Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Insecurity and Politics: A Framework (1)

Academic journal article Canadian Journal of Sociology

Insecurity and Politics: A Framework (1)

Article excerpt

Abstract. This article explores the role of political leaders in the social construction of collective insecurity. Two parts comprise the article. The first part introduces the concepts of collective insecurity, state protection, and "threat infrastructure"; the second part takes a critical look at the literature on moral panic and formulates an integrated framework for the analysis of the politics of insecurity. Starting from the assumption that political leaders help shape the perception of collective threats despite the existence of enduring structural constraints, this framework comprises five main theoretical claims. Taken individually, several of these claims are present in existing sociology and political science literatures. Yet, this contribution articulates such claims in order to formulate an integrated framework that bridges streams of scholarship that are too rarely discussed together in current debates on the politics of insecurity.

Resume. Cet article explore le role des acteurs politiques dans la construction sociale de l'insecurite collective. L'article se divise en deux parties. La premiere partie introduit les concepts d'insecurite collective, de protection etatique et d'<>; la deuxieme partie formule un cadre d'analyse integre pour l'etude de la politique de l'insecurite Partant du principe que les leaders politiques affectent la perception des dangers collectifs malgre l'existence de contraintes structurelles, ce cadre d'analyse articule cinq grandes propositions theoriques. Prises individuellement, certaines de ces propositions sont deja presentes dans certains travaux de sociologie et de science politique. Toutefois, la presente contribution articule ces propositions dans le but de crier un cadre d'analyse coherent qui integre des perspectives theoriques trop rarement discutees conjointement dans les debats contemporains sur la politique de l'insecurite

**********

During the 2004 US presidential campaign, the Republican Party ran a television ad showing menacing wolves roaming a dark forest. Simultaneously, a female voice warned potential voters that "weakness attracts those who are waiting to do America harm" (Associated Press 2004). During a campaign that focused on national security, this ad clearly suggested that only George W. Bush and his fellow Republicans could protect the United States against the growing army of terrorist wolves. Earlier that year, a young sociologist published an article demonstrating, with quantitative analyses, that the federal terror warnings issued in the aftermath of the events of September 11 consistently increased popular support for the Republican President (Wilier 2004). This example raises a crucial question: what is the concrete role of political leaders and strategies in the social construction of collective insecurity? In part because most of the recent books devoted to collective insecurity focus less on political leaders than on culture and the mass media (Altheide 2002; Furedi 2002; Glassner 1999), no compelling framework is currently available to explore the politics of insecurity in advanced industrial societies.

A major aspect of the existing literature on the social construction of insecurity is to argue that citizens are "afraid of the wrong things" (Glassner 1999; Furedi 2002). (2) Although it is grounded in the same assumption, Corey Robin's book Fear: The History of a Political Idea, (2004) is more relevant for the analysis of the politics of insecurity. Robin explores the history of the idea of fear in modern political theory. Through an analysis of McCarthyism and contemporary labour relations, his book also argues that "repressive fear" is an enduring tool of economic and political domination in the United States. For Robin, US civil society and political institutions are instrumental in creating and reproducing such "repressive fear." As opposed to the idea that the fragmentation of political power is always a source of freedom, he shows that institutional fragmentation and autonomous civic organizations can work together to bring "repressive fear" upon society. …

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.