The Securitization of Society: On the Rise of Quasi-Criminal Law and Selective Exclusion

By Schuilenburg, Marc | Social Justice, Spring-Summer 2011 | Go to article overview

The Securitization of Society: On the Rise of Quasi-Criminal Law and Selective Exclusion


Schuilenburg, Marc, Social Justice


THE PAST 20 YEARS HAVE SEEN THE RISE OF NEW actors IN THE DELIVERY OF security. The state, and consequently the police, is now only one of a motley collection of international and societal actors active in this area. Schools, housing associations, football clubs, retailers' associations, and citizens: it has become a matter of course that they, too--as contemporary jargon has it--"take responsibility" (Garland, 1996; 2001: 124-127) and develop and implement their own security programs. To a greater or lesser extent, they do so in collaboration with the police. Many terms have been used to define this "horizontalization" of the approach to security: "multilateralization" (Bayley and Shearing, 2001), "preventative partnerships" (Garland, 2001), "third party policing" (Mazerolle and Ransley, 2005), "nodal governance" (Johnston and Shearing, 2003),"pluralization" (Jones and Newburn, 2006), and so on. Although each of these terms has its own particular emphasis, they all converge on the realization that the performance of police-like tasks ("policing") is no longer the exclusive domain of the police. As such, it involves a shift from hierarchical administration (government) to horizontal administration (governance). New regulatory institutions, mentalities, and techniques have accompanied this shift (Crawford, 2003). Explanations for theses changes include a substantial increase in crime since the 1980s in Western countries and the limited opportunities available to governments to deal adequately with this crime.

To place these changes in a historical and philosophical context, I will focus on an article in Michel Foucault's lectures, Securite, territoire, population and Naissance de la biopolitique, which he delivered at the College de France between January 11, 1978, and April 4, 1979. In these lectures, Foucault explains the techniques and procedures of governance by using the neologism "gouvernementalite" ("governmentality"), a term first coined in his lecture of February 1,1978. (1) In this context, he also introduces a new form of power, which he refers to as "securite" and which requires a different type of thinking about "governing" life and people's living conditions (bios), specifically in terms of prevention, population, regulation, and risk. Although the relationship between "security" and "criminality" is only of recent date (Zedner, 2009: 10), its development is compatible with the main thrust of Foucault's analysis of the emergence of the health issue, specifically the approach to controlling smallpox in the nineteenth century. This broadens the issue of security and Foucault's concept of power relations in a remarkable way. My interest in this article concerns Foucault's new form of power, "securite." I suggest that this concept offers a deeper and clearer understanding of the governance of security.

The essay is divided into three component parts. The first and largest part explores how securite has become increasingly relevant to society's social reality. I discuss the characteristics of the new concept introduced by Foucault in his series of lectures. In my view, Foucault's idea of securitization remains both theoretically and empirically underdeveloped in the current criminological literature. Remaining unclear are (1) the historical background of this process and (2) how it might address current shifts in criminal law. The second part explores a new phenomenon that I will call "quasi-criminal law": the penalization and enforcement of classical offenses through civil law agreements by parties other than the police and judicial authorities. I investigate the relation between Foucault's new form of power, securite, and quasi-criminal law by focusing upon the Netherlands and the prevention of antisocial behavior. Next, I illustrate the prevention of antisocial behavior by reference to a type of criminality--shoplifting--for which the Dutch state has sought power to combat. I concentrate on the "Collective Shop Ban," a new measure taken in the Netherlands to make shopkeepers co-responsible for maintaining security.

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