Monday, December 29, 2014

The Invention of the Police

I discovered a new-to-me blog, Works in Theory, where I just read an interesting think-piece entitled Origins of the Police:

In England and the United States, the police were invented within the space of just a few decades—roughly from 1825 to 1855.
The new institution was not a response to an increase in crime, and it really didn’t lead to new methods for dealing with crime. The most common way for authorities to solve a crime, before and since the invention of police, has been for someone to tell them who did it.
Besides, crime has to do with the acts of individuals, and the ruling elites who invented the police were responding to challenges posed by collective action. To put it in a nutshell: The authorities created the police in response to large, defiant crowds. That’s
— strikes in England,
— riots in the Northern US,
— and the threat of slave insurrections in the South.
So the police are a response to crowds, not to crime.
The author, David Whitehouse, takes the long view from a Socialist perspective of the rise of capitalism and the corollary invention and evolution of the police, especially in three US cities, New York, Charleston SC and Philadelphia. He comes to the inescapable conclusion that the police are doing today what they have always done, what they were set up to do: Control by intimidation certain large segments of the population to force them into "obeying the law".

It's a long article but it is well worth the time it will take to read it.

1 Comment:

Katy Anders said...

You find the best blogs!

I always sort of believed that the police are there to protect the property of the rich.