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Reviewed by:
  • Security/Capital: A General Theory of Pacification by George S. Rigakos
  • Mathew Montevirgen
George S. Rigakos, Security/Capital: A General Theory of Pacification (Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press 2016)

In this succinct yet highly informative book, George Rigakos relies on the oftentimes prophetic work of Karl Marx to critically analyze the relationship between security and capitalism. He theorizes that pacification produced capitalism, as the dispossession of feudal peasants and Indigenous peoples from their lands, along with the exploitation of workers so that they conform to wage labour relations, was enforced through security mechanisms and policing. Additionally, he argues that through the commodification of security through its valorization, prudentialization, and fetishization, we have become insecure and accustomed to buying security commodities, resulting in a security-industrial complex that sustains global capitalism and leads to the further pacification of workers. Thus, Rigakos contends that security is hegemonic under capitalism since it reproduces and resuscitates capitalism time and time again.

Rigakos strengthens his theoretical claims by providing examples to show how pervasive pacification, and by extension the security-industrial complex, is within our everyday lives. For instance, when he discusses the fetishization of security and how we as risk-averse consumers buy products to fit a security lifestyle; he gives an example where his wife was enticed to buy expensive running shoes to secure herself against injury. He then connects this to global capitalism, as the buying of this security commodity enforces the pacification of workers through security mechanisms, like cctv, in order to further produce these commodities for profit. By taking these mundane interactions, like buying a pair of running shoes, to demonstrate how security has been commodified and how security fuels capitalism's growth and revitalization, Rigakos forces the reader to acknowledge that there is a security-industrial complex that operates in the background of our everyday lives. Furthermore, by seamlessly using historical and contemporary examples, like how modern cctv cameras exploit workers similarly to how 18th-century police reformer Patrick Colquhoun's police did, he demonstrates how security continues to produce capitalism in the present. In turn, the reader is invited to reflect on how they too have been pacified and even supportive of pacification within [End Page 312] this centuries-old, ongoing relationship between the security-industrial complex and global capitalism.

After making its readers cognizant of the relationship between security and capitalism, Rigakos is then able to make a case for why critical scholars need to understand how security enforces capitalism. He notes that previous influential Marxist theorists, like Althusser and Gramsci, disregarded the relationship between capitalism and security and as such, there has been no radical theorization of security, with the consequence being that a social order based on continuous dispossession and exploitation has remained in place. Through historical and contemporary examples of the security-industrial complex, Rigakos thus makes critical scholars aware of how they must theorize policing and security reform if they want to transform exploitative capitalist relations. In doing so, he is able to both show Marxists and other critical theorists why they should be familiar with pacification as they are with concepts like Gramsci's cultural hegemony while also cutting out future work for pacification theorists.

Yet, although Rigakos makes the case for the importance of examining pacification, it is towards the end where I find that he stumbles. Almost out of nowhere, he concludes about how the Left's academics and politicians must develop an alternative police science in order to use policing and security to make a transition from capitalism to socialism. Although this does fit with his overall argument, it also feels too much like a retread of the "dictatorship of the proletariat" Marxist answer to capitalism rather than a practical solution. Over the course of the book, he had argued about how there is a feedback loop with security and capitalism, as people consume security commodities to feel secure but since security commodities inadvertently broadcast insecurity, people continuously buy more security commodities to try to attain a security status, which fuels the security-industrial complex and sustains capitalism. In his conclusion, he does mention that to change this structure and break this loop, we need to continue...


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pp. 312-314
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
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