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Beck and beyond: selling security in the world risk society

  • ELKE KRAHMANN
Abstract

Expanding on the works of Beck and others on the growing business of risk, this article examines the role of the private security industry in the creation, management and perpetuation of the world risk society. It observes that the replacement of the concept of security with risk over the past decades has permitted private firms to identify a growing range of unknown and unknown-unknown dangers which cannot be eliminated, but require permanent risk management. Using the discourse of risk and its strategies of commercialised, individualised and reactive risk management, the private risk industry thus has contributed to the rise of a world risk society in which the demand for security can never be satisfied and guarantees continuous profits.

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1 Ulrich Beck, Risk Society. Towards a New Modernity (London: Sage, 1992); Ulrich Beck, World Risk Society (Cambridge: Polity, 1999).

2 See, for example, Louise Amoore and Marieke de Goede (eds), Risk and the War on Terror (London: Routledge, 2008); Claudia Aradau and Rens van Munster, ‘Governing Terrorism Through Risk: Taking Precautions, (un)Knowing the Future’, European Journal of International Relations, 13:1 (2007), pp. 89–115; Christopher Daase and Oliver Kessler, ‘Knowns and Unknowns in the “War on Terror”: Uncertainty and the Political Construction of Danger’, Security Dialogue, 38:4 (2007), pp. 411–34; Yee-Kuang Heng, ‘Unravelling the “War” on Terrorism: A Risk-Management Exercise in War Clothing’, Security Dialogue, 33:2 (2002), pp. 227–42; Keith Spence, ‘World Risk Society and War against Terror’, Political Studies, 53:6 (2005), pp. 284–302.

3 Beck, Risk Society, p. 23.

4 Ulrich Beck, ‘The Silence of Words: On Terror and War’, Security Dialogue, 34:3 (2003), pp. 255–67, p. 257.

5 Data from the British Security Industry Association, available at: {http://www.bsia.co.uk}.

6 Christopher Coker, Globalisation and Insecurity in the Twenty-first Century: NATO and the Management of Risk, Adelphi Paper 345 (Oxford: Oxford University Press for The International Institute for Strategic Studies, 2002); Mikkel Vedby Rasmussen, The Risk Society at War. Terror, Technology and Strategy in the Twenty-first Century (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).

7 Mike Raco, ‘Risk, Fear and Control: Deconstructing the Discourses of New Labour's Economic Policy’, Space & Polity, 6:1 (2002), pp. 25–47, p. 26.

8 Gabe Mythen and Sandra Walklate, ‘Criminology and Terrorism: Which Thesis? Risk Society or Governmentality?’, British Journal of Criminology, 46:3 (2006), pp. 379–98; Aradau and van Munster, ‘Governing Terrorism Through Risk’.

9 Deborah Lupton, Risk (London: Routledge, 1999), p. 29.

10 Notable exceptions include Maria Łoś, ‘Post-communist Fear of Crime and the Commercialization of Security’, Theoretical Criminology, 6:2 (2002), pp. 165–88; and Louise Amoore and Marieke De Goede, ‘Governance, Risk and Dataveillance in the War on Terror’, Crime, Law & Social Change, 43:2–3 (2005), pp. 149–73.

11 François Ewald, ‘Insurance and Risk’, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 197–210; Mark B. Salter, ‘Imagining Numbers: Risk, Quantification and Aviation Security’, Security Dialogue, Special Issue on Security, Technologies of Risk, and the Political, 39:2–3 (2008), pp. 243–66. It is unclear, however, whether Salter sees the rationalities and technologies of private aviation security services as part of a larger ‘dispositif’ that subsumes state as well as commercial actors.

12 Colin Gordon, ‘Governmental Rationality: An Introduction’, in Graham Burchell, Colin Gordon and Peter Miller (eds), The Foucault Effect: Studies in Governmentality (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1991), pp. 1–51, p. 11, p. 16.

13 Beck, Risk Society, pp. 56–7. A general account of the role of private capital in globalisation can be found in Ulrich Beck, Power in the Global Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2005).

14 Ibid., p. 21.

15 Ibid., p. 24.

16 Ibid., p. 21.

17 Ibid., p. 46.

18 Ibid., p. 56.

19 Ibid., p. 175.

20 Ibid., p. 46.

21 Ibid., p. 36.

22 Scott Campbell and Greg Currie, ‘Against Beck: In Defence of Risk Analysis’, Philosophy of the Social Sciences, 36:2 (2006), pp. 149–72; Robert Dingwall, ‘“Risk Society”: The Cult Theory and the Millennium?’, Social Policy and Administration, 33:4 (1999), pp. 474–91.

23 Claudia Aradau, Luis Lobo-Guerro and Rens van Munster, ‘Security, Technologies of Risk, and the Political: Guest Editors' Introduction’, Security Dialogue, Special Issue on Security, Technologies of Risk, and the Political, 39:2–3 (2008), pp. 147–54, pp. 148–9, p. 151.

24 This analysis bears an intentional resemblance to the investigation of the underlying ‘rationalities’ and ‘technologies’ of risk management employed by Foucauldian scholars, but employs different terms in order to emphasise that it remains within Beck's framework of analysis.

25 Nancy Press, Jennifer R. Fishman and Barbara A Koenig, ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk: The Social and Cultural Context for the Genetic Testing for Breast Cancer’, Nursing Ethics, 7:3 (2000), pp. 237–49; Ewald, ‘Insurance and Risk’; Salter, ‘Imagining Numbers: Risk, Quantification and Aviation Security’.

26 Beck, World Risk Society, p. 135.

27 Richard V. Ericson and Aaron Doyle, ‘Catastrophe Risk, Insurance and Terrorism’, Economy and Society, 33:2 (2004), pp. 135–73, p. 141; Anthony Giddens, ‘Risk Society: The Context of British Politics’, in Jane Franklin (ed.), The Politics of the Risk Society (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1998), pp. 23–34, p. 26.

28 Raco, ‘Risk, Fear and Control’, p. 27.

29 John Adams, Risk (London: Routledge, 1995), p. 69.

30 This definition departs somewhat from Daase and Kessler, ‘Knowns and Unknowns in the ‘War on Terror’, but is not incompatible with it.

31 Rasmussen, The Risk Society at War, p. 1.

32 Janne Flyghed, ‘Crime-Control in the Post-Wall Era: The Menace of Security’, Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology and Crime Prevention, 6:2 (2005), pp. 165–82; Aradau et al., ‘Security, Technologies of Risk, and the Political: Guest Editors' Introduction’, pp. 148–9; Mythen and Walklate, ‘Criminology and Terrorism’, p. 381.

33 Frank Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisited (London: Continuum, 2006), p. xi.

34 Marieke De Goede, ‘Beyond Risk: Premediation and the Post-9/11 Security Imagination’, SecurityDialogue, Special Issue on Security, Technologies of Risk, and the Political, 39:2–3 (2008), pp. 155–76, p. 156.

35 Beck, Risk Society, p. 29.

36 Heng, ‘Unravelling the “War” on Terrorism,’ p. 236.

37 Mythen and Walklate, ‘Criminology and Terrorism’, p. 385; Jane Franklin, ‘Politics and Risk’, in Sandra Waltlake and Gabe Mythen (eds), Beyond the Risk Society (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2006), p. 160; David L. Altheide, ‘Consuming Terrorism’, Symbolic Interaction, 27:3 (2004), pp. 289–308, p. 292.

38 Alan Travis and Ian Black, ‘Blair's Popularity Plummets’, The Guardian (18 February 2003); Kevin Sullivan, ‘Brown Acts to Distance Himself from Blair, Iraq’, Washington Post (25 September 2007); NN, ‘It Has Led to a Massive Loss of Trust’, The Guardian (30 April 2005).

39 Łoś, ‘Post-communist Fear of Crime and the Commercialization of Security’, p. 178.

40 See, for example, Westguard Security Ltd., at: {http://www.westguardsecurity.co.uk} and Hart Security Ltd., at: {http://www.hartsecurity.com}.

41 Anne-Marie Vincent and Alan J. Dubinsky, ‘Impact of Fear Appeals in a Cross-Cultural Context’, Journal of Euromarketing, 14:1/2 (2004), pp. 145–67.

42 David L. Altheide and R. Sam Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News: A Discourse of Control’, The Sociological Quarterly, 40:3 (1999), pp. 475–503; Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, p. 476.

43 Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisisted, p. xvii.

44 Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, pp. 475–503.

45 Mirka Smolej and Janne Kivivuori, ‘The Relation between Crime News and Fear of Violence’, Journal of Scandinavian Studies in Criminology, 7:2 (2006), pp. 211–27, p. 215.

46 Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, p. 479; Smolej and Kivivuori, ‘The Relation between Crime News and Fear of Violence’, p. 221.

47 Ibid., p. 490.

48 Ibid., p. 476.

49 Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisited, p. xvii.

50 The firms are listed as members of the British Security Industry Association, at: {http://www.bsia.co.uk}.

51 Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}. Emphasis added.

52 Hart Security Ltd., at: {http://www.hartsecurity.com}.

53 Elite Security Group Ltd., at: {http://www.elitesecuritygroup.co.uk}. Emphasis added.

54 Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}; Advance Security Ltd., at: {http://www.advancesecurity.co.uk}.

55 Crown Security Services, at: {http://www.crownsecurity.uk.com}.

56 Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}.

57 Ipsos MORI, ‘One in Four Britons Lives in Fear of Burglary’ (23 August 1999).

58 Ipsos MORI, ‘Britons Most Worried about Crime – and Government Is Least Trusted to Deal with It’ (6 November 2006).

59 British Security Industry Association, at: {http://www.bsia.co.uk}; NN, ‘Ride the Wave’, Security Executive (April/May 2007), pp. 11–15, p. 11.

60 Beck, Risk Society, p. 156–7. Beck makes this argument with regard to the tendency of governments and experts to ‘downplay’ modernisation risks such as nuclear power and genetic modification, but of course it can also be viewed in the reverse.

61 Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, pp. 491–2.

62 Beat Habegger, ‘Risk Analysis and Management in a Dynamic Risk Landscape’ in ibid. (ed.), International Handbook on Risk Analysis and Management (Zurich: Center for Security Studies, 2008), pp. 13–32, pp. 21–7.

63 Beck, Risk Society, p. 74.

64 Lupton, Risk, p. 47.

65 Anthony Giddens, Modernity and Self-Identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1991).

66 Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisited, p. 5.

67 Press et al., ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk’, p. 242.

68 Beck, ‘The Terrorist Threat’, p. 41.

69 BritSec International Ltd., at: {http://www.britsec.co.uk}.

70 ArmorGroup International Plc., at: {http://www.armorgroup.com}.

71 See, for example, Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}; Allander Security Ltd., at: {http://www.allandersecurity.com}; Britsafe, at: {http://www.britsafe.com}; Crown Security Services, at: {http://www.crownsecurity.uk.com}; Danhouse Security Ltd., at: {http://www.danhouse.co.uk}; Duval Security Ltd., at: {http://www.duvalsecurity.co.uk}; Elite Security Group Ltd., at: {http://www.elitesecuritygroup.co.uk}.

72 SIA, Security Industry Overview, available at: {http://www.siaonline.org/response.asp?c=industry_overview&r=1024}.

73 Press et al., ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk,’, p. 241.

74 Raco, ‘Risk, Fear and Control’, p. 29.

75 Press et al., ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk’, p. 245.

76 Pat O'Malley, ‘Criminology and Risk’, in Sandra Waltlake and Gabe Mythen (eds), Beyond the Risk Society (Buckingham: Open University Press, 2006), pp. 43–59, p. 49.

77 Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, p. 481. Unsolicited personal advice received from a police officer in an area that had seen repeated theft in Bristol.

78 Gabe Mythen and Sandra Walklate, ‘Communicating the Terrorist Risk: Harnessing a Culture of Fear?’, Crime, Media, Culture, 2:2 (2006), pp. 123–42, p. 134.

79 Financial Times, ‘London Businesses Told to Upgrade Security’ (14 July 2005).

80 Spence, ‘World Risk Society and War against Terror’, p. 294.

81 Intacept Security Ltd., at: {http://www.intaceptsecurity.com}.

82 Octaga Security Services Ltd., at: {http://www.octaga.co.uk}; Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}; G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}.

83 Sawley Security Ltd., at: {http://www.sawleysecurity.co.uk}; Unit Group Ltd., at: {http://www.unitgroup.co.uk}; Intacept Security Ltd., at: {http://www.intaceptsecurity.com}.

84 See, for example, Polyguard Security Services Ltd., at: {http://www.polyguardsecurities.com; Guardforce Security Services Ltd., at: {http://www.guardforce-security.com}.

85 Octaga Security Services Ltd., at: {http://www.octaga.co.uk}.

86 Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}; G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}.

87 Hart Security Ltd., at: {http://www.hartsecurity.com}.

88 G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}.

89 Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}; Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}; G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}.

90 Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}.

91 Altheide and Michalowski, ‘Fear in the News’, p. 496; Press et al., ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk’, p. 238.

92 Aradau and van Munster, ‘Governing Terrorism through Risk’, p. 103.

93 US Department of State, Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003. Available at: {http://www.state.gov/s/ct/rls/pgtrpt/2003/c12153.htm}.

94 Pat O'Malley, Risk, Uncertainty and Government (London: The Glass House Press, 2004), p. 138.

95 O'Malley, ‘Criminology and Risk’, p. 49.

96 The Age (28 September 1990), cited in: O'Malley, Risk, Uncertainty and Government, p. 139.

97 Intacept Security Ltd., at: {http://www.intaceptsecurity.com}.

98 Allander Security Ltd., at: {http://www.allandersecurity.com}. See also G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}. Emphasis added.

99 Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}.

100 G4S Security Services (UK) Ltd., at: {http://www.g4s.com/uk-security/}.

101 Intacept Security Ltd., at: {http://www.intaceptsecurity.com}; Danhouse Security Ltd., at: {http://www.danhouse.co.uk}. See also Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}; Unit Group Ltd., at: {http://www.unitgroup.co.uk}; Vigil Security Management Ltd., at: {http://www.vigilsecurity.co.uk}; Westguard Security Ltd., at: {http://www.westguardsecurity.co.uk}.

102 Beck, Risk Society, p. 57.

103 O'Malley, ‘Criminology and Risk’, p. 44.

104 Press et al., ‘Collective Fear, Individualized Risk’, p. 241.

105 Precaution at: {http://www.dictionary.com}.

106 Elke Krahmann, ‘Security: Collective Good or Commodity?’, European Journal of International Relations, 14:3 (2008), pp. 379–404.

107 Furedi, Culture of Fear Revisited, p. 2.

108 Advance Security, at: {http://www.advancesecurity.co.uk}; Allander Security Ltd., at: {http://www.allandersecurity.com}; Checkmate Guarding & Security, at: {http://www.checkmate-guarding.co.uk}; Contract Security Services, at: {http://www.contractsecurity.co.uk}; Crown Security Services, at: {http://www.crownsecurity.uk.com}; Danhouse Security Ltd., at: {http://www.danhouse.co.uk}; Duval Security Ltd., at: {http://www.duvalsecurity.co.uk}; Intacept Security Ltd., at: {http://www.intaceptsecurity.com}; Knight Security Ltd., at: {http://www.knightsecurityservices.co.uk}; Omni Security Services Ltd., at: {http://www.omnisecurity.co.uk}.

109 Brandon C. Welsh and David P. Farrington (eds), Preventing Crime: What Works for Children, Offenders, Victims and Places (Dordrecht: Springer, 2007), p. 8.

110 Owen Bowcott, ‘CCTV Boom Has Failed to Slash Crime, Says Police’, The Guardian (6 May 2008).

111 Lucia Zedner ‘Too Much Security?’, International Journal of the Sociology of Law, 31:3 (2003), pp. 155–84, p. 165.

112 Redguard Security Ltd., at: {http://www.reguardsecurity.co.uk}.

113 Pilgrims Group Ltd., at: {http://www.pilgrimsgroup.com}.

114 Hart Security Ltd., at: {http://www.hartsecurity.com}.

115 Allander Security Ltd., at: {http://www.allandersecurity.com}.

116 SIA, available from: {http://www.siaonline.org/_newmem.html}.

117 Sometimes governments choose to outsource these services to private firms. The British Security Industry Association, thus, added in 2001 a new sector to its database entitled ‘police and public security’. Arguably, however, governments are also influenced by the discourse and practices of the private security industry when they become a customer.

120 4 Forces Security Ltd., at: {http://www.4forcessecurity.co.uk}.

121 Abal Security Ltd., at: {http://www.abalsecurity.com/}.

122 Parfomak (2004), Summary.

123 Hart Security UK Ltd., at: {http://www.hartsecurity.com/}. See also Ian Johnson Associates Ltd., at: {http://www.ija.co.uk}.

124 ECA Ltd., at: {http://www.ecalimited.co.uk}.

125 Red Cell Security, Ltd., at: {http://redcellsecurity.co.uk}.

126 Ibid.

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