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Globalized (in)Security: the Field and the Ban-Opticon


Bigo, Didier. "Globalized (In)Security: The field and the Ban-Opticon." Terror, Insecurity and Liberty: Illiberal practices of liberal regimes after 9/11. (2006) D. Bigo and A. Tsoukala. Oxon and New York, Routledge, pp. 10-48.

p.1-2: The discourses that the United States and its closest allies have put forth asserting the necessity to globalize security have taken on an unprecedented intensity and reach. They justify themselves by propagating the idea of a global “(in)security,” attributed to the development of threats of mass destruction, thought to derive from terrorist or other criminal organizations and the governments that support them. This globalization is supposed to make national borders effectively obsolete, and to oblige other actors in the international arena to collaborate. At the same time, it makes obsolete the conventional distinction between the constellation of war, defence, international order and strategy, and another constellation of crime, internal security, public order and police investigations. Exacerbating this tendency yet further is the fact that, since September 11, there has been ongoing frenzied speculation throughout the Western political world and among its security “experts” on how the relations between defence and internal security should be aligned in the new context of global (in)security. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.2: In my opinion, it is this convergence of defence and internal security into interconnected networks, or into a “field” of professionals of mangement of unease that lies at the heart of the transformations concerning global policing. This emergent field of the management of unease explains, on the one hand, the formation of police networks at the global level, as well as the policiarisation of military functions of combat and, on the other hand, the transformation, the criminalization and the juridiciarisation of the notion of war. Moreover, this field of management of unease also accounts for how a type of Ban-opticon dispositif is established in relation to this state of unease. This form of governmentality of unease, or Ban, is characterized by three criteria: practices of exceptionalism, acts of profiling and containing foreigners, and a normative imperative of mobility. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.2: Given these terms, is it possible to use the terminologies of a “global complicity” of domination, of the making of an Empire and a drift toward a new “soft fascism”, of a “farewell to democracy and the advent of a securitized globalized world” justifying the pre-eminence of a Western white neo-colonial project in the name of exporting freedom and combating evil -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.2: Does there, in practice, exist a single strategy that unifies different groups of professionals at the transnational level — whether they be agents of the police, the military, or the intelligence services, with a common policy of policing and sharing the interests of the elite of the different professionals of politics — and seeks to change the existing regime, curtail civil liberties, and put all individuals under its control and surveillance? Did Orwell’s 1984 in fact prefigure 2004? -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.2: Even if we witness illiberal practices, and even if the temptation to use the argument of an exceptional moment correlated with the advent of transnational political violence of clandestine organisations, in order to justify violations of basic human rights and the extension of surveillance is very strong, we are still in liberal regimes. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.2: In the following argument I shall show that we are far from a global complicity as a unified strategy. Heterogeneity, diverse interests, goes hand in hand with globalization. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

The production of a transnational “truth”

p.3: it is important to differentiate clearly between various parties’ standpoints on how to prioritize threats. These threats may include terrorism, war, organized crime, and the so called migratory invasion or reverse colonisation, while at the same time they indicate the correlation between various professions, which may include professions of urban policing, criminal policing, anti-terrorist policing, customs, immigration control, intelligence, counter-espionage, information technologies, long-distance systems of surveillance and detection of human activities, maintenance of order, re-establishment of order, pacification, protection, urban combat, and psychological action. These professions do not share the same logics of experience or practice and do not converge neatly into a single function under the rubric of security. Rather, they are both heterogeneous and in competition with each other. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.3-4: Three key events are taking place, now that it has taken several centuries for these professions to differentiate in the first place: a de-differentiation of professional activities as a result of this configuration; a growth in struggles to redefine the systems that classify the social and cultural struggles as security threats; and a practical redefinition of systems of knowledge and know-how that connect the public and private security agencies who claim to possess a “truth” founded on numerical data and statistics, technologies of biometrics and sociological profiles of potential dangerous behaviour, applied to the cases of persons who feel themselves the effects of the (in)securitization, living in a state of unease. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.4: Security is then, conceptually, reduced to technologies of surveillance, extraction of information, coercion acting against societal and state vulnerabilities, in brief to a kind of generalized “survival” against threats coming from different sectors, but security is disconnected from human, legal and social guarantees and protection of individuals. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.4: Finally, this “authority” of statistics that stems from their technological routines of collecting and categorizing data allows such professionals to establish a “field” of security in which they recognize themselves as mutually competent, while finding themselves in competition with each other for the monopoly of the legitimate knowledge on what constitutes a legitimate unease, a “real” risk. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.4: Within the production of this regime of truth and the battle to establish the “legitimate” causes of fear, of unease, of doubt and uncertainty, the (in)security professionals have the strategy to overstep national boundaries and form corporatist professional alliances to reinforce the credibility of their assertions and to win the internal struggles in their respective national fields -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

Transnational regime of truth and theory of state (sovereignty)

p.5: The notion of state, as conceived by international relations theory, cannot adapt to the result of these tensions created by transnational bureaucratic links between professionals of politics, judges, police, intelligence agencies, and the military. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.6: these differentiated bureaucracies are actually forged in the crucible of international networks, and they autonomize different political sectors expressly for the purpose of ensuring that they exceed the domain of professional politicians. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.7: The field is thus established between these “professionals”, with specific “rules of the game”, and rules that presuppose a particular mode of socialization or habitus. This habitus is inherited from the respective professional trajectories and social positions, but is not strongly defined along the lines of national borders. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.14: This differentiation of specialty means that the police, therefore, do not form a single, unique and homogenous network. We would be better served by thinking of an “archipelago of policing”, or a mosaic that holds together the national police, military police, customs control, immigration, consulates, and even intelligence services and the military -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.14: These archipelagos are structured beyond their “common” activities, along lines of cultural identification (e.g. French, British, German, or Northern and Southern European), profession (e.g. police, police with military status, customs agents), organizational level (e.g. national, local, municipal), mission (e.g. intelligence, border control, criminal police), knowledge (perceptions of threats and of a hierarchy of adversaries) and technological innovation (computer systems, electronic surveillance, police liaison officers who are crucial in the management and the exchange of information between agencies). -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.14: For quite some time, the field of (in)security has been structured through trans-national exchanges of information and the routinization of processes dealing with intelligence information. It would be naive to view this phenomenon as a simple effect of globalization. The national police have been networked ever since they were created as institutions. As opposed to the judiciary and criminal police, the prerogative of the intelligence police has always been conducted irrespective of territorial boundaries and has focused on people’s identities, whether real or fictional, regardless of their origin or place of dwelling. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.16: In general, two types of policing appear within the parameters of the national police institution: the first employs unqualified or minimally qualified personnel, who are however present and visible at the local level as an auxiliary to the municipality, the prefecture, or other police. The second type takes an opposite approach by employing a few, highly qualified people, who are in close contact with other security and social control agencies, characterised by discretion and distance -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.16: In what they call an osmotic relationship between high-ranking spheres of government and private strategic actors, these individuals take it as their mission to prevent crime by acting upon conditions in a pro-active way, anticipating where crime might occur and who might generate it. Their work then consists of making prospective analyses based on statistical knowledge, hypothetic correlations and supposed trends, then anticipating a future in terms of worst case scenario and acting to prevent it. These professionals believe they are more professional and competent than the others, and their ambition is to assemble, on the basis of data generated, openly available information, social-scientific data and the techniques of police intelligence operations. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.16: This dream of a common and consensual epistemic community knowing the future and drawing the line of the present from this (reversible) knowledge haunts the imaginary of these professionals, who police societal transformations at a distance — a geographic one and a temporal distance piloted by this logic of anticipation merging science and fiction. This perspective places them in a virtual space from which they may oversee everything, while being so discreet that they themselves are no longer seen. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.20: The perception, within these small groups, of what is at stake can be affected by such dynamics as interpersonal behaviours or multipositioning strategies. Moreover, the analysis of the differences between positions should not let us forget that the tactics of bureaucratic “colonization” do not advance step by step and locally by incremental enlargement, they may jump to other activities (for example, from the threat of terrorism to natural disasters in the name of speed and discipline). Such is the case even if it is necessary to pragmatically believe in the proximity of these activities by building semantic bridges within the continuum of risks, threats and (in)security. The fundamental thing is that any action undertaken by one agent to shift the economy of forces in his favour has repercussions on all the other actors as a whole. These struggles are fundamental to understand the internal economy of the field and the processes of formation and reach that characterize it. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.20: The central question relevant to defining security is thus to know who is authorized or to whom is delegated the symbolic power to designate exactly what the threats are. In this respect, it is impossible to evaluate the meaning of threats by judging exclusively on the manifest basis of statements themselves. To qualify this, we have to pay attention to who is in the position of enunciation and to the positions of authority of the enunciators themselves, while keeping in mind their personal, political and institutional interests within the field. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.22-23: The field of security exercises its “force” or “capacity of attraction” by its power to impose on other agents through the belief that the insiders of the field possess, as “experts”, the supplementary knowledge and secrets that only professionals may have. This belief is reaffirmed through everyday routine work, technologies and “exchange and sharing of information”, as a certain approach to social change, risk, threats and enemies that is constantly invoked and reconfirmed. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.24: Seventh, knowledge and know-how in the management of unease have a determining influence on how practices of violence are resolved. Eighth, such management takes place at a distance through technologies targeted to this use. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.27: The field effect introduces new systems of interaction between the agencies by re-structuring their boundaries with regard to their missions, laying the ground for eventual budgetary competition and playing with their roles within the overall function of coercion, or more precisely, the management of threats. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.30: In Foucault’s work, the panopticon is useful because not only does it allow us to understand the prison, as it does in Bentham’s work, but it also serves as a way to understand how society functions at large. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.30: If the (in)security program undertaken by some agents is, without a doubt, a programmatic strategy of an escalating generalized surveillance to a level that is both as globalized and as individualized as possible, it is not at all the diagram of the effects of power and resistance. If the panoptic dispositif exists in the Foucauldian sense, it is in a fragmented and heterogeneous way and there is no centralized manifestation of it, quite contrary to the various claims of US imperial domination that have been promulgated since September 11. If its effects persist, the sense of empire to which it is subject corresponds more to Hardt and Negri’s use of the term Empire, in which the various political processes of state coalitions, manoeuvres of large corporations and the effects of polling that empiricize the “unease” of mass destruction converge towards the strengthening of the informatic and biometric as modes of surveillance that focus on the trans-border movements of individuals. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.31: It allows us to understand that the surveillance of everyone is not on the current agenda but that the surveillance of a small number of people, who are trapped into the imperative of mobility while the majority is normalized, is definitely the main tendency of the policing of the global age. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.31: This surveillance of the minority profiled as “unwelcome” is, in my opinion, the strategic function of the diagram — a function opposed to the surveillance of the entire population (or the Pan), which is only the dream of a few agents of power, even if the rhetoric after September 11 articulates a “total” information -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.31: The Ban-opticon is then characterized by the exceptionalism of power (rules of emergency and their tendency to become permanent), by the way it excludes certain groups in the name of their future potential behaviour (profiling) and by the way it normalizes the non-excluded through its production of normative imperatives, the most important of which is free movement (the so-called four freedoms of circulation of the EU: concerning goods, capital, information, services and persons). -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.40: This dispositif is no longer the panopticon described by Bentham. It is a Ban-opticon. It depends no longer on immobilizing bodies under the analytic gaze of the watcher but on profiles that signify differences, on exceptionalism with respect to norms and on the rapidity with which one “evacuates.” The dispositif of this new surveillance takes another form, recalling technologies of information technology and virtual reality. This dispositif appears like a virtual montage (morphing) of all the positions of individuals in the process of flux. From an initial image (the immigrant, the ghetto youth) to a final image (terrorist, drug-runner), all the steps of transformation are reconstituted virtually. In this respect, this dispositif channels flows instead of dissecting bodies. Like the panopticon dispositif, this ban-opticon dispositif of morphing produces a knowledge, as well as statements on threats and on security that reinforce the belief in a capacity to decrypt, even prior to the individual himself, what its trajectories, its itineraries will be. This dispositif depends on the control of movement more than the control of stocks in a territory. It depends on “monitoring the future”, as in Philip K Dick’s novel Minority Report, rather than surveying the present in accordance to the official past. It is management at a distance in space and time of the “abnormals”. Where, previously, people had been assigned places of residence, they are now placed in “waiting zones” and assigned identities not even lived as such. A skin colour, an accent, an attitude and one is slotted, extracted from the unmarked masses and, if necessary, evacuated. Policing is thus an affair of the margin, of clean-up, and needs concern itself only minimally with “norms.” These new logics of control and surveillance are not necessarily much more effective, more rational. The advantage for the unmarked masses is that they have the impression of being free, to the benefit of the institution, and since control only bears on a few, it is more economical. Only the control of crime is less effective than before as a consequence of these a priori. Its sphere of application remains fragile and subject to resistance. -- Highlighted may 4, 2014

p.41: In effect, as Foucault reminds us, if we agree to see in liberalism a new art of governing and governing each other — not a new economic or juridical doctrine — if it really amounts to a technique of governmentality that aims to consume liberties, and by virtue of this, manage and organize them, then the conditions of possibility for acceding to liberty depend on manipulating the interests that engage the security strategies destined to ward off the dangers inherent to the manufacture of liberty, where the constraints, controls, mechanisms or surveillance that play themselves out in disciplinary techniques charged with investing themselves in the behaviour of individuals ... from that point on the idea that living dangerously must be considered as the very currency of liberalism -- Highlighted may 4, 2014