Tagung: Preventionism, Surveillance and Protest

Preventionism and Obstacles for Protest in the Era of Neoliberalism. Linking Protest Research and Governementaliy Studies

Congress-Panel, Congress “Shaping Europe in a Globalized World?-
Protest Movements and the Rise of a Transnational Civil Society?”

Chair: Dr. Peter Ullrich, University of Leipzig

Panel Description:

„Prevention“ is one of the keywords of the contemporary Zeitgeist (cf. Bröckling et al. 2004: 210). It is common knowledge, that it is better to prevent than to heal and rightly so! But prevention can also be understood as a means of power and governing. The recent predominance of preventive strategies in highly different fields of society like health care, criminal law, human ressource management, and international politics and policing protest is astounding. …The claim of prevention is total(itarian). It tries to hinder events of whose occurrence it can never be certain. So prevention needs extensive information (and tends to gather it by means of surveillance, often of general surveillance without suspicion) of the events, behaviour or general risks to be prevented. Uncertainty makes the hunger of preventionism quenchless. On the other hand the totalitarian claim for information can hardly be fulfilled in complex societies. The solution of the prevention programmes is twofold. The first is a spatial or other sectional self-limitation of the pretensions of preventionism (as seen in cctv-surveillance of specific public squares or specific demonstrations that polices not general but time-spatial specific behaviour). The other solution lies in the self-governing aspect of preventionism. Its constant impositions train people to think preventive themselves, to check their behaviour, appearance and communication in terms of social acceptability.
This development is highly linked to the post-fordist societal change and to neoliberalism. The new techniques of governing and subjectifying or individualisation of power by self-governance have been widely discussed in the Foucault-inspired Gouvernementality
Studies. The implications for research in protest and social movements must be vast but have hardly become visible under the dominance of the classical approaches ressource mobilisation, framing and political opportunity structures. It is highly probable that neoliberal preventionism restricts protest by attacking some of its necessary conditions e.g the existence and utterance of critique and more importantly maybe even the legitimacy of potential protesters’ claims
The panel aims at lessening this lack in theory building and asks for ways to bring into protest research perspectives of post-structuralist and subjectifying perspectives. Issues concerned are:

  • Neoliberalism: source and restrictor of protest?
  • Preventionism: pre-protest policing?
  • Individualisation of grieve and collective action/ industrial action
  • Problems of organising in Neoliberalism
  • Surveillance of protest and activism


Peter Ullrich: Preventionism and Obstacles for Protest in the Era of Neoliberalism

Andrej Holm/ Anne Roth: Preventive Security Strategies and Social Movements

Florian Heßdörfer: Development, Prevention, Control – Childhood and Youth as Objects of Neoliberal Regulation

Nick Montgomery: Molecular Social Change: Practices, Ideas and Transformations Outside of the Dominant Discourse of Progressive Social Movements

Lars Schmitt: Symbolic Violence and Political Protest – Two Opponents Involved in a Cooperative Power Game?

Marco Tullney: Organizing Employees Under Surveillance. A Contribution to the Panel “Preventionism and Obstacles for Protest in the Era of Neoliberalism”

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