Security, risk and capitalism

Memphis Krickeberg


How does security relate to capitalism ? Is the concept of “security” analytically operational to conceive of the way capitalism preserves itself from the threats and risks it faces ? Can one isolate a relatively coherent modality through which security processes contribute to the reproduction of capitalism ? I will attempt to bring elements of response to these questions and draw the outlines of a new materialist framework for analyzing security and risk.
Critical security studies have tended to neglect the relation between security, capitalism and class domination by focusing too narrowly on the social construction of security and isolating security practices from the social totality in which they are embedded. On the other hand, Marxist accounts of security practices, mobilizing notably the concept of “pacification”, have stressed the coercive construction of bourgeois order without however reflecting on the specificity of the relation between security and capital.
I will argue here that security should be conceived of as a social relation and form of power which is specific and inherent to capitalism. Reducing the concept of security to a legitimation of class domination and violence does not allow us to see the historical specificity and distinctive character of security processes. While security undeniably implies coercion, it cannot be reduced to an instrument of class domination but must be re-conceptualized in regard to the impersonal character of capital. Drawing both on Foucault's work on governmentality and the tradition of the German state derivation debate, I will argue that security corresponds to a specific way of organizing and managing societies on the basis of risk calculation in order to ensure the movement of capital and guarantee the general conditions of possibility of capitalist accumulation.

Governmentality Security Risk State theory - Govermentality - Risk - Pacification - Security - State theory - Critical security studies