Publication Type:

Book Chapter


Changing images of civil society. From protest to governance, Routledge, p.133-150 (2008)

Call Number:




Local security policies in western countries have been marked by a call for a growing involvement of civil society. The traditional monopoly held by elected officials and professionals has been subject of convergent criticism targeting the lack of legitimacy of the police in dealing with ethnic minorities and the top down dimension of national policies. As an alternative, have been promoted by political actors new norms and practices (participation of inhabitants, community policing, etc.) and settings (local foras, consultative procedures). <br />This paper, focusing on the British and French cases, assesses the nature and extent of these new policy instruments, goals and rhetoric seeking to involve civil society. It underlines the limits and tensions related to such processes. Firstly, it points the institutional lock in, tokenism, political limits (elected officials encourage participation without willing to undermine representative democracy) and professional framing of processes of participation. Secondly, it shows that this recourse to “civil society” differs according to each national context. If, in the UK, the appeal to “community” may be understood as part of a strategy of responsibilisation (through which the state delegates powers to non-governmental actors), in France, the rationale of “proximity” relies rather on a conception where the public actors remain at the core of the production of security.


Humanities and Social Sciences/Political scienceBook sections