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Conferences, 2006, Security, Workfare

Volker Eick: Disciplining the Urban Poor

Private security companies (though not a new phenomenon) are mushrooming since the early 1990s all over Germany (and beyond). The withdrawal of state responsibilities for public services in general goes with the privatization of security specifically.

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Missing picture of barb wire
Copyright: Nik Theodore

Using the concept of roll-out and roll-back neoliberalism (Peck & Tickell, 2002) the paper analyzes the development of private security companies in Germany. But rent-a-cop firms are not alone, as the pluralization of policing (Crawford & Lister, 2004) meanwhile includes state-run, commercial and civil society policing entities growing in scale and scope, connecting with each other more closely, and even merge since the long 1990s (Roger Keil). Not surprisingly, such police-private-partnerships create additional disadvantages for so-called undesirables, worse than those known from the Keynesian era. As examples from Berlin will further show, such practices are hardly contested. The presentation focuses on rent-a-cop's (extra-legal) activities in Berlin's social housing complexes but also sheds light on their civil society counterpart: nonprofits policing the urban poor in the federal program Socially Integrative City (Löhr, 2003). The presentation ends with reflections on the future of neoliberal roll-out policing German style.


  • Crawford, A. & S. Lister (2004): The extended policing family. Visible patrols in residential areas. Leeds.
  • Löhr, R.-P. (2003): Socially Integrative City,  the cooperation and confrontation between urban research and urban policy in Germany.
  • Peck, J. & A. Tickell (2002): Neoliberalizing Space. Antipode, 34: 380-404.

Volker Eick works as political scientist and currently finishes his PhD on Neue Sicherheitskonzepte im sich wandelnden Wohlfahrtsstaat. Kriminalpolitik zwischen Kommerz und Community (New security concepts within the changing welfare state. Crime control between commercialization and community). Most recent publications: Preventive Urban Discipline: Rent-a-cops and the Neoliberal Globalization in Germany. In: Social Justice, 33/3 (September 2006, in print); Space Patrols. The new peace-keeping functions of nonprofits. Contesting neoliberalization or the urban poor? In: Helga Leitner/Jamie Peck/Eric Sheppard (eds.): Contesting Neoliberalism. The Urban Frontier. New York. Guilford Press, 2006 (September, in print).