal justice system rather than ameliorate them. The important question for neoliberal cultures is whether advances in neuroscience might contribute to the reform of those cultures. While neuroscience can contribute to that goal, there is a danger that neuroscience advances might encourage the radical individualist orientation of neoliberalism and revive a “nothing works” attitude toward rehabilitation. The benefits of neuroscience are more likely to emerge when the worst elements of neoliberal culture have been reformed.