Dangerous Others, Insecure Societies
Michalis Lianos has penned some of the most provocative and captivating social scientific writings on social control in the last decade. His unique interpretation of control, risk, deviance and 'dangerization' has provided sociologists and criminologists with a new lexicon for conceptualizing a range of topics including policing, surveillance, and security. In Dangerous Others, Insecure Societies, Lianos continues these inquiries, this time with a host of other contributors who examine issues of belonging, sovereignty, security and insecurity, immigration and migration, as well as ethnicity and race. Insecurity is a key theme in the volume, since as Lianos puts it in the introduction '...insecurity has become a cementing material, a kind of substitute for the social bond, between postindustrial citizens' (pg. 1). The volume thus addresses perennial issues in sociology such as solidarity and conflict between groups.
Social well-being and integration or 'the social question' is a topic that French social scientists have long been interested in, but which takes on new meaning in this era of fear. Insecurity fosters social division and control in new ways that require investigation, which is the project that the authors in this volume take up. In his chapter on the differential treatment of ethnic minorities in France, for example, Robert Castel argues that young people and ethnic minorities today are treated as 'internal foreigners' (pg. 17), with decreased access to social rights and to the public sphere. Castel also reflects on communitarian tendencies and diversity policy, which both can foster further exclusion and othering as much as they facilitate inclusion.
Jacques Donzelot examines the urban aspects of social cohesion, and policies intended to promote it. Donzelot begins by situating the question of social well-being and integration in relation to Durkheim's analysis of solidarity. He argues that the onset of social neo-liberalism creates conditions that require this question of cohesion to be addressed using new conceptual tools. Donzelot suggests that neo-liberalism creates competition-oriented social action, transforming city spaces into defensible or residentialized zones, which divides social groups. He ends the chapter with a call to embed urban citizenship into social citizenship as a way of combatting segregation and inequality. Lianos then examines issue of otherness and dangerousness. The idea that others are dangerous is now entrenched in organizational processes and institutional policies across Europe, he argues, which diminishes the social and political rights of immigrants. Lianos's claim that turning others into numbers in policymaking exacerbates understandings of insecurity and dangerousness is an insight that should be explored further.
The other authors in the volume further assess key concepts and conceptual issues. For example, Jan Spurk reflects on the concept of malaise and on the prospects for social change in light of new forms of social insecurity. Addressing similar themes, Patrick Cingolani then examines the relationship between insecurity and emancipation as well as the prospects for working-class solidarity under social neo-liberalism. Contributing to political theory, John Cash looks at the link between insecurity and strangers as well as the friend-enemy distinction. Offering critical insights, Antonello Petrillo explores how ethnicity and racism are defined in social policy across Fortress Europe. On a similar topic, Alexander Neumann evaluates how social policies meant to foster cohesion may encourage authoritarian personalities and Far Right tendencies.
New insights into these conceptual debates are then provided using several case studies and empirical investigations. For example, drawing from fieldwork on Muslim community associations in London and Brussels, Konrad Pedziwiatr argues that more needs to be done to foster a transition 'from an Islam of immigrants to and Islam of citizens' (pg. 48), and Marina Petronoti examines nationalism, cultural insularity, and racism in the context of immigration and migrant work in Greece.
Dangerous Others, Insecure Societies breathes new life into scholarly questions that sociologists in France and elsewhere have wrestled with for many decades. The examples of how othering translates into urban segregation and residentialization are especially intriguing. Overall, more empirical investigations into these issues would have helped highlight the arguments of these authors. Nevertheless, the pleasure of this text is found in the provocative chapters that will appeal to cultural, social, and political theorists across disciplines.
University of Winnipeg, Criminal Justice