Chronotopes of security

Chronotopes of security


The previous two chapters presented extended case studies of spatiotemporal and jurisdictional dynamics in legal contexts. Chapter 4, a reflexive exercise, experimented with rewriting the recent history of feminist legal thought as a shift in jurisdiction and scale; there, the materials used were chosen from the work of feminist intellectuals engaging with law and law reform. Chapter 5 traced the emergence, or more accurately the eruption, of the sacred spatiotemporality of ‘the honour of the Crown’ in contemporary Canadian law, in an analysis focusing on formal state law. In contrast to both these inquiries, which engage with scholarly legal thought and legal doctrine respectively, in this last substantive chapter we move into a more ‘socio’ and less ‘legal’ arena – that of everyday practices of security.

The networks described in this chapter as chronotopes are not exclusively legal, but they are by no means external to law. As many criminologists have pointed out, a large part of the legal apparatus (including much of ordinary criminal law, not just national security law and policy) owes either its existence or its justification, or both, to social perceptions of insecurity and risk that are largely shared by legal professionals, police, and politicians (e.g. Ericson 2007; Zedner 2009). In addition (and more importantly from a theoretical perspective), as security hopes and desires come to be operationalized through specific choices of legal scale and jurisdiction, some of these desires are assigned to formal state law, while others are assigned to other less institutionalized spheres (e.g. ‘the community’, ‘the family’). Studying assemblages or chronotopes of security that exist at different scales sheds light on the social production of formal state law, as scholars writing about risk and security have amply shown. But in addition, such explorations also shed light on the way in which tasks and projects come to be divided, usually without much discussion, between state agencies on the one hand and other norm-producing bodies engaged in less formal policing on the other.

In turn, the extra-legal or extra-state provision and governance of security is characterized by often sharp divisions of labour and responsibility, such as between the family household’s security agenda and the responsibilities of ‘the community’. Much has been written in recent years on the complex interactions between state policing and private forms of policing, but such studies (Wood and Shearing 2004; Lippert and Walby 2013) tend to focus only on the interaction between state policing and the work of private security personnel. But however important the privately owned security sector might be, security and insecurity come to be defined and pursued through a variety of projects and networks that exceed the government vs. private sector divide. Limiting the scope of one’s study to the for-profit security market can obscure important processes, such as the way in which families are responsibilized for certain types of security. Acknowledging that the family household and the local ‘community’ act as specific sites of security, each with their own scale and jurisdiction, can help to deepen our collective understanding of the shifting combinations of legal and non-legal tools that operationalize the desire for security.

A second reason for including a chapter on the well-worn and perhaps even trite topic of security in this book is that I use evidence of popular and legal perceptions of risk and danger not so much to analyze how we have come to be governed through risk – a topic that has been studied in detail for some time now (e.g. Ericson and Haggerty 1997; O’Malley 2004) – but rather to shed light on the positive or hopeful other side of the security coin. There is a vast literature on ‘fear of crime’, much of it devoted to demonstrating that the probability of certain crimes occurring has been greatly exaggerated through media reports and through politicians’ exploitation of popular anxieties. But the perceptions of social decline, disorder, and danger that underlie what is often called ‘penal populism’ have always been accompanied, however quietly, by positive visions of a secure and happy future – even when, as is the case today, dystopian and fearful narratives arguably outnumber and outweigh utopian visions.

In general, each risk or danger has a correlative, that is, a state or condition of safety and security that has distinct features. And not surprisingly, the scale, the mood, and the jurisdiction of the security project concerned have a close (though not fixed) relationship with the scale and the jurisdiction at which the problem or risk is seen to occur. For example, the frightening accounts of global warming carried in mass media implicitly contain or at least point to a vision of an alternative future in which human beings have collectively learned to live sustainably, and when the problem is presented as ‘global’ there is a strong suggestion that the solution too has to be global or at least transnational. Similarly, the ‘fear of crime’ narratives disseminated through tabloid journalism, which tend to assume the scale of the ‘bad neighbourhood’, implicitly contain and support a correlative vision of the harmonious and well-ordered neighbourhood (a vision often projected into or resurrected from the past). In general, security and insecurity are necessarily in a dialectical relationship, however one-sided certain discourses may seem. And the literature on fear of crime and perceptions of risk does not necessarily shed light on the less researched side of the security coin, at least not explicitly, which is why I choose here to analyze the spatiotemporal and jurisdictional aspects of the hopeful visions of security and order that underpin the better studied narratives of risk, crime, and insecurity.

This chapter thus describes a range of chronotopes of security that exist at different scales and/or that invoke or trigger different jurisdictions. The first is the secure and politically stable nation-state that is elaborated in liberal political theory. The second chronotope of security discussed here is that of the ideal crime-free and socially cohesive neighbourhood. Thirdly, I will discuss the archetypal picket-fenced safe home, a space currently being re-imagined as dangerously porous due to cyberbullying and other forms of electronically mediated risks to which children and young people – whose ability to leave the parental home is often limited, for practical as well as cultural reasons – are thought to be particularly vulnerable. And finally, the fourth security chronotope mentioned is that of the healthy, immunized, and protected body which is the object of public health policy. This selection is clearly not exhaustive, or even representative; but I hope it is sufficiently diverse as to give readers a sense of how the ideas presented here might apply in other contexts.

As a final preliminary note, it needs to be acknowledged that some chronotopes of security are designed to obtain greater security for specific groups – from battered women to groups exposed to violence on the basis of race or religion or sexual orientation. The framework developed in this book could certainly be applied to understand the dynamics of such security projects; but for present purposes I have selected chronotopes of security that, while by no means relevant to the whole of the actual population, are presented as shared – that is, as universal rather than specific. My own view is that the insecurity of particular groups is or should be everyone’s problem; conversely, I do not think that the safety concerns of parents of 2.1 children living in single-family suburban homes are of universal significance. But political, normative arguments about the scope and the merit of different security projects are outside the scope of this book; therefore, whether anti-homophobic violence campaigns, for example, ought to be redefined as universal rather than particular is not relevant here. To illustrate what my analytical framework can do, it is appropriate to focus on security chronotopes that present themselves and are widely accepted as universally desirable and relevant – security projects (e.g. online safety for children) presented as rooted in and productive of citizenship in general (cf. Honig 2001; Isin 2002).

Monologism and scale shifts in liberal accounts of the secure/securing state

The legal history of modernity is to a large extent the story of how European states gradually strengthened their jurisdictions by marginalizing or eliminating political narratives and sources of law other than those promoting state sovereignty (Foucault 2003). Like every other governing project, state sovereignty was in fact more dialogical, in its emergence, than its ideologues from Jean Bodin to John Locke cared to admit. In particular, the state’s near-monopoly of certain aspects of the governance of security did not emerge fully formed with the Westphalia treaties in 1648: it was slowly built through a long series of struggles – discursive and cultural struggles as well as legal manoeuvres – against several competitors. A key source of alternative security mechanisms was found in organs of aristocratic power inside the state (such as, in England, baronial courts); a second type of stakeholder that had to be subordinated consisted of church authorities inside and outside the country (mainly in Rome). And in a quieter, more gradual manner, projects to establish and protect state jurisdiction also had to marginalize or eliminate the myriad customary and local jurisdictions that had existed since the Middle Ages, from guilds to municipal corporations to trusts (Arthurs 1985; Frug 1999; Sassen 2006).

Standard accounts of the history of political thought often reproduce the monologic pretensions of the classic social contract writers. The monologism of the accounts has the effect of suggesting that sovereignty has been achieved, at least in states that look stable (compared with ‘failed’ states). But in fact state jurisdictional claims, historically and in the present, rely to a great extent on continually defending the view that only a strong state in which sovereignty is unified can properly protect its population; and as Dorsett and McVeigh have recently shown, this message has to be constantly reiterated even in and by states that have not experienced any recent existential crises (Dorsett and McVeigh 2012). The history of liberal political theory is generally taught as a series of monologues about sovereignty, security, and liberty, a format that reproduces and amplifies the pretensions of liberal theorists – pretensions that a close look at the actual history of state jurisdiction can put to rest, whether one applies a Bakhtinian dialogic lens or one uses Nietzsche’s permanent struggle paradigm, as Foucault did in his own account (Foucault 2003).

The Hobbesian version of the argument about the need for the state to centralize jurisdiction is well known. In a nutshell, Hobbes’ wholly monological argument was that if one assumes a post-feudal modern world in which human beings are for all intents and purposes equal, including having an equal desire to increase their power and wealth, then, the only way to prevent a constant state of actual or potential horizontal violence is for people to give up their natural right to defend themselves to some kind of entity that is not another individual or clan. Peace and security can only be achieved if people simultaneously entrust their natural rights to an inclusive body politic, one that can be embodied either in a monarch or in a group (e.g. a republican city-state), but which has to have a monopoly on the use of coercion in order for peace and safety to prevail.

Despite being declared dead on a regular basis by theorists of liberal democracy, the Hobbesian model continues to rise out of the grave with equal regularity, most recently in the array of laws and policies, from antiterrorism statutes to tactics such as ‘extraordinary renditions’ and drone killings, whose illiberal features are seen as justifiable in the context of the ‘war on terror’. The fact that later social contract theory generally operated with a sunny or at least hopeful mood, rejecting Hobbes’ wariness and cynicism, conceals many of the continuities between Hobbes and today’s situation. I will now try to show that focusing on the similarities and differences (in scale and in mood) between two well-known paradigms of state security (one represented by Hobbes and one by Adam Smith) can shed new light on the dialogical relations that constitute different liberal security chronotopes.

One feature of Hobbesian-style arguments about the need for a strong state that successfully monopolizes all coercive and legislative powers (powers that under feudalism were very much dispersed, differently in different parts of Europe) is that they all take the scale of the Commonwealth or the state for granted. Indeed, all efforts to expand state jurisdiction, either quantitatively (stronger powers) or qualitatively (new powers), presuppose and reinforce the scale of the state. President George W. Bush, a noted Hobbesian, would never have contemplated turning US military forces over to the UN, any more than Hobbes himself would have contemplated using his social contract theory to empower the Holy Roman Emperor.

More generally, the scale of the state is presupposed at the outset in all theories of ‘the state’, with the discussion being limited to the questions of how to justify the state’s power and how to define its content. In all such discussions (e.g. in John Locke’s arguments against Hobbes), the fact of the state, and specifically the scale of the state, is blackboxed from the start. Particular claims to certain jurisdictions can be challenged, both by political actors and by theorists, but not the scale of the state. If one abandons this scale for another one, then one is assumed to be leaving the arena of political discourse altogether and entering the scale of ‘civil society’, that of the family, or that of humanity in general, the latter scale being left to the ethicists.

This general point is key to understanding the scalar and jurisdictional moves that constitute Hobbes’ theory. The Hobbesian paradigm is not a tale of any and all body politics. It relies on and simultaneously performs a quiet merging of the geographic-cultural scale of the nation (Anderson 2006) with the political scale of the state (Elden 2013), with this geographic-cultural-political hybrid being in turn merged with or at least being made to coincide with the jurisdiction of modern sovereignty. Temporality is not nearly as visible in this familiar construction as spatialization – indeed, temporality is purposefully blurred by Hobbes, and in social contract theory generally.

Though generally neglected (or actively blurred) in political thought, temporality does in fact matter in state formation (Klinke 2013) – as is seen not only in studies of ‘chronopolitics’ but also, more concretely, in studies of such temporally significant inventions as the penny post and the railway, innovations that among other things changed the pace and scope and hence the content of communications between the capital and the provinces. But there is a good reason why borders and other spatial elements are more prominent in both historical and contemporary accounts of state jurisdiction than any temporal aspects. The reason for the relative invisibility of the temporal dimension of state formation is that most works of political theory feature a state apparatus that is virtually static, temporally, one that ideally achieves a monopoly on law and order once and for all and seeks merely to maintain it. For Hobbes, and indeed for many other liberal thinkers, change and progress are very important; but they are to be found exclusively in the realm of private economic activity, not in the political sphere. Indeed, economic improvement is thought to depend on political stasis. The chronotope of the Hobbesian nation-state is thus one that is largely spatially static (since Westphalian states, unlike empires, have no inherent tendency to expand spatially) but is even more static temporally, especially compared with the logic of capitalist economic growth.

But the Hobbesian account of how subjects’ ability to pursue their own happiness is furthered by a static state that has monopolized all jurisdictions is only one among a variety of competing liberal chronotopes of state security. A contrast between Hobbes and Adam Smith is appropriate here. In terms of scale and jurisdiction there are a large number of convergences between Smith and Hobbes, but there are some differences. One is that while Hobbes’ state is completely static, temporally, Smith, in keeping with Kant and other Enlightenment figures, envisions a state that includes some temporal change, but with change limited to the slow and gradual effects of largely subpolitical forces. (This is also the temporality of the common law, of course; Hobbes can make no place for the common law.) In addition to this difference in regard to the temporal scale of the state, another highly significant difference between these two foundational European thinkers of security concerns what I have been calling the affect or mood of a chronotope. Taking up the issue of affect/mood first will allow us to see how mood relates to temporality.

In Leviathan (Hobbes [1651] 1968), the overriding mood is one of fear and suspicion. This is visible not only in the famous quote about the human state of nature being one in which life is nasty, brutish, and short, but also in many other less renowned passages. One example among many is Hobbes’ discussion of parental authority over children. While John Locke blithely assumed that it is natural and therefore normal as well as pre-political for women and men to marry, and for women to agree to have and rear children (Pateman 1988), Hobbes, who was nothing if not consistent, wondered why adult women – who for him are basically equal to men, just as physically weak men are not qualitatively different from strong ones – would bother to subordinate their own ambitions and pleasures to the tasks associated with rearing children. Strict contractualism cannot discern any consent, however implicit, in the maternal relationship, since babies cannot engage in contractual thinking (or more accurately, cannot have implicit contractual consent imputed to them). Thus, if mothers choose to look after their babies instead of abandoning them, this is merely a choice, not a natural destiny. That unforced choice gives rise to absolute dominion. Why? Because without parental care, the children would otherwise die; therefore, they are in no position to engage even in the hypothetical or virtual bargaining that Hobbes envisions as taking place in the (adult) state of nature:

For in the condition of mere Nature, where there are no Matrimonial lawes, it cannot be known who is the Father, unless it be declared by the Mother: and therefore the right of Dominion over the child dependeth on her will, and is consequently hers. Again, seeing the Infant is first in the power of the Mother, so as she may either nourish it, or expose it, if she nourish it, it oweth its life to the Mother; and is therefore obliged to obey her, rather than any other … But if she expose it, and another find, and nourish it, the Dominion is in him that nourish it.

(Leviathan, Part II, ch. 20)

Being unable to discern any logical reason why mothers should put their own natural desire for pleasure and comfort on hold, Hobbes shrugs his shoulders and says, essentially, that humankind is just very lucky that women, for the most part, do indeed make the choice to nourish and rear children.

Hobbes’ anti-sentimental and indeed revolutionary comments on the irrationality of maternal care are the logical corollary of his general view of human nature. For Hobbes, human beings are by nature isolated and not very happy individuals (rather than being always already members of happy male-headed families, as they are in both Locke and Rousseau). And human beings are all roughly equal, rather than being divided into one gender that is active, outward bound, and future oriented and another gender that is passive, home bound, and temporally static. Human beings are also not naturally divided into estates or castes, or even into nations or clans – the divisions that have provided so much of human history’s passion, for good and for bad, but also much of human history’s social order. And most importantly for our current purposes, for Hobbes human beings are neither spiritual beings nor beings imbued with love and affection. They are primarily calculating machines, as the first few chapters of Leviathan argue, constantly using analogies from the then new science of physics. As such, when realizing that whatever resources and security they manage to accumulate in the state of nature can never be properly protected by their individual strength or wealth alone, human beings, engaging in a cost–benefit calculation, will rationally choose to all simultaneously give up their natural right to self-defence, collectively empowering a Leviathan that will ensure the peace and security that is necessary for both personal safety and economic progress.

Submitting to an existing tyrant would not be rational; but equal beings livings in a state of nature can be imagined as making a rational decision to simultaneously give up their natural right to use force to protect their goods and enhance their success. This rational decision, whether or not it was actually made in some historical moment, is regarded as the rational basis and justification for the modern, sovereignty-monopolizing state. Hobbes admits that the picture he paints is rather bleak in so far as citizens, or rather subjects, will have no recourse if they are unjustly prosecuted or punished, any more than babies have recourse if their mothers abuse them; but his famous answer is that safety and security are worth the price.

The cynical vision of the body politic which inexorably follows from Hobbes’ initial bleak and mechanistic premises can now be contrasted with Adam Smith’s comparatively rosy picture of liberal law and politics, as presented most explicitly in his Lectures on Justice, Police, Revenue and Arms (Smith [1763] 1896). Smith’s view of the purpose of law and justice is not much different from Hobbes’: ‘the end of justice is to secure from injury’, he argues in a liberal and more or less utilitarian vein (ibid.: 48). But because his view of human nature is quite different from Hobbes’, he does not believe that a strongly coercive state is either necessary or desirable to ensure the happiness and the security of the people. Pointing out that the French Bourbon regime multiplied police regulations, but that this did not correlate with a decrease in crime, he concludes that the most secure cities are not those with the greatest number of intrusive regulations and state officials to enforce them, but rather those in which there is most gainful non-servant employment. London had fewer servants than aristocratic Paris as well as fewer police regulations; and London had less crime than Paris. Arguing that the growth in trade and industry and the consequent decline of aristocratic servant-filled households produce not only wealth but also collective ethical improvements, Smith says that ‘the establishment of commerce and manufactures, which brings about this independency, is the best police for preventing crimes’ (ibid.: 155). In a society in which there is sufficient wage work, ‘nobody will be so mad as to expose himself upon the highway, when he can make better bread in an honest and industrious manner’ (ibid.: 156).

For Smith, who in keeping with the Zeitgeist