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Two theories on the police – The relevance of Max Weber and Emile Durkheim to the study of the police

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Abstract

The work of Weber and Durkheim is regularly mentioned in police science, but the relevance of these two scholars to the field of study often remains implicit. Weber’s perspective concentrates on the police’s power to use force, highlighting the moral dilemmas involved with this power. The differences between a definition of the police in terms of force and the notion of ‘good policing’ as the limitation of violence suggest that this view neglects important elements. This becomes clear when one considers Durkheim’s approach, which views the police as a moral agency. The differences between these two perspectives are illustrated with an appeal to the concept of police legitimacy, which shows that they refer to different interpretations of the relation between the police and the public. Each perspective concentrates on one of the two core elements that characterise the police: the power to use force and the moral-symbolic meaning. The relations between these two elements illuminate a fundamental aspect of modern policing.

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... Turning first to classic, macro level theories, both consensus and conflict approaches-and attempts to combine them-tend to assume human intentionality and to neglect the non-human. Consensus theorists, often drawing on Durkheim's work on the police (Terpestra 2011), understand the police as using force for the public good, symbolically reaffirming social norms, and protecting social order as a whole (Kitossa 2016;Lee et al 2013;Marenin 1982;Terpestra 2011). Sherman argues that police use of force is like 'a subcontract to collect garbage'; an arrangement which may leave the police with dirty hands, but which 'makes our lives infinitely more pleasant' (Sherman 1980: 2). ...
... Turning first to classic, macro level theories, both consensus and conflict approaches-and attempts to combine them-tend to assume human intentionality and to neglect the non-human. Consensus theorists, often drawing on Durkheim's work on the police (Terpestra 2011), understand the police as using force for the public good, symbolically reaffirming social norms, and protecting social order as a whole (Kitossa 2016;Lee et al 2013;Marenin 1982;Terpestra 2011). Sherman argues that police use of force is like 'a subcontract to collect garbage'; an arrangement which may leave the police with dirty hands, but which 'makes our lives infinitely more pleasant' (Sherman 1980: 2). ...
... Conflict or critical perspectives-with their roots in Marxist and even Weberian sociology (Terpestra 2011)-understand the police as acting less in the public good and more for dominant elites (Marenin 1982;McMichael 2017;Mitrani 2014;Petrocelli et al 2003;Shantz 2016;Vitale 2017;Wacquant 2009). For example, O'Neill and Loftus' (2013: 439) study of surveillance finds that 'it is the poorest and most marginalized citizens in society who are becoming ever more policed'. ...
... As the law and state representatives, the police are not merely an institution of law enforcement but also often ascribed with a symbolic moral meaning (Terpstra, 2011). Scholars have long recognized the police's instrumentality to confirm and reinforce social values and order (Durkheim, 1957). ...
... Morality, however, is a rather complicated, multidimensional concept (Bedford & Hwang, 2003). This study distinguishes between proscriptive and prescriptive morality (Janoff-Bulman & Carnes, 2013;Terpstra, 2011), acknowledging that the latter, rarely investigated in criminological research, is also an important moral regulation system to consider when studying justice issues. ...
... The connection between morality and perception is likely more visible and outstanding in a homogenous society, where moral consensus can be reached among most of the population more easily than in a heterogeneous society (Terpstra, 2011). Indeed, in the hierarchical and collective society of China, the state discourages cultural fragmentation and endorses a unified moral value system for social cohesion and control (Yi, 2008). ...
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This study contributes to the scholarship on perception of the police by testing a theoretical interaction between morality and self-control, expanding the notion of morality to include both proscriptive and prescriptive morality, and investigating institutionalized populations. Survey data from a rare, large sample of inmates from three Chinese prisons indicate that the prisoners hold strikingly negative sentiments toward the police. While self-control does not affect inmates’ perception of the police after controlling for morality variables, both proscriptive and prescriptive morality are positively related to inmates’ attitudes toward the police. Furthermore, the positive effect of prescriptive morality on inmates’ perceptions of the police increases as the level of self-control elevates. Proscriptive morality and self-control, meanwhile, do not interplay in shaping such perceptions. Findings of the study have meaningful implications for using criminological theories to explain justice perceptions.
... There are a number of theoretical traditions around the role of the police, and police use of force in particular. For consensus theorists, police can be understood as acting for the public good and protecting social order as a whole (Marenin 1982, Lee et al. 2013, Terpestra 2011, Kitossa 2016. Police use of force has been likened to 'a subcontract to collect garbage'; an arrangement which 'leaves the police with dirty hands' but which 'makes our lives infinitely more pleasant' (Sherman 1980, p. 2). ...
... In contrast, critical or conflict perspectiveswith their roots in Marxist and even Weberian sociology (Terpestra 2011)understand the police as acting less in the public good, and more for dominant elites. The role of the police is to neutralise population groups considered 'dangerous', including ethnic minorities and those of lower socio-economic status (Marenin 1982, Petrocelli et al. 2003, McMichael 2017, and policing decisions are made on extra-legal considerations, as well as legal factors (Lee et al. 2013). ...
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... Wel zij opgemerkt dat het om meer gaat dan het gebruik van (of dreigen met) drang en dwang. Behalve de toepassing van het geweldsmonopolie als ultimum remedium behoort de overheid burgers het gevoel te geven dat de politie er voor hen is en hen rechtvaardig behandelt (Terpstra 2011). Oftewel: een beschaafde overheid legt bij het gezagvol bevestigen en uitdragen van collectieve normen en waarden -een gedeelde identiteit -rekenschap af dat ze (groepen) mensen op voorhand niet uitsluit. ...
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This paper discusses the relationship between security and public order. In so doing, it first presents a review of critical literature on the role security (defined as ‘securitas’) plays within a capitalist or neoliberal system. Although such analyses are quite useful for disentangling violent discourses underlying western society, they are also too negative and one-sided to offer avenues for a new approach. Therefore, the second part of this paper explores a more positive outlook on security (defined as ‘certitudo’) that is grounded in social connectedness, trust and faith.
... Hierbij is er juist sprake van afstand tussen politie en burgers door een nadruk op openbare ordehandhaving (law and order) en opsporing. Deze beide visies staan binnen community policing met elkaar op gespannen voet (Terpstra 2010a(Terpstra , 2011a. ...
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This is an extensive international literature review about the practice of community policing in the Netherlands and beyond.
... Terwijl Weber met zijn nadruk op het geweldsmonopolie uitgaat van een tegenstelling tussen staat en burgers, gaat Durkheim (1992) ervan uit dat de staat belangrijke morele waarden in de samenleving vertegenwoordigt en daarmee een bindende factor is. In zijn ogen staat de staat niet op afstand, maar kan zij een actieve rol spelen in het bevorderen van een gemeenschappelijke morele basis (zie Terpstra, 2011). Uit deze visie kan een bredere morele opgave worden gedestilleerd voor de politie. ...
... Gelukkig is een land dat zich deze gedachte kan veroorloven; elders is dit lang niet altijd een vanzelfsprekendheid. In feite gaat het om twee fundamenteel verschillende politiemodellen (Terpstra, 2011), die op gespannen voet kunnen komen te staan, met overigens ernstige risico's. Voor de politie in een democratische rechtstaat is externe verantwoording om meerdere redenen van cruciaal belang. ...
... Legitimacy has been studied for longer than the police for a simple reason: The police as a government agency, distinct from the judiciary and the army, did not exist when political philosophers, following in the tradition of social contract theories, started to address the issue of public consent to state authority. When the most revered attempt to conceptualize legitimacy was carried out by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, policing was not his concern, to say the least (Smith 1970;Terpstra 2011). For very long, it was possible to write about morality, trust, and use of force, notions key to the legitimacy of the state, without touching the issue of policing. ...
... Legitimacy has been studied for longer than the police for a simple reason: The police as a government agency, distinct from the judiciary and the army, did not exist when political philosophers, following in the tradition of social contract theories, started to address the issue of public consent to state authority. When the most revered attempt to conceptualize legitimacy was carried out by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, policing was not his concern, to say the least (Smith 1970;Terpstra 2011). For very long, it was possible to write about morality, trust, and use of force, notions key to the legitimacy of the state, without touching the issue of policing. ...
... As one observer already argued many decades ago, 'the police themselves are the most important actor determining public attitudes' (Gourley 1954, p. 135). This is because social legitimacy, which includes trust (Beetham 1991, Tyler 2004, Terpstra 2011, has a 'dialogical character' (Bottoms and Tankebe 2012). It contains an authority's claim to legitimacy as well as how the 'audience'the publicbestows legitimacy on that authority (here: the police). ...
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... However, in countries with more political tensions and less trust in the state and the police, this is not so self-evident. In fact, this is a dilemma between two fundamentally different police models (Terpstra, 2011). ...
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... The difference between the two is that Weber's starting point is the risk citizens pose to public order and the consequences of the use of force by power-holders. Where Durkheim assumes common values between citizens, power-holders and the police and theorizes the symbolic function of the police (Terpstra, 2011). Beetham (1991) regards legitimacy much more from the perspective of audiences (Bottoms & Tankebe, 2012). ...
... While fraudulent and corruptive practices were found to have flooded both departments, 3 it was only in the JCPD investigation that those responsible for these practices were prosecuted and found criminally liable. These instances of abuse of process and corruption bring into question the view that police are purveyors of a moral order (Terpstra, 2011). It is evident that state regulation can be a source of accountability for paid detail, but the variability with which it is enforced across jurisdictions raises doubts about its effectiveness. ...
... Legitimacy has been studied for longer than the police for a simple reason: The police as a government agency, distinct from the judiciary and the army, did not exist when political philosophers, following in the tradition of social contract theories, started to address the issue of public consent to state authority. When the most revered attempt to conceptualize legitimacy was carried out by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, policing was not his concern, to say the least (Smith 1970;Terpstra 2011). For very long, it was possible to write about morality, trust, and use of force, notions key to the legitimacy of the state, without touching the issue of policing. ...
... Legitimacy has been studied for longer than the police for a simple reason: The police as a government agency, distinct from the judiciary and the army, did not exist when political philosophers, following in the tradition of social contract theories, started to address the issue of public consent to state authority. When the most revered attempt to conceptualize legitimacy was carried out by Max Weber at the beginning of the twentieth century, policing was not his concern, to say the least (Smith 1970;Terpstra 2011). For very long, it was possible to write about morality, trust, and use of force, notions key to the legitimacy of the state, without touching the issue of policing. ...
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« La finalité des polices dans les démocraties ne devrait pas être de faire régner un ordre. L’ordre devrait, en réalité, n’être qu’un moyen. Mais un moyen de quoi ? Les agents ne forment pas une armée face à un adversaire – même si certains responsables aiment à les caricaturer ainsi. La mission éminente des polices est de produire de la certitude et de la confiance en défendant des normes et des valeurs supérieures et, ainsi, de contribuer à la cohésion sociale ». Toute démocratie a besoin d’une police, et réciproquement la police a besoin que les citoyens la soutiennent, qu’ils la considèrent comme « leur police ». Mais les gouvernements ont peu soutenu la transformation des forces de l’ordre en service tourné vers le public et soucieux de l’égalité de tous les citoyens, en particulier des minorités. Nos grands voisins européens sont bien meilleurs que nous sur ces points. Les conséquences sont lourdes, sur notre sol, au moment où la confiance est particulièrement nécessaire.
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Émile Durkheim is one of the founding fathers of sociology and Professional Ethics and Civic Morals is one of his most neglected yet insightful works. Durkheim’s view that the instability of industrial society was connected to the decline of religion and his characterization of the state as the ultimate moral force in society reveal his lifelong engagement with the relationship between the individual and society. In Professional Ethics and Civic Morals Durkheim poses a major question: given the negative social consequences of unfettered markets, which caused what he termed ‘anomie’, how is the state to reconcile morality with the market? Durkheim argues that the answer is to be found in the evolution of a civil religion, in the form of professional codes and civic values, which would counteract the effects of individualism, just as guilds had regulated medieval economic life. Arguing that the state has a vital role to play in moral life and that morals are at bottom social facts - a controversial position which drew considerable criticism - Durkheim also argues that the state had a duty to protect the rights of the individual, via a form of cosmopolitan patriotism. Durkheim also articulates a highly original and critical interpretation of the rules around property and inheritance - a perspective which resonates with debates about inequality and the redistribution of wealth today. Included in this Routledge Classics edition is a new introduction by Bryan S.Turner, placing Durkheim in contemporary context and outlining the key tenets of Professional Ethics and Civic Morals.
Article
Egon Bittner defines the role of the police as “a mechanism for the distribution of nonnegotiably coercive force employed in accordance with the dictates of an intuitive grasp of situational exigencies” (Bittner, 1970/1990:131).1 This definition should be read in conjunction with Max Weber’s dictum that the State is defined by its monopoly on the use of legitimate force (Weber, 1946) and Norbert Elias’ work on the domestication of violence within Western societies (Elias, [ 1989], 1996). With slight variations, it stands as the customary definition of the role of police in the scientific literature of different countries (Bayley, 1983; Monjardet, 1996; Funk, 1986; Schneider, 1987; Lofthouse, 1996; Waddington, 1999). The use of force is then viewed as the core of policing. Hence, far from being inherently problematic, the relationship between violence and policing is viewed as fundamentally unquestionable.
Chapter
It has become generally accepted that governments alone no longer determine (if they ever fully did) what sort of security is needed by, nor are they the sole providers of policing on behalf of, the populations they govern. Groups other than governments or police, including businesses, landlords, housing providers and citizens, increasingly take control of their own policing needs and select their security providers. As Bayley and Shearing (2001) note, both the authorization and provision of policing are increasingly multi-tiered, fragmented and dispersed. In this context, policing and security have become additional to residual state policing. As individual and collective goods they have become commodified (Spitzer 1987). In a consumerist culture, policing has become encircled in a regime of choice. More so than ever, security is forged through the choices made on the basis of visits to the marketplace. This is not to suggest that policing and security have fundamentally changed nor that they were not previously the subject of a mixed economy (Jones and Newburn 2002c). Social historians forcefully remind us otherwise (McMullen 1996; Beattie 2001). Rather, this is to suggest that recent developments, notably in England and Wales (the focus of my concern in this chapter), but also elsewhere, have brought this mixed economy into sharper relief. As a result, a second tier of policing and security has mushroomed, sometimes blind to, at other times in conflict or competition with, and at yet other times hand in hand with or steered by, state policing. © Cambridge University Press 2006 and Cambridge University Press, 2009.
Article
This article synthesizes the large but diverse literature on organizational legitimacy, highlighting similarities and disparities among the leading strategic and institutional approaches. The analysis identifies three primary forms of legitimacy: pragmatic, based on audience self-interest; moral, based on normative approval: and cognitive, based on comprehensibility and taken-for-grantedness. The article then examines strategies for gaining, maintaining, and repairing legitimacy of each type, suggesting both the promises and the pitfalls of such instrumental manipulations.
Article
This essay examines the restructuring of policing currently taking place in developed democratic societies. It argues that restructuring is occurring under private as well as government auspices and will have profound effects on public safety, equity, human rights, and accountability. These effects are discussed, along with the trade-offs they represent for public policy. The driving forces behind restructuring are fear of crime, the inability of government to satisfy society's longing for security, the commodification of security, the rise of mass private property, and cultural individualism. The essay concludes with a prediction about the future of policing and suggests policies that are needed to avoid restructuring's harmful effects.
Article
The professions are seen as "experts in legitimation" who take on and resolve the problematic legitimacy of their clients through the technique and rhetoric of practice. The techniques used by the profession to legitimate roles and normatively appropriate behavior for their clients, thereby legitimating their own role, are examined in the context of medical practice. Examples of symbolic and substantive legitimations are given and some implications of public reactions to these forms are discussed. The legitimation of professional institutions is seen in this analysis to pose important theoretical and practical questions. /// Les professions apparaissent comme des "experts en légitimation" qui assument et résolvent les problèmes de légitimité de leurs clients grâce aux techniques et à la rhétorique de leur art. La pratique médicale sert de cadre à une étude des moyens que les professions utilisent pour légitimer au profit de leurs clients des rôles et une conduite appropriée aux normes; ce faisant, ces professions légitimisent leur propre rôle. L'étude décrit des exemples de légitimations symboliques et factuelles et commente quelques implications des réactions du public à leur égard. Il ressort d'une telle analyse que la légitimation des institutions professionnelles pose d'importants problèmes théoriques et pratiques.
Article
Modernity and vendetta are contradictory social phenomena, and yet globalization brings to light the existence of blood feud in a modernized world. In this article, Weber’s and Durkheim’s theories of modernization are reread in order to understand what modernity has to do with vendetta.
Article
This article examines criminal justice policy in the Netherlands from 1994 until 2002. These so-called purple years, in reference to the labour-liberal coalition government in office were characterized by falling crime rates and a hugely expanding criminal justice state at the expense of traditional Dutch reductionist penal policy. The emergence of a Dutch-style crime complex requires scrutiny in light of Downes’s emphasis on Dutch post-war tolerance towards lawbreakers. I conclude that tolerance no longer is a driving force in penal matters but it continues to inform the governance of areas of ambiguous morality such as euthanasia and prostitution. The beneficiaries of the new tolerance are no longer offenders but rather those making certain life choices or preferring certain lifestyles. This article looks at causes and effects of these changes in the nature of criminal justice governance in the Netherlands.
Article
English Durkheim analysed the mechanisms and types of institutions that create organic solidarity and prevent it from imploding for lack of moral cement. In conformity with his life-long preoccupation with the origins and role of morals, he laid great emphasis on professional ethics and civic morals, together with the institutions—professional associations (“corporations”) and the state—that ought to ensure the maintenance of solidarity and avoid, or at least reduce, anomie. His considerations, explicitly or implicitly, involve the concept of the sacred, its relationship to “political society” and morality, authority, democracy, citizenship and “world patriotism”. French Durkheim analysait les mécanismes et types des institutions qui créent la solidarité organique et empêchent qu'elle n'implose à cause du manque de ciment moral. Conformément à sa préoccupation de toujours par rapport aux origines et au rôle des moeurs, il mettait en relation l'éthique professionnelle et les moeurs civiles avec les institutions -- associations civiles (``corporations'') et l'État -- qui doivent assurer le maintien de la solidarité et éviter, ou au moins réduire, l'anomie. Ses réflexions impliquent, explicitement ou implicitement, le concept du sacré, son rapport à la ``société politique'' et à la moralité, à l'autorité, à la démocratie, à la citoyenneté et au ``patriotisme mondial''.
Article
This article makes three points. First, the police need public support and cooperation to be effective in their order-maintenance role, and they particularly benefit when they have the voluntary support and cooperation of most members of the public, most of the time. Second, such voluntary support and cooperation is linked to judgments about the legitimacy of the police. A central reason people cooperate with the police is that they view them as legitimate legal authorities, entitled to be obeyed. Third, a key antecedent of public judgments about the legitimacy of the police and of policing activities involves public assessments of the manner in which the police exercise their authority. Such procedural-justice judgments are central to public evaluations of the police and influence such evaluations separately from assessments of police effectiveness in fighting crime. These findings suggest the importance of enhancing public views about the legitimacy of the police and suggest process-based strategies for achieving that objective.
Article
This paper deals with the question of the extent to which the ambitions of community policing are realized in practice. Five elements may be considered as the main ambitions of community policing: proximity, a focus on a wide range of problems in the neighbourhood, prevention, cooperation with other agencies and the promotion of citizen involvement. This observational study of community policing in the Netherlands shows that in practice, these ambitions are only realized to a limited extent. This implementation deficit is a result of several factors: the vague, blurred professional image of community policing (in many cases also for community police officers themselves), its open and indefinite nature, the way this work is often embedded within police organizations, the limited capacities, skills and expertise of community police officers and the increasing managerial emphasis in the Dutch police on so-called core business tasks.
Article
Purpose – The managerialization of the police may be seen as an effort to restore the legitimacy of the police. This paper aims to show that the managerialist strategy presently occurring within police forces creates new pitfalls and unintended consequences. Design/methodology/approach – The paper concentrates on the managerialization of the police in The Netherlands. It is based on a study of large numbers of police policy documents over the last 20 years, on interviews with key persons and on long term survey data on citizens' views on the police. This analysis focuses on four elements of managerialization: creating the police as a businesslike organization, performance management, quality management, and the view on citizens as customers of the police. Each of these elements is analyzed as a police presentational strategy. Findings – The managerial strategies that police organizations use as endeavors to restore their legitimacy, are described. There are no clear empirical indications that the managerialization of the police restored citizens' trust in the police. On the contrary, it may even undermine the police legitimacy. Research limitations/implications – The analysis focuses on one country, The Netherlands. Because police organizations in many countries were confronted with similar managerial changes, it is expected that many of the findings and conclusions are more generally relevant. Practical implications – The paper presents a critical view on the common managerial assumption that police legitimacy may be restored by promoting police instrumental performances. Originality/value – This paper views managerialization as an endeavor to restore police legitimacy. It concentrates on managerial presentational strategies and image work as forms of legitimacy management of police organizations.
Article
This paper is the transcript of a 2-day interview with the influential police sociologist Egon Bittner. The interview was conducted in May 1999 by the author and takes the form of questions by the author and answers by Professor Bittner (then in retirement). The transcript was very lightly edited and was structured by the author around major themes in the work of Egon Bittner. Theses themes include the theory of policing and of various kinds of policing (political, rural and private policing), the concept of force in policing, collective violence, a review of police reforms since the 1970s and the role of academics in promoting them, the governance of policing and police unions, and police training and education. Prof. P.K. Manning wrote an introduction to this interview.
Article
The Netherlands occupies a paradoxical position in the mind of many criminologists. On the one hand, the country symbolises acumen for creative approaches to social and criminal justice issues. On the other hand, there is a widespread feeling of ‘paradise lost’: the country's tolerant attitude towards deviance seems to have disappeared, to make way for a sharp and excluding social discourse surrounding issues of crime and law and order. The hostile discourse is particularly aimed at ethnic minority groups and increasingly so after the murder of politician Pim Fortuyn in 2002 and broadcaster and film maker Theo van Gogh in 2004. This article outlines these developments in social discourse and puts them in a historical context. The subsequent policy reaction is discussed in terms of Garland's culture of control.
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