Starr, Amory, Luis A. Fernandez, and Christian Scholl. Shutting Down the Streets: Political Violence and Social Control in the Global Era.

Author:Vassilakis, Bill
Position:Book review
 
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Starr, Amory, Luis A. Fernandez, and Christian Scholl. Shutting Down the Streets: Political Violence and Social Control in the Global Era. New York: NYU Press, 2011. viii + 216 pages. Paper, $23.00.

Shutting Down the Streets offers a fresh perspective on the dynamics of protest policing and the control of dissent generally based on the three authors' experience in 20 anti-globalization demonstrations between 1999 and 2009. The authors, who "studied social control with [their] own bodies" (p. 19), use some dramatic anecdote to break up the theoretical and empirical discussions in the text. They critique the framework within which the "policing of protest" has been studied previously and offer a more generalized notion of "social control of dissent." Three basic ideas flow through the text. First is the notion that legitimate grievances expressed at global summits can threaten the legitimacy of global institutions and motivate those institutions to control expressions of dissent. The second is that dissent is increasingly controlled by social means, along the lines of what Foucault named "technologies of the self" and through a process Chomsky calls "manufacturing consent." Finally, the context for this dynamic of control and dissent is based on a historical precedent of domestic policing as counterinsurgency, exemplified by the FBI's record of targeting such groups as civil rights leaders, muslims, environmental activists, anarchists.

In Shutting Down the Streets, dissent consists of collective, disruptive processes, operationalized as social movements. The cases presented in the book consist of international summit protests, so both the long-term planning and the actual protests are considered. The authors claim to observe a relatively complete cross-section of social movements at summit protests. While this may be the case, the degree to which summit protest is representative of dissent generally remains questionable. People who travel from summit protest to summit protest (known colloquially as summit-hoppers) do constitute a distinct subgroup of dissenters and are obviously over-represented in the book's sampling frame, in comparison with local dissenters. This dynamic is not lost on the authors, who show that intimidating, coercing, and dissuading people from participating in protests is not a byproduct of "protest policing" but is actually the intended result of a broader process of criminalizing dissent.

Shutting Down the Streets...

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