Orchestrating the Public: A Contribution to the Critique of Modern Police Power

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Ozcan, Gulden




This study examines the relationship between the projects of ‘police’ and the ‘public’ with a focus on seventeenth- and eighteenth-century police science in Europe and late eighteenth- and early nineteenth-century police in London, England. The study primarily investigates how the ideals of police and the public constitute the raison d’être of the modern state; how the ideal of police and the public evolved into the institutions of the police and the public sphere; and how the main principles involved in these ideals orchestrated the kind of public specific to modern politics.

The central argument is that the construction of the public and the public sphere as governable targets has been crucial for fabricating and sustaining the modern social order, and that this construction was made convenient under modern police power. Modern police power can therefore best be understood through an examination of the kind of publics it has generated and governed. Accordingly, this study develops a new approach to the concept of the public from the perspective of the social while situating police in the broader political context of modern state formation. In so doing, the study adopts Marx’s theory to locate the projects of police and the public in capitalist class structures while Foucault’s conceptual toolkit is used to analyse the construction, implementation, and power effects of these projects through discursive and non-discursive practices.

The broad project of police is examined in relation to capital accumulation, state formation, and political economy. The abstraction of the public sphere is given a materialist reading by (re-)conceptualizing three major public spheres: the bourgeois public sphere as the ideal target, the proletarian public sphere as its dialectical opposite, and the market-public as its supplement.

In conclusion, this thesis shows that police power turns all kinds of potential dissenting populations, often pro-actively, into the public; that is, an addressable, responsible, accountable, and transparent subject. This in turn makes dissent predictable, reversible, and non-anonymous. More broadly, the perspective developed here can help to better comprehend how modern police power forms, deforms, and reforms the diverse publics of marginalized populations to make and orchestrate the public.

Keywords: police power; police science; bourgeois public sphere; proletarian public sphere; market-public.


Sociology - Theory and Methods
Criminology and Penology
Industrial and Labor Relations




Carleton University

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Theses and Dissertations

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