The Prevent paradox: destroying liberalism in order to protect it

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Abstract

Counter-extremism is the most dynamic part of UK counterterrorism policy. This article examines Prevent, the flagship counter-extremism programme, through a state-theoretical lens. It addresses questions of state institutionality, state power, and state-society relations. It argues that counter-extremism aims to avert the possibility of a political future by repressing the formation of non-liberal political subjectivities. To achieve this, Prevent divides society along political lines; aligns welfare institutions with the security apparatus; mobilises society in a security endeavour; exercises an authoritarian ‘pastoral’ power; replaces trust with generalised suspicion; and construes subjectivities without capacity for historical agency. Therefore, Prevent is a political paradox: an anti-liberal project aiming to secure and perpetuate liberalism.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)467-482
Number of pages16
JournalCrime, Law and Social Change
Volume72
Issue number4
Early online date18 Mar 2019
DOIs
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2019

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