The Preventive Gaze

How Prevention Transforms Our Understanding of the State

By Rik Peeters

Prevention is better than cure. This adage has become an important guideline for governments in recent years. Prevention of terrorist attacks, of recidivism among habitual offenders, of dropouts among problem adolescents, or of obesity among children: the existing repertoires of the constitutional state and the welfare state are complemented by a preventive intervention repertoire in a broad range of policy domains. But what does this transformation imply for our understanding of the state in late-modern society? This study reconstructs the emergence of 'the preventive gaze' in politics and policymaking, and discusses its consequences for the relation between state and society. Prevention seems to be a logical answer in the face of contemporary social issues such as security, education, welfare, and public health. However, prevention also has an expansive logic and pushes the state towards an ever more detailed, comprehensive, and timely approach to risks. As a consequence, the emergence of the 'prevention state' tends towards a slow and silent politicization of society and usurpation of the state-free domain.


494 pages

Publication Date: 1/17/2013
Format: Paper
ISBN: 9789490947989