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Against Security

Against Security: How We Go Wrong at Airports, Subways, and Other Sites of Ambiguous Danger

Harvey Molotch
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: REV - Revised
Pages: 288
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  • Book Info
    Against Security
    Book Description:

    The inspections we put up with at airport gates and the endless warnings we get at train stations, on buses, and all the rest are the way we encounter the vast apparatus of U.S. security. Like the wars fought in its name, these measures are supposed to make us safer in a post-9/11 world. But do they?Against Securityexplains how these regimes of command-and-control not only annoy and intimidate but are counterproductive. Sociologist Harvey Molotch takes us through the sites, the gizmos, and the politics to urge greater trust in basic citizen capacities-along with smarter design of public spaces. In a new preface, he discusses abatement of panic and what the NSA leaks reveal about the real holes in our security.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-5233-8
    Subjects: Political Science, Sociology

Table of Contents

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  1. Preface to the Paperback Edition
    (pp. ix-xvi)
    Harvey Molotch
  2. CHAPTER 1 Introduction: Colors of Security
    (pp. 1-21)

    How does anxiety travel into artifacts of life, people’s ordinary practices, and public policies—policies that can sometimes engulf the world? This book traces fear, from the soup of indistinct but keenly felt worries over one’s own body, to the hard nuts of bombs and bastions. In between, and connecting them up, are smaller-scale sites and responses, like the hardware set up at airports or the barbed wire meant to keep some out or others in. I examine strategies for security against nature as well as against the machinations of human beings and their organizations.

    Through various intermediaries of institutions...

  3. CHAPTER 2 Bare Life: Restroom Anxiety and the Urge for Control
    (pp. 22-49)

    Public restrooms are a first lab for examining how troubled anxiety transmutes into collective loss.¹

    With their link to human elimination, whatever anxieties that come from concerns about public misbehavior more generally are greatly intensified in this particular public place. Restrooms are imagined as locations of filth, theft, and rape. The special problem, however, is that they are difficult, if not impossible, to monitor. Rather than face the risk of disapproved behavior going on or meeting it headway with deep surveillance—like cameras in the stalls—authorities just close restrooms down. Human needs go unmet. The choice is often made...

  4. CHAPTER 3 Below the Subway: Taking Care Day In and Day Out
    (pp. 50-84)
    Noah McClain

    The New York subways are obvious sites of security concern; many measures get taken as a result. Such concern is not folly and nor is the disposition to try and address it. Attacks on the trains in London, Tokyo, Moscow, and Madrid have unleashed, each in their own time, death and destruction. New York has 468 subway stations, each with multiple entries. Depending on time of day, some crowd together hundreds, if not thousands of people in compact spaces. It surely dawns on most who are ever there that these are rich targets.

    One way into understanding how security actually...

  5. CHAPTER 4 Wrong-Way Flights: Pushing Humans Away
    (pp. 85-127)

    Airports have turned out badly. It takes about the same amount of time to travel through air today as it did dozens of years ago, but a lot longer time to get off the ground. Security procedures change not just the timing, but exact huge costs in money, mood, and resentments with consequences far and wide.

    When I was young, my family was not the only one that, however bad the food, would go to the airport to have a meal. Just beingaroundair travel was a treat. The idea of travel has long been an excitement. We find...

  6. CHAPTER 5 Forting Up the Skyline: Rebuilding at Ground Zero
    (pp. 128-153)

    We are reminded by the remaining remnants of European city walls (now sometimes used as ring roads and the occasional urban park) of how security concerns strongly affect urban form. Physical barricades and tall fences are still used to keep the enemy at bay. But in the case of a country like the United States, with so much immigration as well as tourism—along with seeps, leaks, and escapes— building up the membrane becomes a true challenge. So we arrived at the solution of constructing security brick by brick, building by building, place by place within the territory, not just...

  7. CHAPTER 6 Facing Katrina: Illusions of Levee and Compulsion to Build
    (pp. 154-191)

    “Floods are an act of God, but flood losses are largely an act of man”—such was the mantra of the pioneer hydrological scholar, Gilbert White. White’s analyses, beginning with a 1945 paper, showed that efforts to contain flood damage by building structures like flood walls and dams had the net result of increasing rather than decreasing risk to humans.¹ To “prevent” flood damage, we need to get out of the way of the water—it’s as simple as that. The efforts so often made to stop the water with walls and dams—now known, following White, as the “levee...

  8. CHAPTER 7 Conclusion: Radical Ambiguity and the Default to Decency
    (pp. 192-224)

    “You never want a serious crisis to go to waste,” Rahm Emanuel, then–chief of staff to Barack Obama explained in urging financial reform after the 2008 economic collapse. His boss’s predecessor, George W. Bush, understood the principle and used 9/11 as his crisis not to waste—advancing the shock doctrine (Naomi Klein’s term)¹ on the world’s economic and military fronts. I had called it differently as I watched the towers fall, misreading the catastrophe as clear evidence of the world’s interdependence. Everyone had to be given a sense of dignity and belonging to a common community. I wasn’t alone,...