Discovering ‘the enemy within’

the state, fear and criminology

Authored by: Karen Evans

The Routledge International Handbook on Fear of Crime

Print publication date:  December  2017
Online publication date:  December  2017

Print ISBN: 9781138120334
eBook ISBN: 9781315651781
Adobe ISBN:


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This chapter explores the ways in which ‘fear of crime’ has been employed to influence public policies and governance strategies over the last few decades. There is mounting evidence that the notion of ‘fear of crime’ has been utilised to divert attention away from structural inequalities in society and to generate negative emotions towards particular social groups which are then held responsible for a myriad of social ills. The subsequent politics of division and fear have been successful in generating a useful smokescreen which has clouded popular perceptions and allowed forms of securitised and militarised governance to emerge which appear in many ways to be at odds with the principles of liberal democracy. This form of politics is not new but, as many commentators have demonstrated, the last few decades have seen an increased intensity in their use which contrasts with the post-war settlement after 1945 which seemed to fore-ground strategies of consensus and social contract rather than conflict and social control. Of course, throughout the post-war period those groups which have been targeted for particular negative attention have also been subject to the most intense of controls, often raising their voices against the idea that a social consensus had indeed been reached. In turn they have been further vilified and subjected to further suspicion and damaging interventions. In exploring these, the issues raised, this chapter goes on to question the ways in which criminology as a discipline has understood and framed the politics of division and fear, often resorting to the trope of ‘public safety’ but ignoring the wider structural processes involved. In this way criminology could be said to have colluded with state representations of the problem of crime. It concludes by suggesting that a reframing of our thinking about the fear of crime is long overdue.

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