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Rigakos (George S.), McMullan (John L.), Johnson (Joshua), Ozcan (Gulden) (eds), A General Police System: Political Economy and Security in the Age of the Enlightenment

Ottawa, Red Quill Books, 2009, 302 pp., ISBN 978 0 9812807 0 7
Clive Emsley
p. 153-154
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Rigakos (George S.), McMullan (John L.), Johnson (Joshua), Ozcan (Gulden) (eds), A General Police System: Political Economy and Security in the Age of the Enlightenment, Ottawa, Red Quill Books, 2009, 302 pp., ISBN 978 0 9812807 0 7

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1It is always tempting to think that there is nothing new under the sun. The editors of this reader explain that one of the key starting points for the book was the current debate about security and surveillance in the contemporary state. They see the Enlightenment discussion of police as a moment when many of the modern issues were first raised and debated by important European thinkers seeking to resolve issues of economic, political and social change and tension. The book focuses on the work of ten such thinkers – four Germans (Georg Hegel, Wilhelm von Humbert, Johann von Justi and Joseph von Sonnenfels), three English (Jeremy Bentham, Sir John Fielding and Sir William Petty), two Scots (Patrick Colquhoun and Adam Smith) and an Italian (Cesare Beccaria). A short introduction, just under thirty pages, brings out the basic trajectories in the ideas of the theorists; it highlights the major concerns that prompted their work, where they agree and disagree, and the different directions that their thinking took. The bulk of the book, some 250 pages, brings together significant readings from the work of the ten thinkers.

2It is useful to have this material brought together and made available for students. To that extent the authors are to be thanked and the collection is to be welcomed. The introduction is also a useful précis of the theories set out in the extensive readings and it provides stimulating ideas about how current debates might be said to echo those of the Enlightenment. Perhaps this area might have been pushed a little further, but the major problem in the book is what is left out.

  • 1 Augustin Gazier (ed.), La police de Paris en 1770, mémoire inédit composé par G. de Sartine sur la (...)
  • 2 Marc Raeff, ‘The well-ordered police state and the development of modernity in seventeenth- and eig (...)

3It is always annoying for authors to read a review that criticises them for omissions, but it is surprising to find nothing here from French authors of the Enlightenment and to find such scant recognition of the work on Polizeiwissenschaft by historians of the German lands such as Roland Axtmann and Marc Raeff, to name two who write in English. Von Justi and von Sonnenfels were working in a very long tradition of the idea of Gute Polizei, incorporating both Wohlfahrt and Gemeine Nutz, as a key role of the state, be it a city state, a principality or an empire. But it is the omission of things French that provides the greatest disappointment and the biggest drawback. When the Habsburg Empress Maria Theresa wanted advice on police for Vienna, she wrote to the lieutenant général de police de Paris asking for details of his institution. An edited version of the report was printed and published more than a century ago1. There is no reference to it here. The editors’ statement in a footnote to their introduction ‘the important French work Traité de Police (1707) by Nicolas de La Mare is still unavailable in English’ is true, but hardly seems like sufficient excuse to omit specially translated extracts from a reader of this kind. Raeff described the Traité as ‘the first treatise on police (in the early eighteenth-century meaning of the term)’. He noted also that, while many German police ordinances pre-dated it, at least the lieutenant général de police de Paris had a body of men capable of implementing police practice. De La Mare’s (or Delamare’s) work was widely read across Europe; together with that of various German thinkers it was translated and sometimes served up as ‘original’ by advocates of police reform in several countries – in eighteenth-century Russia and Spain, for example2.

4In sum, as far as it goes, this book constitutes a useful reader. But an opportunity has been missed. The book might offer some value to political scientists looking at the antecedents of contemporary debates; but for historians of the Enlightenment, of the development of the state and of the concept of police, it could have been so much more valuable.

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Notes

1 Augustin Gazier (ed.), La police de Paris en 1770, mémoire inédit composé par G. de Sartine sur la demande de Marie-Thérèse, Paris, 1879.

2 Marc Raeff, ‘The well-ordered police state and the development of modernity in seventeenth- and eighteenth-century Europe: An attempt at a comparative approach’, American Historical Review, 80, 5 (1975) pp. 1221-1243; idem, The Well-Ordered Police State: Social and Institutional Change through the Law in the Germanies and Russia, New Haven: Yale University Press, 1983, p. 243; Pedro Fraile, ‘Putting order into the cities: The evolution of ‘Policy Science’ in eighteenth-century Spain’, Urban History, 1998, 25, 1, pp. 22-35.

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Référence papier

Clive Emsley, « Rigakos (George S.), McMullan (John L.), Johnson (Joshua), Ozcan (Gulden) (eds), A General Police System: Political Economy and Security in the Age of the Enlightenment », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies, Vol. 14, n°2 | 2010, 153-154.

Référence électronique

Clive Emsley, « Rigakos (George S.), McMullan (John L.), Johnson (Joshua), Ozcan (Gulden) (eds), A General Police System: Political Economy and Security in the Age of the Enlightenment », Crime, Histoire & Sociétés / Crime, History & Societies [En ligne], Vol. 14, n°2 | 2010, mis en ligne le 02 décembre 2010, consulté le 22 juin 2017. URL : http://chs.revues.org/1221

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Auteur

Clive Emsley

The Open University
c.emsley@open.ac.uk

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