The enormous range of such regulatory and inspectoral work is evident on a moment’s reflection. Apart from the field of workplace health and safety that was Carson’s principal concern, inspectorates ‘police’ building construction, power, sanitation, public and private transportation, safety in schools and hospitals, infant health and welfare, the complete range of domestic and commercial appliances – and through the plethora of local government by-laws, a considerable volume of everyday activity in pubs, parks, recreational areas and homes. Penetrating almost every facet of life in the name of security and safety, regulatory agencies and inspectorates – rather than the police – are the modern equivalent of the absolutist model of police. Like their forebears, these agencies have as their primary focus the prevention of harm. While this was the vision
Peel and Colquhoun had in mind for the nineteenth-century police, of course it is only in the last 30 years that crime prevention has moved into any kind of prominence in the work of police forces. Even now prevention is usually the work of lower status ‘community’ police rather than a field of ‘real’ – that is, masculinised – policing. Yet prevention, especially in the form of government through technologies of risk management, has become the hallmark of ‘good government’ in the early twenty-first century. Despite this, the nineteenthcentury origins of this modern form of governance are still largely overlooked, perhaps because of the current sociological focus on the recent emergence of the ‘risk society’. Contrary to much current thinking, preventative government is not a recent arrival but has its modern foundations in the rise of liberalism – as is also suggested by Carson’s historical research. Prevention is a critical element of liberal prudence. In classical liberal thought, nowhere is this made more evident than the writing of Jeremy Bentham on security, a category that is intimately linked with that of prevention. According to Jeremy Bentham, security was the primary object of law. This followed because security ‘necessarily embraces the future’ (1962: 302). Security appeared to him as the condition of existence upon which rests rational calculation of the future and all that follows from this foundational attribute of liberal subjects:
In order to form a clear idea of the whole extent which ought to be given to the principle of security, it is necessary to consider that man is not like the brutes, limited to the present time either in enjoyment or suffering, but that he is susceptible to pleasure and pain by anticipation, and that it is not enough to guard him against an actual loss but also to guarantee to him, as much as possible, his possessions against future losses. The idea of his security must be prolonged to him throughout the whole vista that his imagination can measure. This disposition to look forward, which has so marked an influence on the condition of man, may be called expectation – expectation of the future. It is by means of this that we are able to form a general plan of conduct.