Policing and Security Working Group

Rethinking Policing in the Radical Tradition

The aggressive reassertion of neoliberalism, the renewal and expansion of repressive state capacities and the effort of the establishment to contain growing popular unrest in the wake of the current financial crisis has resulted in an inevitable escalation of conflict between progressive movements and policing organizations around the world. These developments raise serious questions about the evolving nature, direction and intensification of police coercion. The current conjuncture has also produced the very real possibility of progressive electoral majorities on the heels of wider popular mobilizations.  This necessitates reflection on the possibility of progressive police reform.

What complicates this task is that, despite considerable advances in critical and radical state theory, the police remain the least theorized and understood state institution among leftist criminology. Undoubtedly, the practical experience of the police role in political struggles has forced the political Left into a reactive and instrumentalist theoretical stance according to which the police merely dispense coercion on behalf of the ruling class and must therefore be challenged unambiguously on every possible occasion.  The grave political implications of this stance are not limited to a self-perpetuating a state of mutual suspicion and hostility, but they also compromise the theoretical and practical ability to address consistently and persuasively questions of policing, law and order. Can we build a dialogue about the future and proffer a vision of a post-capitalist policing system that is safer and more democratic?

The purpose of this stream is to take stock of and invite reflection on the theoretical legacy of critical and radical criminology on questions of everyday policing and its organisation. How pertinent is this legacy today and in light of contemporary developments, how can it be renewed and reinvigorated? Papers reporting or reflecting on practical experiences and initiatives aiming towards a more democratic, inclusive and accountable policing will also be welcome. 

Working Group Coordinator: Georgios Papanicolaou

Key themes

– Legacies of radical thinking about the police ·         
– Capitalism, pacification and the police ·         
– Democratizing the police: problems and prospects ·         
– Organisational change: beyond militarism and bureaucratism in policing
– Alternatives to policing · 
– Activist and community resistance movements: possibilities for autogestion in security
– Challenging for-profit policing