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 Security explains 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.
America s obsession with safety makes us angry, alienated, and ultimately less safe, argues this penetrating study of public security. Sociologist Molotch (Where Stuff Comes From) criticizes a range of security structures and protocols: airport security gates that require useless and humiliating body searches while generating long lines that make tempting targets for terrorists; ill-conceived New Orleans water projects that precipitated the Hurricane Katrina flood, and the militarized disaster response that further endangered residents; even gender-segregated public restrooms (co-ed restrooms, he contends, would be more convenient and safer for women). Molotch recommends simple hardware and procedural improvements, from better stairways and signage to assist evacuations to customer-service regimens that help employees spot trouble. More than that, he argues for a conceptual shift away from rigid, rule-bound command and control toward a security philosophy that empowers ordinary people to handle crises through spontaneous order and mutual aid. Molotch shrewdly analyzes the ways in which anxious, stressed-out people interact with their physical and social environments in a lively, engaging prose that skewers the verities of the post-9/11 security state. The result is a far-reaching re-examination of our culture of public fear, one that stands conventional wisdom on its head. Photos.