The moral economy of security

Ian Loader*, Benjamin Goold, Angelica Thumala Olave

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Abstract / Description of output

In this article we draw upon our recent research into security consumption to answer two questions: first, under what conditions do people experience the buying and selling of security goods and services as morally troubling? Second, what are the theoretical implications of understanding private security as, in certain respects, tainted trade? We begin by drawing on two bodies of work on morality and markets (one found in political theory, the other in cultural sociology) in order to develop what we call a moral economy of security. We then use this theoretical resource to conduct an anatomy of the modes of ambivalence and unease that the trade in security generates. Three categories organize the analysis: blocked exchange; corrosive exchange; and intangible exchange. In conclusion, we briefly spell out the wider significance of our claim that the buying and selling of security is a morally charged and contested practice of governance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)469-488
Number of pages20
JournalTheoretical Criminology
Issue number4
Early online date22 Apr 2014
Publication statusPublished - 1 Nov 2014

Keywords / Materials (for Non-textual outputs)

  • Commodification
  • economy
  • markets
  • morality
  • security


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