Fabricating social order

A Reading Note

Vitale notes that policing—which was created in the eighteenth century, making it a relatively modern invention—rose up in response to systems that created an underclass of people so they could serve the wealthy few:

The reality is that police exist primarily as a system for managing and even producing inequality by suppressing social movements and tightly managing the behavior of poor and nonwhite people: those on the losing end of economic and political arrangements....This can be seen in the earliest origins of policing, which were tied to three basic social arrangements of inequality in the eighteenth century: slavery, colonialism, and the control of a new industrial working class.....In the words of Mark Neocleous, police exist to “fabricate social order,” but that order rests on systems of exploitation—and when elites feel that this system is at risk, whether from slave revolts, general strikes, or crime and rioting in the streets, they rely on the police to control those activities.

Vitale, The End of Policing, page 34

The notion of “fabricating” social order is a useful one: this isn’t a legitimate or natural social order, but a deceitful one, purpose-built for oppression. It isn’t self-sustaining but can only be maintained with deadly force. Again, we see that policing and inequality are two sides of the same coin: unequal systems give rise to a police force that enforce them, and the police are then defended by the benefactors of that inequality.

Related books

The End of Policing

Alex S. Vitale

A clear and thorough indictment of every part of the institution that is policing—and an urgent call to end it.