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There are many histories of the police as a law-enforcement institution, but no genealogy of the police as a form of power. This book provides a genealogy of the modern police by tracing the evolution of ‘police science’ and of police institutions in Europe, from the ancien régime to the early 19th century.
Drawing on the theoretical path outlined by Michel Foucault, and departing from the classic paradigm in police studies – where the role of the police is narrowly conceived as one of a law-enforcement – it shows how the development of police power was an integral part of the birth of the modern state’s governmental rationalities. Police institutions were conceived as political technologies for the government and social disciplining of populations. From the outset then, the police have played an active role in actually producing order, rather than merely preserving it. And, as this book argues, the modern police should therefore be understood, not as an institution at the service of the judiciary and the law, but as a political technology for governing the economic and social processes typical of modern capitalist societies.