There is no (direct) total war but rather the never ending ‘wars’ on crime, terrorism, illegal immigrants and anti-social behaviour. There is no formal abolition of civil rights, just their hollowing out. In short, there is a need for a new politics of law and order. The old problematic of how to perfect and refine the liberal democratic, civilized approach to law and order has now ended. The new politics of our era must focus instead upon how we extricate ourselves from the security state we are in.
So conclude Simon Hallsworth and John Lea in their paper, Reconstructing Leviathan: Emerging contours of the security state that focuses on the emergence of the security state in the UK, which as they readily note, is part of a larger trend happening around the globe.
In no uncertain terms Hallsworth and Lea outline where most in their field fall short: “theoretical criminologists appeared to have forgotten about the State.”
What exactly, is the “state”? According to the pair:
what appears as a backgrounding of the State is in fact the creation of a ‘state in the mind’ in which the State is allowed seemingly infinite new powers. A securitization of the life world manifested in a set of attitudes welcomes and accepts the actions of the State as a necessary exchange between liberty and security even though the terms of trade are unknown as is whether any diminution in liberty furnishes any real increase in security
The “state” is just an idea. One peddled by a group of individuals who benefit when others believe it true.
This (bad) idea, when accepted, means some stranger can “legally” use force against you to restrict or deny you choices that harm no one else. And that these same people can “legally” take your property.
If you walked across the street and I approached and, after scolding you demanded 30FRNs “for your safety” would you pay it? Probably not. So why have a different view when the same action is done by someone in different attire?
How can actions “illegitimate” for me or you suddenly become “legitimate” when done by someone simply because they wear an ounce of tin on their chest? It shouldn’t. But it does, because this bad idea of “the state” (which one economist called “the great fiction“), has been accepted by many as truth.
But that’s changing, as evident by the fact that outlets such as Cop Block exist. Bad ideas are being replaced by better ideas.
Hallsworth and Lea outline the transition from the post-WWII social welfare democracy world, which sought to rehabilitate individuals “society” deemed “outcasts,” to the post-9/11 security state world, which addresses “problems” through the lens of “security.” They point to “a raft of legislation [that] has reoriented criminal justice away from due process and the rights of the suspect.”
In the UK, this bevy of arbitrary man-made text some individuals cite as justification for their aggressive actions include The Terrorism Act 2006, The Control Orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act 2005, The UK Proceeds of Crime Act 2002, The Anti-Terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, and The Terrorism Act of 2000.
For many people, this legalese:
enables the courts to order seizure of assets irrespective of criminal conviction in the courts. If the accused can be shown to have a ‘criminal lifestyle’, defined as having committed similar offences over a preceding period, then, on the civil standard of ‘balance of probabilities’, the court is entitled to assume their assets are the proceeds of crime unless the accused can demonstrate otherwise . . .
State activities legitimized by ‘wartime’ conditions include massive intrusive surveillance—of everything from financial transactions, interpersonal communications, presence in significant locations, personal identity details. They have created a whole new population of suspect communities—potential enemy aliens.
As the authors question, would Jean Carles de Menezes be dead today were it not for such guilty-until-proven-innocent policies?
Despite being on-point for the bulk of their paper Hallsworth and Lea did miss on at least one lesser point. After making a convincing case about the harms caused and exacerbated by the move toward securitization, the authors seemed somewhat accepting of the idea that a group of people who suffer from the same perverse incentives could effectively supply education or job training (as an alternative to resources being directed to growing the security state).
Most of us realize things aren’t right. So what’s the best way to hold aggressors accountable?
It is not a piece of legislation (text on paper) that hurts you, but that person who wears a badge. They are the enforcers. The teeth of the “state.” The longer each of us buys into the bad idea that individuals should not be held accountable for their actions when they mutter “I’m just doing my job” or claim “sovereign immunity,” the more likely it is to occur.
Hallsworth and Lea noted the “need for a new politics of law and order” – I encourage you to think open-minded about this. Surely we all want to live in a safe and prosperous society, the question is how do we best get there?
Reconstructing Leviathan: Emerging contours of the security state by Simon Hallsworth and John Lea
The Chain of Obedience 2min video
Voluntaryism Wikipedia entry
The Philosophy of Liberty 8min video
Austrian Economics Wikipedia entry
The Most Dangerous Superstition book by Larken Rose
Thanks to Travis Linnemann, assistant professor of Sociology and Criminal Justice at Old Dominion University for passing this my way.