Blue Devils! A little band of tyrants! A plague of blue locusts! So the Northern radical press reacted to attempts to impose a new police force in the 1840s. But today that tradition of scepticism and hostility to the police is largely forgotten. As new movements against racist violence in the US raise the slogan of police abolition, many on the left wonder: what exactly are the police for? Did they always exist? It’s hard to think about the police without eventually thinking of the whole of the social order – which can make change seem impossible. But, says Mark Neocleous, that’s exactly the right way to think about them. He joins James Butler to unravel the knot of police power, sovereignty and social order.
Mark Neocleous’s A Critical Theory of Police Power: The Fabrication of Social Order is available now from Verso Books.