'Sack the Spooks': Do We Need an Internal Security Apparatus?

Peter Gill

Abstract


For fifty years a central concern of the Left has been the development of 'national security states' defined in terms of their political domination by military and security elites and consequent repression of democratic rights.' More recently, however, the focus has shifted to the increase in surveillance and accompanying 'disciplinary' measures employed by both state and non-state organisations, variously described as the rise of 'surveillance' or 'maximum-security' societies. Surveillance practices have developed over centuries within specific institutions - the prison, the factory - but it is only during the last few decades that they have extended from sites of confinement and production to those of consumption. The gathering, collating, buying and selling of personal data is directed at refining marketing and credit-evaluation techniques while the simultaneous mushrooming of CCTV schemes combine in a drive to make cities safe for consumption. Thus 'security' is a totem of the contemporary world and the numbers of those - especially in the private sector - whose livelihood depends in some way on its (or purported provision) grows to an extent matched in few other employment sectors. For some, notably Foucault, apparatuses of security are the very heart of modern government - 'governmentality'. Although modern capitalist states may be choosing to withdraw from various markets through processes of privatisation they still play a central role in unifying the dispersed patterns of domination in capitalist societies: for example, as the 'strong state' that enforces the parameters within which those markets operate.

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