Borderlands of the private home: Uncertain social times and our growing fortress mentality


By Rowland Atkinson

Can we speculate that there is a relationship between the massive changes in policy and political life since the financial crisis of more or less ten years ago and the look and feel of the streets and homes in our towns and cities? It was not long after the crisis began that I made a journey by car through the semi-rural areas bordering Manchester and Chester and was surprised at the number of homes with new, large and electronic gates. Why would we find these kinds of features in leafy areas with presumably low crime rates? Why indeed would we expect to find now well over a thousand gated communities in a country like the UK that has traditionally not only enjoyed a relatively low crime rate but also a history of more or less open streetscapes and a celebration of public footpaths and byways? We know that the reasons for these changes are complex and lie in a mix of factors that include a search for badges of social standing as well as a fear of crime. Yet the reality in many streets today is of a proliferation not of large gated communities but the rise of what Sarah Blandy and I recently called domestic fortresses. In many neighbourhoods it is possible to see shuttered and gated large homes side-by-side with those with little or no such visible protection. What explains these variations and what does it mean, if anything at all, for questions of policy today? Continue reading

Professor Big Brother and his radical students – who should we fear most?

by Akil N Awan, Lecturer in Political Violence & Terrorism at Royal Holloway

This post was originally published on The Conversation blog on 29th January 2015

The Counter-Terrorism and Security Bill 2014-15, having been rushed through the House of Commons with alarming speed and ease, has passed its second reading in the House of Lords. It is now in the final committee stages and on course to become law within a matter of weeks.

Although peers rejected a raft of amendments that would have effectively brought the “snooper’s charter” in through the backdoor, the addition of this major piece of terrorism legislation to our existing terror laws still has serious implications and should be of real concern to us all. Not least because it co-opts Continue reading

The paradox of security regulation: public protection versus normative legitimation

Adam White
Adam White

Adam White, University of York, discusses his article, written with Martin Smith – The paradox of security regulation: public protection versus normative legitimation – available in issue 42.3 of Policy & Politics.

The UK private security industry has been playing an interesting and tricky hand of late. On one side, the Coalition government has presented it with huge opportunities for growth by simultaneously slashing police budgets and promoting outsourcing. On the other side, it has been prevented from taking full advantage of these opportunities because of its rather shady reputation – a problem intensified by recent high profile scandals, from the 2012 Olympics security debacle to overcharging the Home Office on electronic tagging contacts. 

One central way in which the industry has been playing this hand has been to throw down the regulation card. The industry has been using statutory regulation to cover itself in the reassuring images and symbols of the state, thereby cleaning up its shady image to a certain degree and putting itself in the position of being able to take full advantage of any opportunities coming its way.

In this article, we call this ‘normative legitimation’: the process through which the private security industry seeks to legitimate its activities to sceptical citizen-consumers by appealing to the state-centric norms which permeate the domestic security sector. We argue that this process creates an unusual and interesting regulatory politics. The more the state introduces regulation to protect the public from the industry, the more the state (consciously and unconsciously) legitimates the industry and allows it to come into further contact with the public.

After a brief tour through the history of liberal discourse and politics (where security becomes connected to the state), the article turns to the paradox of security regulation in postwar Britain. This article (we hope) will appeal to anyone interested in how the private security industry is positioning itself within today’s rapidly changing security landscape.

The paradox of security regulation: public protection versus normative legitimation is available on Ingenta.