Policing the Crisis, Policing the Planet: an Interview with Christina Heatherton and Jordan T. Camp

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Thir­ty-eight years ago this mon­th, a group of researchers led by Stu­art Hall pub­lished their land­mark study Polic­ing the Cri­sis. Though pur­port­ed­ly focused on the moral pan­ic sur­round­ing mug­ging, the book pro­vides con­tem­po­rary read­ers with a pre­his­to­ry of neolib­er­al­ism, chart­ing the unrav­el­ing post-war con­sen­sus and the dis­place­ment of social demo­c­ra­t­ic hege­mony. Accom­pa­ny­ing the­se polit­i­cal and eco­nom­ic trans­for­ma­tions was a restruc­tur­ing of the work­ing class itself; the com­bined effects of accel­er­at­ing job­less­ness and deskilling among migrant work­ers, who retained the black polit­i­cal con­scious­ness of the 1960s, con­sol­i­dat­ed eth­ni­cal­ly dis­tinct class frac­tions in Britain and result­ed in a splin­ter­ing of strug­gles. On the one hand, there was a clas­si­cal series of indus­tri­al strikes from a mul­tira­cial but pre­dom­i­nant­ly white work­force. On the oth­er, there emerged an oppo­si­tion­al cul­ture of extra-legal hus­tling and self-help. The authors not­ed that such dis­tinct mod­es of resis­tance could work in tandem: the refusal of work by urban black pro­le­tar­i­ans could become a refusal to com­pete with increas­ing­ly pre­car­i­ous indus­tri­al work­ers, a refusal to break their strikes. But with­out an orga­ni­za­tion that might have coor­di­nat­ed the­se dis­crete sec­tors, it was the “law and order” strate­gies of the Con­ser­v­a­tive Par­ty that played the medi­at­ing role. A trumped-up media scare around black crim­i­nal­i­ty autho­rized an increased police pres­ence in inner cities, while trag­i­cal­ly dis­abling the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a rev­o­lu­tion­ary alliance, even as the racist rep­re­sen­ta­tion of crime pro­vid­ed the nec­es­sary ide­o­log­i­cal mate­ri­als to “dis­ci­pline, restrain, and coerce” the work­ing class in gen­er­al. Their analy­sis is a painful reminder that class isn’t just made at the point of pro­duc­tion – it’s a con­se­quence of pol­i­tics, too.1

 Polic­ing the Plan­et, an impor­tant new anthol­o­gy edit­ed by Christi­na Heather­ton and Jor­dan T. Camp, invokes this ear­lier work in more than just name. Across the indi­vid­u­al con­tri­bu­tions from activists and schol­ars is a shared atten­tion to the role of bro­ken-win­dows polic­ing in the remak­ing of the Amer­i­can and even glob­al work­ing class. Since Occu­py, many have puz­zled over the ten­den­cy of social move­ments, regard­less of their orig­i­nal griev­ances, to revolve around an antag­o­nism with cops and cages. In chart­ing how a range of rul­ing class strate­gies – from urban rede­vel­op­ment and the dis­ci­plin­ing of migrant labor, to impe­ri­al­ist coun­ter-insur­gen­cy – piv­ot on polic­ing, this book helps explain why.

Heather­ton and Camp’s vol­ume is also notable for its strong empha­sis on a mul­tira­cial rev­o­lu­tion­ary uni­ty. Some con­trib­u­tors make this call quite explic­it­ly, but the case is best made by their sim­ple index­ing of the broad range of pro­le­tar­i­ans tar­get­ed by the­se new repres­sive tech­niques. For some read­ers, this may be hard to square with the tenor of con­tem­po­rary move­ment pol­i­tics. After all, the metaphors which anchor our under­stand­ing of the carcer­al state – Michelle Alexander’s New Jim Crow, for instance – often point to a specif­i­cal­ly anti-black project. The cur­ren­cy of this kind of analy­sis is a reflec­tion of the uneven char­ac­ter of polic­ing and pris­ons as well as the geneal­o­gy of the­se insti­tu­tions’ emer­gence. Most impor­tant­ly, the pop­u­lar­i­ty of the­se metaphors is a tes­ta­ment to polit­i­cal lega­cies of black lib­er­a­tion, its unri­valed role in Amer­i­can rad­i­cal­ism both past and present. Nev­er­the­less, this book reminds us that polic­ing is not exhaust­ed by the after­lives of slav­ery. What’s notable about “bro­ken win­dows” is the remark­able num­ber of avenues that it can inter­vene in, the tremen­dous range of its reach. Where the diverse array of forces loose­ly orga­nized under the ban­ner of Black Lives Mat­ter have re-posed ques­tions of black par­tic­u­lar­i­ty and uni­ver­sal eman­ci­pa­tion, the­se essays can help us locate those dis­cus­sions on a glob­al and his­tor­i­cal lev­el.

As we take stock of the coor­di­nates of rev­o­lu­tion­ary strat­e­gy today, this col­lec­tion pro­vides an indis­pens­able resource. We offer this inter­view as an intro­duc­tion to the vital inquiries ini­ti­at­ed by Polic­ing the Plan­et and its con­trib­u­tors.

– Ben Mabie 

Interview

Ben Mabie: What are “com­mu­ni­ty” or “bro­ken win­dows” polic­ing strate­gies? What makes them nov­el as a way to dis­ci­pline, divide, con­tain, and ter­ror­ize the work­ing class?

Jor­dan T. Camp and Christi­na Heather­ton: Bro­ken win­dows polic­ing names the prac­tice of aggres­sive­ly enforc­ing pet­ty crimes osten­si­bly in an effort to ward off large-scale “dis­or­der.” The idea, famous­ly described in a 1982 Atlantic arti­cle asserts how a bro­ken win­dow in a neigh­bor­hood sig­nals neglect and encour­ages small crimes, which then lead to larg­er ones. The disorder—the “qual­i­ty of life” violations—that bro­ken win­dows polic­ing tar­gets are crimes of pover­ty, things like loi­ter­ing, tres­pass­ing, hav­ing a bro­ken tail­light, play­ing loud music—or to be more speci­fic, behav­ior that poor and work­ing class peo­ple don’t unique­ly engage in but are dis­pro­por­tion­ate­ly tar­get­ed for. Peo­ple can be stopped inces­sant­ly, either for small crimes or because they poten­tial­ly might have war­rants which are often unpaid tick­ets from ear­lier stops that they couldn’t afford to pay first time around. As we have seen in so many police killings, such as the mur­der of Phi­lan­do Castile who was stopped at least 46 times for pet­ty offens­es, this intense form of polic­ing makes every­one, espe­cial­ly in Black, Lat­inx, Native, most­ly immi­grant, poor, and work­ing class neigh­bor­hoods, crim­i­nal­ly sus­pect.

As social move­ments demand an end to “bro­ken win­dows polic­ing,” lib­er­al politi­cians and police offi­cials are propos­ing “com­mu­ni­ty polic­ing” as an alter­na­tive. Assert­ing that there is a dis­tinc­tion between bro­ken win­dows and com­mu­ni­ty polic­ing is both dan­ger­ous and disin­gen­u­ous, as we argue in Polic­ing the Plan­et. Even Bill Brat­ton, NYPD Police Com­mis­sion­er and chief pro­po­nent of bro­ken win­dows, recent­ly argued, “bro­ken win­dows polic­ing is prob­a­bly the most vivid exam­ple of com­mu­ni­ty polic­ing there is.”

Seem­ing­ly new pro­pos­als to increase com­mu­ni­ty part­ner­ships, diver­si­fy police forces, and arm cops with cam­eras and non-lethal weapons, are culled from a very old script. As Naomi Murakawa points out, the seem­ing­ly “new” ini­tia­tives pro­posed by the Oba­ma admin­is­tra­tion are near­ly iden­ti­cal to ones pro­mot­ed by the Lyn­don B. John­son admin­is­tra­tion in the 1960s. The­se pro­pos­als arose in respon­se to the long civil rights move­ment and the urban upris­ings in places like Watts, Detroit, Newark, and Harlem dur­ing the 1960s. As Jim Crow racial regimes were thrown into a cri­sis of legit­i­ma­cy, the cap­i­tal­ist state aban­doned straight­for­ward seg­re­ga­tion and adopt­ed new forms of racist social con­trol (as Jor­dan describes in his new book, Incar­cer­at­ing the Cri­sis: Free­dom Strug­gles and the Rise of the Neolib­er­al State). Police depart­ments began pre­sent­ing them­selves as being more respon­sive to the needs of the “com­mu­ni­ty,” more atten­dant to issues of racial inequal­i­ty, and more will­ing to engage in “dia­logue” (to use that cipher of good inten­tions and craven neg­li­gence). Then as now, the­se pro­pos­als are more pub­lic rela­tions than pol­i­cy, man­dat­ing no actu­al change in the func­tion­ing of polic­ing, but open­ing up new rev­enue streams for police depart­ments.

BM: You describe the­se strate­gies as both an ide­o­log­i­cal project and a polit­i­cal respon­se to the cri­sis of the late 1970s. What pre­cise­ly in the con­junc­ture were the­se strate­gies respond­ing to?

JC and CH: Bro­ken win­dows polic­ing was pro­duced as a polit­i­cal respon­se to the worst eco­nom­ic cri­sis since the Great Depres­sion that took hold in the 1970s. We argue that it helped facil­i­tate major shifts in the urban polit­i­cal econ­o­my as well as the con­sol­i­da­tion of the U.S. carcer­al state. As Christi­na Han­hardt describes with regard to the gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of Times Square, this polic­ing strat­e­gy fur­ther exac­er­bat­ed racist moral pan­ics about gen­der and sex­u­al­i­ty in order to “prime the city for pri­vate invest­ment.” We also fol­low geo­g­ra­pher Neil Smith’s lead in sug­gest­ing that bro­ken win­dows was used pri­mar­i­ly to ren­der cities more “secure” for neolib­er­al regimes of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion.

By neolib­er­al­ism, we mean a polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal project with long his­tor­i­cal and geo­graph­ic roots that includes fea­tures such as: the delib­er­ate shrink­age of the social func­tion­ing of the state (and the pri­va­ti­za­tion of many of those func­tions); dein­dus­tri­al­iza­tion and dimin­ish­ing capac­i­ty of U.S. cities to oper­ate as cen­ters of social repro­duc­tion for labor­ing pop­u­la­tions; dereg­u­la­tion and the crush­ing of pub­lic sec­tor unions and orga­nized labor; and the expan­sion of the puni­tive capac­i­ties of the state to man­age, ware­house, and dis­ci­pline sur­plus pop­u­la­tions (the unem­ployed and under­em­ployed, the home­less, those with­out prop­er health or men­tal health care, etc.). Fur­ther­more, in our book, we inter­ro­gate how racial ide­olo­gies have been deployed to nat­u­ral­ize the­se trans­for­ma­tions.

Bro­ken win­dows is an ide­o­log­i­cal project that jus­ti­fies and sus­tains a neolib­er­al social order. It helps to ren­der peo­ple simul­ta­ne­ous­ly less wor­thy of the state’s shrunk­en largesse and more deserv­ing of its expand­ed puni­tive capac­i­ties. Through such polic­ing mea­sures, “peo­ple with prob­lems” (lack of hous­ing, job secu­ri­ty, food, ser­vices, etc.) have been social­ly con­struct­ed “as prob­lems” (i.e. crim­i­nals) as George Lip­sitz puts it. By entrench­ing notions of “crim­i­nal­i­ty” it enables the state to man­age sur­plus pop­u­la­tions. The glob­al pro­duc­tion of sur­plus pop­u­la­tions is a prob­lem for cap­i­tal. As anoth­er con­trib­u­tor to Polic­ing the Plan­et, geo­g­ra­pher Don Mitchell and his col­leagues put it, bro­ken win­dows polic­ing is “one means of man­age­ment.”

Bro­ken win­dows builds on and expands already exist­ing race, class, and gen­dered exclu­sions, ren­o­vates and inten­si­fies them towards new ends. It has emerged as the social reg­u­lat­ing mech­a­nism used by cities and local states to dis­ci­pline sur­plus pop­u­la­tions, refash­ion pub­lic space, and ren­der cities suit­able for neolib­er­al regimes of cap­i­tal accu­mu­la­tion. In an era of mass incar­cer­a­tion the­se mech­a­nisms trans­form the work­ing poor, the home­less, and the dis­pos­sessed into walk­ing war­rants of the neolib­er­al city.

BM: Since Occu­py, the strongest move­ments in the Unit­ed States have been direct­ed again­st polic­ing and aus­ter­i­ty, with each arguably pos­sess­ing a dis­tinct com­po­si­tion from the oth­er. With vary­ing lev­els of suc­cess, orga­niz­ers from Cal­i­for­nia to Chicago have tried to artic­u­late the­se dis­crete move­ments into a joint strug­gle. How do you and your con­trib­u­tors con­cep­tu­al­ize the rela­tion­ship between bro­ken win­dows polic­ing and aus­ter­i­ty? What kind of prac­tices do you think enable last­ing encoun­ters between the­se strug­gles?

JC and CH: Bro­ken win­dows polic­ing emerged in wake of the fis­cal cri­sis of the 1970s alongside the coa­les­cence of a, “per­ma­nent aus­ter­i­ty gov­er­nance” in New York City, as Alex Vitale and Bri­an Jor­dan Jef­fer­son describe. As aus­ter­i­ty poli­cies increased pover­ty, unem­ploy­ment, and home­less­ness, politi­cians clam­ored for author­i­tar­i­an solu­tions. Vitale and Jef­fer­son con­clude that, “bro­ken win­dows polic­ing pro­vid­ed the ide­o­log­i­cal jus­ti­fi­ca­tion and func­tion­al game plan.” The result in New York City and beyond has been the mass crim­i­nal­iza­tion of poor and work­ing class com­mu­ni­ties, par­tic­u­lar­ly the Black and Lat­inx poor.

As dein­dus­tri­al­ized cities have become land­scapes of actu­al bro­ken win­dows – full of aban­doned homes and fac­to­ries – police depart­ments and politi­cians have uti­lized the log­ic of bro­ken win­dows to locate dis­or­der in the behav­ior of the so-called “under­class.” Many chap­ters in our book are con­cerned with such dis­place­ments. The defund­ing of pub­lic social goods alongside the exten­sive fund­ing of polic­ing and pris­ons has pro­duced mor­bid encoun­ters. Such fund­ing imbal­ances have effec­tive­ly expand­ed police capac­i­ty, enabling them to func­tion in an array of roles, such as men­tal health facil­i­ta­tors, school dis­ci­pli­nar­i­ans, pub­lic hous­ing man­agers, and guards again­st park tres­pass­ing, etc. In some munic­i­pal­i­ties, the police also aggres­sive­ly func­tion as sur­ro­gate tax col­lec­tors or “rev­enue gen­er­a­tors” as the Depart­ment of Jus­tice inves­ti­ga­tion into the Fer­gu­son Police Depart­ment recent­ly con­clud­ed.

There is a tidy uni­ty to the restruc­tur­ing of the state form encap­su­lat­ed by bro­ken win­dows polic­ing. As Ruth Wilson Gilmore and Craig Gilmore describe in their Polic­ing the Plan­et chap­ter, the Black Lives Mat­ter movement’s strug­gle again­st police vio­lence and mass incar­cer­a­tion after Fer­gu­son can be described as “protests again­st pro­found aus­ter­i­ty” as well as strug­gles again­st “the iron fist nec­es­sary to impose” that aus­ter­i­ty. Bro­ken win­dows polic­ing has nor­mal­ized a shift in state capac­i­ties away from the pro­duc­tion of social goods and towards the “secu­ri­ty” con­cerns pro­duced in their absence. In exam­in­ing its spread through­out the U.S. and around the world, we put Polic­ing the Plan­et togeth­er in order to explore how bro­ken win­dows polic­ing has become the polit­i­cal expres­sion of neolib­er­al­ism at the urban scale.

BM: Your book pro­vides a vivid pic­ture of move­ments inter­na­tion­al­ly, in Palestine, Lon­don, and across Lat­in Amer­i­ca, where racial­ized, sur­plus pop­u­la­tions are often run­ning up again­st the Brat­ton mod­el of polic­ing, export­ed right out of New York City. What role does the Unit­ed States play in the cir­cu­la­tion of the­se strate­gies? Does “bro­ken win­dows” inform the coun­ter-insur­gen­cy efforts of the U.S. armed forces? And what does this tell us about con­tem­po­rary impe­ri­al­ism?

JC and CH: Seem­ing­ly “new” mod­els of coun­ter-ter­ror­ism polic­ing were not spun from whole cloth. They for­ti­fied already exist­ing forms of coun­terin­sur­gen­cy and legit­i­mat­ed the inten­si­fied polic­ing of racial­ized and crim­i­nal­ized seg­ments of the poor and work­ing class in U.S. cities. We argue that the inti­mate and seem­ing­ly micro-scale polic­ing of poor com­mu­ni­ties of col­or have become cen­tral to under­stand­ing the cir­cu­la­tion of secu­ri­ti­za­tion on a glob­al scale. Poor com­mu­ni­ties in U.S. cities have become lab­o­ra­to­ries in which new mil­i­tary and coun­terin­sur­gen­cy prac­tices and tech­nolo­gies have been test­ed.

As orga­niz­er Hamid Khan of the Stop LA Spy­ing Coali­tion explains in, “The New Urban Coun­terin­sur­gen­cy,” the appli­ca­tion of Brat­ton-style bro­ken win­dows polic­ing in U.S. cities has set the stage for coun­tert­er­ror­ism polic­ing glob­al­ly. The deep suc­cess of bro­ken win­dows polic­ing in Los Ange­les, for exam­ple, enabled the city to be the launch­ing pad of a major post-9/11 coun­ter-ter­ror­ism ini­tia­tive, imple­ment­ed by the Depart­ment of Home­land Secu­ri­ty. Accord­ing to Khan, such mea­sures would not be pos­si­ble with­out the already exist­ing sur­veil­lance, pre-emp­tive crim­i­nal­iza­tion, and autho­riza­tion of force grant­ed by bro­ken win­dows polic­ing. Oth­er con­trib­u­tors to Polic­ing the Plan­et, such as Mizue Aizeki of the Immi­grant Defense Project, echo this point. In ana­lyz­ing the cur­rent cri­sis of mass depor­ta­tion, she traces the “pre­emp­tive polic­ing log­ic” of bro­ken win­dows to mea­sures that con­fig­ure immi­grants as “per­pet­u­al threats to pub­lic safe­ty.”

The U.S. has long export­ed its secu­ri­ty exper­tise and also trained police from for­eign gov­ern­ments in coun­terin­sur­gen­cy tac­tics from the Cen­tral Amer­i­can wars in the 1980s to the present day “war on ter­ror” in Iraq and Afghanistan. Such cir­cuits of knowl­edge are, of course, mul­ti­di­rec­tion­al. Tech­nolo­gies deployed in wars abroad re-enter U.S. cities in forms such as drones and sur­veil­lance tech­nol­o­gy. Khan notes that police offi­cials from places like Fer­gu­son and LA have trav­elled to Israel to be trained in coun­terin­sur­gen­cy. In doing so, they learned lan­guages crit­i­cal to the legit­i­ma­tion of polic­ing, pris­ons, and per­ma­nent war and brought those prac­tices and tech­niques “back” to the U.S.  Brat­ton has been a key fig­ure in estab­lish­ing such ties and also in import­ing tech­nolo­gies and prac­tices used in the occu­pied Pales­tini­an ter­ri­to­ries into U.S. cities. 

In his con­tri­bu­tion to our anthol­o­gy,  Arun Kund­nani adept­ly describes the cir­cu­la­tion of the­se secu­ri­tized log­ics and prac­tices as “flows.” Such infor­ma­tion flows between cities and coun­tries, bat­tle­fields and cities, as well as over space and time. Crit­i­cal to the prac­tice of coun­terin­sur­gen­cy by impe­ri­al pow­ers like Britain have been col­lab­o­ra­tions between pub­lic social ser­vices and the police. Kund­nani traces prac­tices of British colo­nial coun­terin­sur­gen­cy cam­paigns waged in places like Kenya and lat­er North­ern Ire­land, and describes how they were lat­er import­ed into cities like Lon­don and New York. The present glob­al sur­veil­lance infra­struc­ture is a pro­duct of such mul­ti­di­rec­tion­al flows. We hope that in describ­ing the­se cir­cu­la­tions we might engen­der more robust the­o­ries and prac­tices of sol­i­dar­i­ty, par­tic­u­lar­ly in the strug­gle again­st cap­i­tal­ism. As Kund­nani con­cludes, the expan­sion of sur­veil­lance is key to the repro­duc­tion of cap­i­tal­ism at present. There­fore that the strug­gle again­st polic­ing, pris­ons, and state secu­ri­ty regimes, he con­cludes, “can­not avoid con­fronting cap­i­tal­ism itself.”

BM: There’s a long his­to­ry of sol­i­dar­i­ty between black rad­i­cal move­ments in the Unit­ed States and anti-impe­ri­al­ist strug­gles abroad. The CPUSA  artic­u­lat­ed the strug­gles of black pro­le­tar­i­ans again­st the after­lives of slav­ery as a part of a wider anti-colo­nial and anti-cap­i­tal­ist pol­i­tics. Lat­er, the Black Pan­ther Par­ty framed their oppo­si­tion to local police depart­ments as anal­o­gous to the Vietcong’s war for nation­al lib­er­a­tion, as well as the con­fronta­tions between anti-war pro­test­ers and the nation­al guard. Based on your own research on cross-bor­der and inter­na­tion­al­ist pol­i­tics, as well as your close col­lab­o­ra­tion with activists on the ground, what do you think an anti-impe­ri­al­ist prac­tice might look like today?

JC and CH: Con­tem­po­rary antiracist social move­ments again­st police vio­lence and mass incar­cer­a­tion are the lat­est phase in a pro­tract­ed strug­gle. In each phase of the long Black free­dom strug­gle, glob­al sol­i­dar­i­ty offered move­ments in the U.S. new autho­riza­tion and broad­er plat­forms to resist racism, cap­i­tal­ism, and impe­ri­al­ism at dif­fer­ent geo­graph­i­cal scales. At the same time, Black rad­i­cal move­ments also revealed points of con­tra­dic­tions with­in U.S. empire, trou­bling the imag­ined sep­a­ra­tion between sys­tems of impe­ri­al­ist vio­lence “at home” and “abroad.”

Con­ti­nu­ities of the­se rad­i­cal tra­di­tions exist in the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment. In our inter­view with mem­bers of the Chicago-based We Charge Geno­cide, Asha Rosa, Paige May, and Bre­an­na Cham­pi­on describe their efforts to inter­na­tion­al­ize the strug­gle. Inspired by the Civil Rights Con­gress’ 1951 peti­tion to the Unit­ed Nations, they trav­elled to Geneva to sub­mit a peti­tion before the U.N. to glob­al­ize the strug­gle again­st racism and state vio­lence in U.S. cities. Like­wise, Black Lives Mat­ter co-founder Patris­se Cul­lors empha­sizes the need for sol­i­dar­i­ty with Palestine and invokes the inter­na­tion­al­ism of the Black Pan­ther Par­ty in the 1960s to make the point. Robin D. G. Kel­ley places the Black Lives Mat­ter move­ment in the con­text of glob­al per­ma­nent war, high­light­ing the con­ti­nu­ities between the killing of Michael Brown and the siege Israeli siege of Gaza dur­ing the same sum­mer of 2014. In both con­texts, he writes, “civil­ians are deemed com­bat­ants and col­lec­tive pun­ish­ment is the fab­ric of every­day life.” In the­se ways, activists are draw­ing links between the strug­gle to over­turn police vio­lence and the carcer­al state with a glob­al strug­gles for free­dom and dig­ni­ty.

As the late Cedric Robin­son described, the Black rad­i­cal tra­di­tion encom­pass­es a broad project of lib­er­a­tion. Accord­ing­ly, mul­ti­ple con­trib­u­tors to Polic­ing the Plan­et con­nect the move­ment again­st polic­ing to a rad­i­cal antiracist strug­gle again­st impe­ri­al­ism, and, as mem­bers of the Red Nation describe, “colo­nial cap­i­tal­ism.” This Native-led group based in Albu­querque, New Mex­i­co under­stands the intense deploy­ment of state vio­lence again­st Native peo­ple in the U.S. as an out­come of colo­nial vio­lence under cap­i­tal­ism. This inter­ven­tion is the crit­i­cal basis of sol­i­dar­i­ty. Orga­niz­er Paige Mur­phy con­cludes, “Every­one is fight­ing cap­i­tal­ism in their day-to-day lives whether they want to admit it or not. When you’re strug­gling to make rent, you’re fight­ing again­st cap­i­tal­ism. When you’re look­ing for a job and you can’t find one, you’re strug­gling again­st cap­i­tal­ism. Peo­ple every day are fight­ing again­st cap­i­tal­ism. When we link the­se strug­gles, that’s when they’re able to see it.”

Polic­ing the Plan­et describes how the Left can engage in prin­ci­pled sol­i­dar­i­ty with Black Lives Mat­ter in a polit­i­cal and ide­o­log­i­cal strug­gle again­st impe­ri­al­ist state vio­lence. We argue that­such a fight for redis­trib­u­tive jus­tice and a social wage democ­ra­tizes social move­ments in gen­er­al. This frame­work should be tak­en seri­ous­ly as we debate alter­na­tive solu­tions to the polic­ing cri­sis, or else, as Vijay Prashad puts it in the book’s con­clu­sion, “the com­mon sense of our times will lead us to a bad end.”  This is a moment not for adapt­ing to neolib­er­al poli­cies and impe­ri­al pow­er, but for fir­ing the polit­i­cal imag­i­na­tion about the pos­si­bil­i­ty of alter­na­tive futures. 


  1. For more on Stu­art Hall’s debates with­in British Marx­ism, see Asad Haider’s metic­u­lous recon­struc­tion in “Law and Order: Make Marx­ism Great Again,” which I bor­rowed from lib­er­al­ly. 

Authors of the article

is managing editor at Viewpoint.

is an assistant professor of American Studies at Trinity College, co-editor of Policing the The Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso, 2016), and author of The Color Line and the Class Struggle: The Mexican Revolution, Internationalism, and the American Century (University of California Press, forthcoming).

is a postdoctoral fellow in Race and Ethnicity and International and Public Affairs at Brown, author of Incarcerating the Crisis: Freedom Struggles and the Rise of the Neoliberal State(University of California Press, 2016); co-editor of Policing the Planet: Why the Policing Crisis Led to Black Lives Matter (Verso, 2016); and co-editor (with Laura Pulido) of the late Clyde Woods’ book, Development Drowned and Reborn: The Blues and Bourbon Restorations in Post-Katrina New Orleans(University of Georgia Press, forthcoming).