Reorganized Violence.

AuthorDeDauw, Patrick

Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing (University of California Press, 2019)

Micol Seigel, Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police (Duke University Press, 2018)

Brendan McQuade, Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision (University of California Press, 2019)

The uprisings against police violence in the United States in the summer of 2020, in their scope and persistence, have succeeded in training huge amounts of critical attention onto fundamental questions of police funding. Calls to defund police budgets outright quickly crowded out classic budget-enhancing reforms like body cameras and sensitivity trainings in conversations on the Left and even among many liberals. Meanwhile, as with the quip calling Harvard "a hedge fund with an education side business attached," even a quick glance at municipal operating budgets as a whole has led many to similar conclusions that "fiscally speaking, American cities are basically all a police department with a few underfunded community initiatives attached" (@flglmn tweet, June 10th 2020). The sheer scale of the share of social wealth poured into furnishing and executing "organized violence" (Gilmore & Gilmore 2016) has not only dumbfounded many, but has also pushed organizers, new and old, toward a hunger for understanding concretely how those resources can be reassembled into something else entirely. Luckily, in the period since the wave of Black liberation struggle sparked in Ferguson in 2015, there has been a renewed blossoming of critical research into the changing organization of state violence within and beyond the United States. Three leading-edge books in this conversation are Stuart Schrader's Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing, Micol Seigel's Violence Work: State Power and the Limits of Police, and Brendan McQuade's Pacifying the Homeland: Intelligence Fusion and Mass Supervision. Interrogating the "organized" in "organized violence," these books take different tacks at tracing how change has happened in the structures and relationships that limit, direct, and mobilize the organized capacities for violence, and so build the strategic awareness required to guard against the reworking of anti-violence demands into defenses of a barely-touched status quo.

Each book takes the contingencies of developments in the organization of violence seriously, keeping broad structural constraints and trends in mind while likewise avoiding the eerie sense of all-encompassing doom that can stifle strategy as much as it feels like it provides political clarity. The forms of change they describe span widely, as the books examine the reorganization of police labor processes; drift and restructuring among violence-dealing occupations; tug-of-wars over capital intensity; clashing visions for the most effective balance of coercion and consent; attempts to modulate practices, technologies, and paradigms developed in one context for application in another; and the evolution, dissolution, convergence, and competition of the institutions involved. But each author shows not a shapeless flood of details or hair-splitting of complexity for complexity's sake, but a map of the terrain of change over time of the organization and use of what Seigel calls "violence work." Training readers in methods, theory, and even strategy, each of these books takes on the analytic and strategic question abolitionist geographer Ruth Wilson Gilmore insists that we ask, but that radical explanations so often overlook: "Why does the racial capitalist state ever change?" (Gilmore &. Gilmore 2016, 187).

Stuart Schrader, Badges Without Borders

Stuart Schraders Badges Without Borders: How Global Counterinsurgency Transformed American Policing may from its title seem to many radical criminologists a now familiar story: the establishment of the federal Law Enforcement Assistance Administration in 1968 was the vehicle for the propagation of military equipment, professionalized command-and-control structures, and "winning hearts and minds" proto-community policing rhetoric--The Iron Fist and the Velvet Glove--from imperial ventures to local police departments across the United States. But Schrader's assembly of evidence from this well-worn story, and the sharp way he mobilizes that evidence into an integrated argument, casts the light of a new perspective on what we may have felt we already knew. The book's central focus tracks the key actors and conflicts responsible for the formation and evolution of the Office of Public Safety (OPS), a 1962-1974 USAID outfit that trained police forces in forty-nine countries around the world, and the influence of OPS-developed thinking and practitioners on the emergent domestic War on Crime. Rather than reciting each scandalous violation of the supposedly sacrosanct boundary between military and civilian coercion by both personnel and equipment, however, Schrader drills deeply into what these boundary crossings really tell us, probing how they happened, how they were and weren't contested, and how the supposed boundary itself was constructed by actors learning and doing on both sides of the divide.

Schrader adds archival detail to the analyses of anti-policing and anti-imperialist organizers of the period, like the Black Panthers' Bobby Seale, who aimed to link struggles against American police departments with those against American military and proxy police "abroad." Benefiting from the wealth of declassified documents and previous research on the OPS and its forebears, Schrader convincingly tracks actors, plans, debates, and rationales across "foreign" and "domestic" archives often kept separate. At the heart of the book's lengthy explanation is a belief that understanding these developments together in their details can lead to a sharper and more effective opposition.

The book proceeds across a broad historical-geographical field, spanning from the 1954 founding of OPS's predecessor up to its dismantling in 1974. The first chapter places the linked co-development of official ideas about race, crime, and communism in the context of the Cold War, and it is followed by three chapters featuring the impressive, situated biographies of key actors in putting domestic counterinsurgency in practice: Byron Engle, the globetrotting, Kansas City-bred police reformer who became OPS's director, whose vast subterranean influence is confirmed and belied by his absence on Wikipedia; Robert Komer, National Security Council advisor and director of the US Civil Operations and...

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