Surveillance and Criminal Statistics: Historical Foundations of Governmentality (1997)

Mathieu Deflem

This is an online copy of a print publication in Studies in Law, Politics and Society, Vol. 17, pp. 149-184, eds Austin Sarat and Susan Silbey. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press, 1997. Also available in pdf format.

Cite as: Deflem, Mathieu. 1997. “Surveillance and Criminal Statistics: Historical Foundations of Governmentality.” Pp. 149-184 inStudies in Law, Politics and Society, Volume 17, edited by Austin Sarat and Susan Silbey. Greenwich, CT: JAI Press.


Research for this paper was in part supported by a doctoral dissertation grant from the National Science Foundation (#SBR-9411478). Opinions and statements do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. An earlier version was presented at the annual meeting of the Law and Society Association, Phoenix, June 1994. I thank Gary Marx, Fred Pampel, Rick Rogers, and Jonathan Simon for helpful suggestions on previous drafts. Additional thanks go to editor Austin Sarat and to three anonymous reviewers. Translations from the German and French are mine.


I analyze the evolution of criminal statistics in Germany and the United States since their respective origins in the 19th century. Theoretically informed by Michel Foucault’s perspective of governmentality and situated within contemporary discussions on risk-based social control, I argue that criminal statistics forms an important historical predecessor of contemporary strategies of preventive and predictive surveillance. Highlighting the governmental aspects of criminal statistics, I indicate its conflictual relationship with normative concerns over justice and law.
"Men have dreamed of liberating machines. But there are no machines of freedom, by definition."
—Michel Foucault

In this paper, I examine the history of criminal statistics in Germany and the United States from the 19th until the early 20th century. Theoretically my analysis is inspired by Michel Foucault’s perspective of governmentality and its relevance for analyses of risk-based social control that stress preventive and predictive strategies of surveillance. While I do not trace the immediate historical contexts of these contemporary surveillance practices, I argue that their rationality, specifically the emphasis on prevention and prediction, was already developed in the 19th century. I further maintain that criminal statistics represented an important dimension of the nationalization of state power, but that it at the same time allowed for a functional transmission of information across the jurisdictions of different nation-states. With this analysis, I seek to bring out the relevance of the governmental characteristics of criminal statistics, particularly its conflictual relationship with normative legal structures and developments of rights and justice.


In his famous Discipline and Punish (1975a) Michel Foucault suggested that the disciplinary panopticon aims to make crime impossible through the constant surveillance of the prisoner. Foucault also argued that panopticism, as a function, had since its development in the 18th and 19th centuries gradually spread into society at large (Foucault 1975a:27,80, 1976b, 1976c:39, 1977c:156). In his work on governmentality (a neologism for governmental rationality), Foucault explained how and why this dissemination or general diffusion of power had come about. While Foucault did not develop a full-fledged theory of governmentality, but a more than less coherent picture of Foucault’s thoughts on the matter can be retrieved from some of his course summaries (1976d, 1978b, 1979a [translations 1976e, 1978d, 1979b], 1981b), the introductory volume toThe History of Sexuality series (1976a), papers and interviews (especially 1977a, 1978e, 1981a, 1982b, 1984b, 1984c), and a published lecture (1978a; see also Dean 1994; Gordon 1991; Haroche 1994).

The Art of Governing

Foucault defines governmentality as "the way in which the conduct of a whole of individuals is found implicated, in an ever more marked fashion, in the exercise of sovereign power" (Foucault 1978b:101). The central theme in Foucault’s notion is that power does not exclude people but that, on the contrary, power centers on the population and its truth by presupposing individuals as living subjects (Foucault 1976a:137-139). Historically, Foucault (1978a:88-91) argues, governmentality finds its origins in European political thought of the 16th century. Then the notion developed that power concerns everything that is and happens, all events, actions, behavior and opinions, because the state’s wealth and strength were perceived to be dependent on the conditions of the population (Foucault 1975a:213-216, 1978a:99-101). This form of governing is at once totalizing and individualizing, involving technologies of domination of others as well as an ‘ethics’ as the governing of the self (Foucault 1982a, 1982b). Society and individual merge in governmentality, obliterating "the binary and all-encompassing opposition between rulers and ruled" whole as well as of each individual being should serve the wealth of the nation.

In 19th-century Europe, Foucault (1978a:91-94) explains, the governmental form of power is rediscovered and gains dominance over the Machiavellian concept of the singular "Prince." Politics is seen in terms of an efficient economy, not targeted at territory and citizens, but estimating the fertility of territories and the health and movements of the population. Territory is treated as a space with certain qualities (climate, irrigation), and people are dealt with in terms of their relationships with each other and with things (accidents, deviance, death). The end and finality of governmental power resides in the subjects and objects it manages (Foucault 1978a:95). Governmentality thus breaks with any form of legalism. A law must merely represent, not what is right and wrong, but what is useful for and what harms society (Foucault 1974:589-593, 1978a:92-93). In order to concretize this form of political technology, the population had to be known, i.e. it had to be unraveled in terms of its distribution around a mean ("what does the population on average do?") and with respect to the probabilities of its future behavior ("what will the population probably do?"). The Panoptical prison exemplifies this form of power most perfectly for it combines "security and knowledge, individualization and totalization, isolation and transparency" (Foucault 1975a:249). Hence, there developed a whole series of systems of knowledge (savoirs) centering on the criminal, his life, species and society (Foucault 1974:622, 1978a:103). Among these, statistics gained prominence, for it could establish the general truths of the population based on principles and regularities intrinsic to a society of living beings and beyond the legal-political framework of the sovereign (Foucault 1978a:96, 99-100).

Risk and Social Control

While Foucault’s perspective of governmentality has rarely been applied in studies of law and social control, the concept of risk, which bears definite affinities with Foucault’s approach, has been brought center stage in recent analyses of preventive and predictive surveillance strategies. Relying on a growing body of theoretical writings in sociology (Beck 1992; Giddens 1990), risk is defined as a mode of decision-making based on the knowledge of the possibility of future dangers, the negative effects of which are to be avoided. As positive decisions over negative possibilities, risk analyses provide certain information over an uncertain future. And assessments of the probability of a danger also imply an attempt to avoid the negative effects of dangers: risk assessment always implies risk management (without eliminating the dangers).

The logic of risk shares with Foucault’s notion of governmentality a preoccupation to develop control strategies that are technical, efficient, and politically neutral, designed to render crimes impossible or at least without disturbing consequences. Corresponding to Foucault’s provocative formula of the beheading of the "King" in political affairs (Foucault 1975a:26, 1975b:60, 1977a:98, 1977b:121, 1984a:338), strategies of risk "make up" people (Hacking 1986), not as legal-political subjects, but as statistical parameters in an equation based on objective knowledge of past and present conditions. The implication of a collectivity of people and things enables controls as a "productive network which runs through the whole social body" (Foucault 1977b:119). In line with this orientation, prediction and prevention are witnessed to embrace new strategies of control.

Research on preventive and predictive surveillance strategies has uncovered important dimensions of risk-based or governmental control. With respect to predictive or actuarial control, Jonathan Simon and Malcolm Feeley (Feeley and Simon 1992; Simon 1988), have suggested a shift in law and criminal policy away from a concern with normativity and individual treatment toward an emphasis on technicality and classificatory management. Relying on statistical knowledge of the distribution of variables in a population, actuarial control aims to predict the behavior of categories of people and situates individuals as members of those categories. Patrick O’Malley and Nancy Reichman have similarly related the notion of risk to preventive surveillance techniques. O’Malley (1992) argues that crime prevention does not focus on certain individuals and their actions but instead on the spatial and temporal opportunity structures of crime. Similarly, Reichman (1986) develops an insurance model of crime control to indicate the growing reliance on opportunity reduction and loss prevention.

In recent years, several scholars have pointed out similar transformations of social control, such as the state’s co-optation of informal forms of control (Cohen 1985; Darian-Smith 1993), the extension of police practices throughout society (Websdale 1991), the technocratization of law in terms of efficiency (Heydebrand and Seron 1990), and the commodification and international marketization of crime control and corrections (Ewick 1993; Lilly and Deflem 1996). These discussions have provided important insights into the relevance of risk and governmentality in contemporary forms of social control, but they have generally paid little attention to the historical antecedents of the discussed surveillance strategies. Stanley Cohen (1985:147-149), for instance, arguing that many contemporary surveillance practices dispense with the question of motive in favor of opportunity reduction and crime prevention, also suggests, but does not empirically investigate, that this form of control is not new, but a renaissance. Likewise, Feeley and Simon (1992:453, 459) argue that crime statistics and a reliance on quantification in criminal policy have a long history, but they focus their analysis on contemporary practices. This paper’s goal is to demonstrate that criminal statistics represents one of the important roots of contemporary practices of governmentality. In other words, using Foucault’s perspective, I will seek to bring out precisely those aspects of criminal statistics that are relevant from, and are revealed by, the theory of governmentality.

From a more historically informed perspective, Foucault’s concept of governmentality (and power, in general) has mainly been discussed in terms of its conception of the relationship between subject and power. It has been argued, most forcefully by Jürgen Habermas (1985:279-300), that the Foucauldian concept of power cannot account for the conflictual and ambiguous evolution of disciplinary surveillance and normative law. Foucault, it is stated, placed so much emphasis on the intricacies of the technologies of control that he neglected near to completely developments concerning the legality and normativity of rights. Instigating a debate about the work of Foucault along these lines is surely acceptable, but such criticisms (and their rebuttals) appear to have led to an overindulgence with metahistorical and theoretical controversies largely at the expense of historical investigations of issues discussed in Foucault’s work. Of course, this is not to deny the centrality of history in Foucault’s work and the influence of Foucault’s writings, including his perspective of governmentality, on historically oriented scholarship (e.g., Rose and Miller 1992; and contributions in Barry, Osborne and Rose 1996). But redressing the somewhat one-sidedly theoretical direction of the reception of Foucault’s work, this paper seeks to contribute to the sociologically relevant use of some of Foucault’s ideas.

My investigation of criminal statistics in the following sections presents an historical inquiry of issues raised by Foucault’s perspective of governmentality, rather than a straightforward attempt to test propositions Foucault advanced. This paper is not the first to address the role of statistics in the transformation of power (e.g., Hacking 1990, 1991; Porter 1986; Stigler 1986), nor the first to study the history of criminal statistics (e.g., Reinke 1986). But my analysis presents a more targeted approach, for I will trace certain problematic traits of criminal statistics which precisely the perspective of governmentality can elucidate. I will not, then, seek to explain all matters pertinent to the study of criminal statistics (in fact, I will acknowledge certain limitations), but I do wish to show the historical relevance and applicability of an aspect of Foucault’s work. My intention, moreover, is not to corroborate or falsify Foucault’s theoretical approach, but to elucidate its value and limitations. Thus, I thematically explore the evolution of criminal statistics in Germany and the United States as a manifestation of the governmental emphasis on predictive and preventive control strategies. From a theoretical viewpoint, this analysis will enable reflections on the relationship between subject and power, which in terms of the scope of this paper concerns a confrontation of the technologies of criminal statistics with its legal, political and normative contexts.


Before I investigate the development of criminal statistics in the two selected nations, a few words are in order on the history of statistics. Foregoing a detailed presentation, I will indicate some historical roots of criminal statistics to bring out its distinct qualities as an instrument of state power and surveillance (see, generally, Hacking 1990, 1991; Walker 1929; Westergaard 1932).

The Curiosities of the State: A Note on the History of Statistics

Statistics, as it developed in the 17th and 18th centuries, referred to the science of the state, that is, the descriptive study of the "curiosities of the state" (Staatsmerckwürdigkeiten). The German scholar Gottfried Achenwall invented the term "Statistik" in a 1749 publication on the European empires. Achenwall’s term referred to the verbal, non-quantitative descriptive study of states, and as such statistics became an important domain of study in political theory. The crucial finding of the investigations in this tradition was that social phenomena were characterized by a remarkable regularity over time. There was a tendency to have more and more of these descriptions presented in the form of numbers. The elaboration of "table-statistics" (Tabellenstatistik), which emphasized the enumeration, computation and quantification of state curiosities, originally met with resistance but could ultimately not be halted. Additionally, with the rise of the modern state, statistics became also more and more purposeful, redirected to solve problems of government.

By the middle of the 19th century, mathematical theories of probability were introduced in descriptive statistics (Hacking 1990). Mathematicians had discovered the normal curve and the regression towards the mean, and the applicability of these findings for the study of social and political phenomena was soon recognized. But the joining of mathematical statistics with the study of society was not evident. After all, the founding father of sociology, Auguste Comte (1839), despised statistics because it was based on probability calculus and not on the laws of thought. Why, then, the success of statistics?

The Regularity of Crime: The Rise of Criminal Statistics

It was in criminal statistics that the conjunction of the statistical theory of mathematics and the descriptive practice of the state-sciences was first achieved. The role of the Belgian astronomer Adolphe Quetelet is crucial in this respect (Beirne 1987; Lottin 1912; Wassermann 1927). Quetelet was the first to measure the influences of such factors as age, sex, education, climate, and season on crime, a topic he had first lectured on in 1828. By 1832, Quetelet reached the following conclusion: "We might enumerate in advance how many individuals will stain their hands in the blood of their fellows, how many will be forgers, how many will be poisoners... There is a budget which is paid with greater regularity than that of any finance minister - it is the budget of the prison, the galleys, and the scaffold" (cited in Walker 1929:40-41, Mayo-Smith 1895:263). In 1835, with the publication of On Man and the Development of His Faculties, or Essay in Social Physics, Quetelet formulated the theory of the average man (l’homme moyen). The theory held that all social (and natural) phenomena showed a remarkable regularity from year to year. These findings, Quetelet thought, implied that human affairs obey to a normal curve much like the curve of the probability of errors mathematicians had deductively discovered. This normal curve, he argued, was the result of innumerable little causes which applied to each individual in different ways, while in their totality they followed a law of their own. Thus, the normal curve at once individualized and totalized: the common causes applied to all, while the occasional causes variably applied to each.

In the following sections, I will analyze the rationalities and strategies of criminal statistics as it developed in Germany and the United States. While my analysis is restricted to these countries, it can be noted that similar developments took place in many other states (Koren 1918). Particularly noteworthy are the histories of statistics and criminal statistics in England and Wales (Gatrell and Hadden 1972), France (Woolf 1984), and Italy (Patriarca 1994). In fact, statistics itself was instrumental in its dissemination beyond national borders. For whereas statistics developed in intimate connection with nation-building, including the forging of imperial dominion (Anderson 1991:164-170), its principles, course and outcome were not conceived as completely confined to individual nation-states (Yvernès 1899). This internationalization corresponded to the 19th-century positivist notion that crime knew no boundaries (because it was a matter of society and not of law) and that therefore criminology should know no boundaries either. This perspective was influential among European and American scholars alike. At its Chicago meeting in 1909 the American Institute of Criminal Law passed the resolution that "criminology in foreign languages [must] be made readily accessible in the English language" because "criminal science is a larger thing than criminal law" (cited in Aschaffenburg 1913:v). This functional concept of criminal statistics tied in with the positivist perspective of crime which located the causes of crime in a society of living beings, not in criminal law (Foucault 1978c, 1981a; Garland 1985:121-125; Pasquino 1991; Pires 1991:79-84). Crimes, it was argued, were committed by a specific kind of species being, the homo criminalis (the criminal person). Earlier, in the classic school, the criminal had been defined as a person who breaks a law, i.e. a homo penalis (penal subject), who was conceived in terms of the result of the criminal act (a law was broken). With the invention of the homo criminalis, however, not law but society was threatened, not by crime as a violation of rules but by the species of the dangerous criminal (Foucault 1974:593, 1978g). The lives of delinquents therefore became the object of systems of positive knowledge, and society, defined outside and beyond law (and its national borders), became the new founding principle of criminology (Foucault 1975a:247-248, 251-255, 304).

Criminal statisticians also followed the call to create a functional global order. The International Statistical Institute was founded in 1853 and, between that year and 1897, it held conferences in Brussels, Paris, Vienna, Florence, The Hague, St. Petersburg, Budapest, and Chicago. In 1853 Quetelet proposed at the Brussels meeting of the International Statistical Institute that a census of the world should be undertaken, a proposal which later found resonance among American statisticians (Craigie 1897; Dynes 1899; Falkner 1895). By 1914, the American statistician S. North was convinced that "[t]he language which Statistics employs is a universal language... Thus the science of Statistics in the large sense is the greatest of all the sciences... through this young science of ours the whole world is akin" (North 1914:48, 49).


The case of German criminal statistics presents an interesting field of investigation, not in the least because of Germany’s critical political transformations and federal structure of government. Germany, moreover, was (with France and England) home to some of the most influential theories of statistics and criminal science.

The Science of German Statistics and Criminal Statistics

Since the late 18th century, statistics was taught at many German universities, instigating a wealth of independently organized statistical inquiries in the German territories. Statistical investigations were originally undertaken by individual scholars in search for the laws of social events. But soon statistics acquired a more purposeful orientation, intended to solve problems of policy and crime control (Tönnies 1925).

Among the hundreds of German works in criminal statistics published in the 18th and 19th centuries, the writings of Georg von Mayr are particularly significant. In the first volume of his Statistik und Gesellschaftslehre (1895), von Mayr defined the scope of moral statistics as the study "of the circumstances and appearances of ethical life... whose mass-observation is accessible in number and measurement" (cited in Tönnies 1925:122). Moral statistics included the study of suicide, divorce, crime, and ethical aspects of other phenomena of life and society, such as the legality and illegality of birth, the ethical commitments of the population as measured by church statistics, the obedience to political rule as reflected in electoral results, and the moral qualities of people as indicated by alcohol consumption (Lexis 1910). The quantitative state-sciences were considered relevant for the study as well as the management of ‘ethical circumstances’. Von Mayr (1914) defined the purpose of these inquiries explicitly in terms of their relevance for the administration of society (statistics asVerwaltungsstatistik, administrative statistics).

The Organization of German Statistics, 1800-1914

To sustain the ambitious project of the German science of statistics, a massive machinery for the collection of statistics developed in the German territories (Würzburger 1918). Statistical inquiries were originally organized in statistical-topographical bureaus in the sovereign German principalities since the early 1800s (in Prussia in 1805, in Bavaria in 1808, and in Württemberg in 1820). The first unification of these statistical bureaus was achieved with the Tariff Union (Zollverein) of 1834, and expanded after the formation of the German Empire (Deutsches Reich) in 1871 when an Imperial plan was developed to organize statistical collections for all of united Germany. German Imperial statistics included central, federal, special and community statistics. Central statistics applied to the entire Empire, federal statistics concerned the member-states but were transmitted to the Empire, special statistics pertained only to the different states, and community statistics were organized in cities.

Central and federal statistics were collected and/or administered by the Imperial Statistics Office established on 21 July 1872. Supported by a large number of personnel (some 1,500 by the early 1900s), the reports of the Office were made widely available, horizontally across the territory of the Empire and vertically from the top to the bottom of the administration. Special statistics relied on the statistical offices of different German lands, and community statistics on municipal offices (by 1914, there were 17 state offices and 45 municipal offices in the German Empire).

The management of these statistical collections was not regulated by law but decided upon in the statistical offices. Operated by professional statisticians, these offices collected information regardless of the specific needs of the political and legal administration. This was seen as an important advantage. Statistical material was considered to benefit the public administration precisely because the topics of information were not determined beforehand: "this indefiniteness makes it possible that needs which could not have been predicated in advance may lead to a thorough utilization of the results" (Würzburger 1918:347). Consequently, an enormous amount and variety of information was collected and printed, ranging from data on import and export, demographics and occupations, to deaths, crimes and suicides.

The collection of criminal statistics, finally, was first organized in each German land and uniformed for the Empire after 1882 (Roesner 1942). German criminal statistics included prison and judicial statistics. Prison statistics concerned only convicts, while judicial statistics reported on the activities of the courts (personnel, facilities) and, starting in 1882, all penal offences for which sentence was passed. Judicial statistics were centrally organized from 1881 onwards under the supervision of the Imperial Department of Justice. The courts were instructed to fill in a card for every verdict it had reached, specifying sex, age, place of residence, religion, family situation, occupation, category of crime, place and time of crime, and type of sentence. These cards were collected by the Imperial Statistical Office and the information was published in the "Statistics of the German Empire" (Statistik des Deutschen Reichs) and, after 1900, separately in the "Criminal Statistics of the German Empire" (Kriminalstatistik des Deutschen Reichs).

German Criminal Statistics and Police Investigations

With respect to the practical value of criminal statistics for surveillance, the large quantity of crime data gathered by the German statistical offices was considered of central importance. More information and more accurate information were judged indispensable to control the criminal species. The obsession with counting crimes or criminals and their various correlates is striking. For instance, one work of the criminologist Aschaffenburg (1913), based on the "Statistics of the German Empire," reveals, amongst numerous other things, the number of convictions in Germany between 1882 and 1893 per 100,000 of the population, broken down for women and men, per category of crime, in proportion to the total population for different offences such as perjury, resisting officers and indecent assaults on children, in proportion to the number of inmates of illegitimate birth, and in terms of the days when assaults were committed.

As to the technical difficulties German criminal statisticians encountered, the issues of comparability and uniformity of collection methods were most discussed (von Scheel 1910; Reich 1885; Reimann 1931; Roesner 1930). While insights were gained on the direction, strength and changing rate of crimes, it was acknowledged that the collection methods, within Germany and in comparison to other countries, differed with respect to the utilized categories of crime and the factors measured in relation to crime. German criminologists also pointed out problems because of a lack of theoretical substance. Aschaffenburg (1913:7-12) and Tönnies (1925), for instance, complained that crime data were not disaggregated per individual case and that the classifications were still too much determined by the principles of criminal law and not by criminology as a science of society.

With respect to the influence of German criminal statistics on police operations, no far-reaching conclusions can be made. The value of statistics for the internal administration of society, specifically for police and taxation, was recognized and promoted early on in the development of statistics (Hoffmann 1845). But as criminologist Cyrille Fijnaut (1990) points out, no research has explicitly devoted attention to uncovering the influences of criminology and criminal statistics on police practices. And although theoretical principles of criminological and statistical knowledge were reflected in practically oriented police manuals, such handbooks of proper policing often did not dictate actual criminal investigations and daily police work (Lüdtke 1984). However, the German system of the "Meldewesen" offers an instance where statistical knowledge of the population, of all and of each, was effectively used.

After the formation of the German Empire in 1871, police in Germany was (as centuries before) very broadly understood to concern such diverse matters as murder, health, hairstyles, smoking in public places, and religion (Fosdick 1915). As late as the early 20th century, the Berlin police, for example, was functionally specialized in separate divisions for mining, water, fields and forests, cattle-diseases, hunting, fisheries, trade, fire, and roads. The tasks of the Berlin police included, amongst a host of other things, the supervision of market places, examinations of the quality of food, the inspection of lodging houses, and the supervision of druggists and other professions. In the period before World War I, the Berlin police issued ordinances regulating the color of automobiles, the length of hatpins, and the appropriate methods of purchasing fish and fowl. In Stuttgart it was by police ordinance forbidden to fall asleep in a restaurant, while children were not allowed to slide on a slippery side-walk.

This broad concept of policing could rely on a governmental practice known as the Registration System (Meldewesen) specified in the "Law of Freedom of Removal" of November 1, 1867 (Fosdick 1915:350-361). This law stipulated that all inhabitants, German and foreign, had to report their coming and going from, to and within a town to the police. In the early 1900s, this system required the authorities of the city of Berlin to employ 200 people to manage information, collected in 130 rooms, on 12 million former and present Berlin residents. The Meldewesen system was used for all kinds of purposes, for instance to make up lists of children who were to be vaccinated under the compulsory vaccination laws, to identify men between the ages of 20 and 45 who had not served in the military, or to furnish post offices with missing addresses. Relying on Meldewesen information, the detective squads of the police of different German cities published weekly magazines (Fahndungsblatt, search paper) with descriptions and names of wanted criminals. This information was taken up in similar systems of other cities, so that information on criminal suspects could be transmitted from one German city to another. Efforts were also made to include criminals wanted in other European countries. The police of Frankfurt, for example, published English, German and French versions of the "International Criminal Record," a search paper containing information on the whereabouts of criminals reported by various police forces in Europe. The generality of the system allowed the apprehension of individual suspects. German police squads would raid hotels, lodging houses and public places, and check apprehended persons with information collected in the registration system.


Whereas in the case of Germany a pattern can be observed from the science of criminal statistics to the practice and organization of the collection of crime statistics, the history of American criminal statistics in this respect represents a reverse picture. In the United States, a country with strong pragmatist traditions, crime statistics were first collected and later they acquired their scientifically substantiated purpose as a tool of surveillance.

The Organization of U.S. Crime Statistics, 1800-1933

Closely related to the structure of U.S. government, the collection of crime statistics in 19th-century America was a matter of the individual state governments and the federal government. In the first half of the 19th century, the individual U.S. states already began organizing the collection of crime statistics (Robinson 1911a; Gettemy 1919). Whereas federal crime statistics comprised only prison statistics until the 1930s, crime statistics of the states included judicial, police and prison statistics. Court or judicial statistics concerned people brought before court, police statistics included crimes reported to the police, and prison statistics applied to convicts.

By 1892, the "great lack of uniformity" was already noted as the major problem of state crime statistics (Pettigrove 1892:4; see Falkner 1892). This lack of uniformity was increased by the fact that different kinds of crime statistics were collected. Some states gathered court statistics as well as prison statistics, which were compiled by sheriffs and keepers of prisons who sent their material to the secretary of state or to state boards of charities and corrections. By 1933, some 22 U.S. states were collecting crime statistics, but mostly these data were criticized for being inaccurate and incomplete. As an overall picture of the crime rate in any one state, the situation was complicated by the fact that several organizations collected crime statistics without much coordination between them.

Federal crime statistics were first collected in the census of 1850 and continued in 1860 and 1870, when the assistants of U.S. marshalls (at that time the official census takers) collected information on people who were imprisoned (Robinson 1911a, 1920; Cummings 1918). In 1880 it was proposed that special census officers would be appointed to collect information on pauperism and crime, specifically on prisoners - a plan which was carried out during the 1890 census. Since 1907 the Bureau of the Census organized the collection of prison statistics, and after 1926 the Children’s Bureau collected juvenile court statistics in collaboration with the National Probation Association. In addition, the Federal Bureau of Prisons published statistics of federal prisoners since 1929.

Considering the multitude of institutions which collected crime statistics, the situation was soon recognized as intolerable (Robinson 1930; Warner 1923a, 1929). An initiative of the International Association of Chiefs of Police in the late 1920s was to bring about change with respect to the lack of uniformity in U.S. crime statistics (Committee on Uniform Crime Records 1929). The Association formed the Committee on Uniform Crime Records and developed a Uniform Classification of Offenses. U.S. Congress authorized the National Division of Identification and Information of the Department of Justice to collect and organize police statistics as recommended by the Association in 1930. By 1933, three divisions of the federal government were involved with the collection of crime statistics: the Bureau of the Census (for prison statistics), the Bureau of Investigation of the Justice Department (for police statistics), and the Children’s Bureau of the Department of Labor (for juvenile crime statistics).

The Rationality of American Criminal Statistics

Inquiring into the reasons of why crime statistics were collected and the functions for which they were intended, it is striking to note that most American criminal statisticians did not discuss the matter at all. But precisely this silence indicates the rationale of U.S. criminal statistics. The American statistician Roland Falkner (1889), who in 1888 was assigned by the American Statistical Association to measure the number of prisoners in the United States, indeed suggested the following, deceptively simple reason for reporting his findings in a specific way: "the effort has been made to arrange the material in such a way as to obtain the most numerous results possible" (Falkner 1889:381).

Positivist criminology had since the 19th century focused on the criminal species as a population of living people which had to be known. And this is the key issue of criminal statistics in the United States: the society of criminals had to be known. As one scholar observed with respect to the collection of crime statistics: "The layman and skeptic will naturally ask, ‘What is to be obtained from all this complicated and extensive machinery?’ The answer is obvious. It will make available some accurate and truthful information both about crime and criminals, instead of the wild guesses so common and popular today" (Rubinow 1926:142). In other words, however crime and its control were to be conceived, it was clear that the types of crime, the number of crimes, and the fluctuations from year to year had to be uncovered. Criminal statistics had to expose the nature and extent of crime, and because "[c]rime prevention is not confined to criminal law and its administrators" (Sellin 1934:383), this was conceived as "a problem, not of legislation, but of executive service" (Cummings 1918:689).

This preoccupation with the knowledge of crime is indicated by the problems which American criminal statisticians mentioned with respect to the collection of crime statistics. Almost all writings in American criminal statistics discussed this matter: the existing statistics were considered inadequate because they were incomplete, that is, because they did not present a full picture of the entire crime problem. More specifically, for instance, the statisticians Morrison (1897), Falkner (1892) and Robinson (1911b) discussed the fact that the census only counted the number of prisoners at a given moment and that no accurate indices were available of the extent and fluctuations of crime. Court statistics, it was argued, only measured the number of defendants in court, often without "a few simple facts about the defendant, such as sex, age, and marital condition" (Warner 1934:75). And prison statistics only included prisoners, while police statistics were unclear on the definition of crime (Warner 1934:56ff). Related to these problems, pleas were made for collaboration between the different collecting institutions, for the establishment of uniform classification systems, and for the integration of police, judicial and prison statistics (Robinson 1911a).

The fact that criminal statistics in the United States was discussed from this perspective can be attributed to two factors: the influences since the 19th century of European criminal statistics, and the growing American concern over professional crime in the 1920s and 1930s. The influence of European criminal statistics on the collection of U.S. crime statistics dates back to the 1830s. According to the criminal statistician Robinson (1911a:39), the early work of the U.S. states was directly influenced by the writings of European statisticians. Indeed, when in 1838 the Secretary of the state of New York published crime statistics collected between 1830 and 1837, he regularly referred to foreign statisticians, specifically to Quetelet (Robinson 1911a:47). "The connection, therefore, between the beginnings of criminal statistics on the continent of Europe and in this country is close", Robinson (1920:157) concluded. The collecting of crime statistics in the U.S. was indeed particularly expanded in the 1830s, the same years in which most progress was made in Europe. Moreover, the problems discussed in American criminal statistics are remarkably similar to those debated in the European tradition. Above all, the obsession with obtaining information about crime is striking.

The close ties between European and American criminal statistics led to the curious situation that statistics on crime in Europe were readily available in America. At its meeting in St. Louis in 1871, the International Association of Chiefs of Police, for instance, discussed crime statistics of France, Austria-Hungary, Sweden, Holland, Denmark and Turkey, but not of the U.S. states. By the early 20th century, the American statistician Robinson (1911a) derived most of his research material from German and French statistics. In 1907 the statistician Shipley (1907) published homicide rates of Austria-Hungary in an American journal, and in 1929 the sociologist Thorsten Sellin discussed crime statistics from nine European countries (Sellin 1929).

The concern with uniform crime statistics was also influenced by the changing perception of the American crime problem. Specifically in the 1920s and 1930s crime became conceived as a phenomenon typical for America’s urban areas. The concerns over the professionalization of crime and the perception that the crime rate was on the rise heightened the debate over accurate crime statistics, as indicated by the explosion of criminal statistics research and the development of uniform crime reports in that period (Davies 1931; Fuller 1931; Bettman, Jamison, Marshall, and Miles 1932; Sanders 1937; Marshall 1932b). The elaboration of criminal statistics in America, in turn, put statisticians and criminologists in Germany in the position to find out about the American crime problem and learn from American police experiences. Already in the early 1900s, German criminologists discussed American prison and crime statistics (Fehlinger 1908; Spitzka 1903). By the late 1920s and early 1930s, German criminology and police journals published reports on, amongst other things, American statistics of prisoners and lynchings (Die Polizei 1933; Heindl 1927, 1933; Raper 1932), crime statistics in selected American cities (Archiv für Kriminologie 1929), and the unification of American criminal statistics (Archiv für Kriminologie1928; Bartels 1933).

American Criminal Statistics and Penal Policy

The development of American criminal statistics was inspired by the idea that crime had to be known. But what was to be done with this knowledge? On this issue the general consensus among American criminal statisticians was that more knowledge (and only more knowledge) of the crime problem could lead to an efficient administration of criminal justice. Occasionally, this led to straightforward denunciations of the criminal justice system. Pettigrove, for instance, argued in 1892 that "when you seek the primal cause of our rapidly filling prisons, you will find it in the absurdities of the statutes, and in the carelessness of the courts" (Pettigrove 1892:14). But most criticisms were directed at interventions in, rather than straightforward condemnations of, the administration of criminal justice. The Committee on Uniform Crime Records (1929), for example, stated that accurate crime statistics had to be collected because "[l]ack of such essential data has made scientific police management extremely difficult" and because "[t]he ever-increasing attention devoted by the daily and periodical press to crime topics has resulted in an ill-defined yet wide-spread feeling of uncertainty in a belief that one is not secure in his life and his goods, that police have failed in their task of protection, and that all forms of crime are steadily mounting" (pp. 16,17). Similarly, Rubinow (1926) urged for the collection of "accurate and truthful information" (p. 142), and Sellin (1931) argued that "a crime index is necessary in order that the effects of deliberative policies of social reform, particularly in the field of crime treatment or prevention, may be gauged" (p. 336).

Accurate crime statistics, then, were thought to be the most important basis for a reform of the administration of criminal justice (Warner 1931, 1932, 1934). The value of crime statistics for police was undisputed: "[u]p-to-date police departments use statistics extensively; for example, statistics of the time of day or night when different crimes are committed, and of the occasion within the city, are made the basis for assigning the man-power of the police force" (Warner 1934:50). The courts, too, had to acquire "the efficiency of modern business" (p. 50) because "[w]ithout the aid of statistics, judges are often not aware how they themselves customarily act, much less what their colleagues do" (p. 51). As Sellin (1934) argued, more data had to become available "for our estimate of what Quetelet once called the annual ‘national crime budget’" in order to "[t]ell us where the danger spots are located" and to develop a proper organization of criminal justice that can "catch up with the procession which France started in 1825 and England joined in 1856" (pp. 381, 382, 387).

Detailed investigations are needed to assess the extent and manner in which criminal statistics actually found their way into American legal and surveillance practices. However, beyond the development of the well-known Uniform Crime Report, an interesting application of American criminal statistics can be found in the conception of the predictive system of parole. In the 1920s and 1930s, there were attempts to reform parole in the United States on the basis of assessments of the likelihood of a successful parole (as could be predicted using statistical data on former parolees). The literature on the development of parole as a predictive strategy in the United States is extremely extensive, including discussions of scientific methods for parole decisions (e.g., Burgess 1936; Lanne 1935; Murphy 1934; Sutherland and van Vechten 1934; Tibbits 1931, 1932; Vold 1931) and analyses of parole systems developed on the basis of such methods (Warner 1923b; Hart 1923; Laune 1936). The rationale of these parole decisions was inspired by predictive techniques in the following way. The characteristics of a candidate for parole were measured (e.g., age, sex, color) and a decision was made based on statistical information of the success or failure of former parolees with similar characteristics. A parole candidate was considered more or less likely to commit a crime because of his/her belonging to a more or less probable repeat-criminal class. Reaching a parole decision in this way, it was suggested, officials would be "interested primarily in doing what is best for society, and in what is best for the individual only to the extent that the interests of the individual and those of society coincide" (Laune 1936:2).

The system of predictive parole was not widely adopted in the United States until the 1970s (Simon 1993:172), but the procedure was on an experimental basis introduced in some U.S. prison settings as early as the 1930s. For example, in 1932 the Illinois Department of Public Welfare introduced a predictive parole system at the Joliet Penitentiary (Laune 1936). Parole decisions were reached based on a variety of variables, including time served, age, nationality, marital status, neighborhood and IQ, on the basis of such questions as: "Has your father ever served time in prison?; Do you milk a cow from the right or from the left side?; Do you feel at home in the city?; Do you regularly wear colored underwear?; Do you like to see two people fight?"


The here presented histories of criminal statistics indicate that there developed in Germany and in the United States, as in other industrialized nations, a system of governmental control based on the quantification of crime and criminals. The relevance of these developments is brought out when criminal statistics is related to the characteristics of risk-based and governmental power as proposed by Foucault and applied in the contemporary literature on social control.

The Rationality of Criminal Statistics: A Classification of Characteristics

Criminal Statistics and Risk

The science and practice of criminal statistics in several respects betrays similarities with the rationality of risk. Above all, criminal statistics was a descriptive enterprise which sought to collect, classify, and assess the probabilities of crimes for classes of people and social and physical environments. Criminal statistics was essentially description with a purpose: as risk assessment it collected information, and as risk management it predicted the crimes to be expected and prevented. Thus, the transformation of crime from danger to risk was a crucial component of criminal statistics. Dangers have causes that need to be tackled and ultimately removed. But risks do not call for elimination; they need to be, and can be, managed.

For the scientifically minded criminologists of the 19th century, those were precisely the reasons why the causes and not just the correlates of crime had to be uncovered (Oberschall 1965:45-51). Ferdinand Tönnies and Émile Durkheim, for instance, both suggested the sociological root causes of crime and therefore they clearly separated between the descriptive and explanatory aspects of criminological sociology. Tönnies (1925) differentiated between the science and the method of statistics, while Durkheim (1900) proposed to distinguish criminal sociology as science from moral statistics as method. And, indeed, the application of statistics in the social sciences followed its own course of development (Camic and Xie 1994; Desrosières 1988; Porter 1995). Similarly, it should be noted that the history of criminology cannot be only a history of power and control (although it is always that too) but also of a knowledge which can be critical - not rarely in Foucauldian terms - of modern surveillance and the power to punish (Garland 1992). But for criminal statisticians, the intentionality of counted numbers for power and control, and its concept of crime as risk, entailed important advantages. As risks the probabilities of crime could be attributed to classes of criminals (the young, the colored, the poor) and predictions could be made for all and for each. The associational factors of crime could not be changed, but the likelihood of crime could be predicted and its occurrence or negative effects prevented.

The Governmental Rationality of Criminal Statistics

As Foucault suggested with respect to governmental power, criminal statistics led to conceive and develop totalizing and at once individualizing strategies of surveillance. It was endeavored by criminal statistics to count each and all, not as individuals, but as members belonging to classes. Moreover, criminal statistics was not just a science of descriptions but also a purposeful practice intended to be useful for crime control and the administration of justice. The target of criminal statistics (the criminal species) was uncovered by means of general but minute representations, and, in a general calculating mode, its ultimate goal was prevention and prediction. The purposefulness of criminal statistics was imbedded in the practice from the start. As President Brougham stated at the London conference of the International Statistical Institute in 1860, "criminal statistics are for the legislator what the chart and the compass are for the navigator" (cited in Ferri 1900:52). Of course, this statement was more wish than reality, especially in the case of the United States. For, indeed, although there are critical connections and even parallel developments between the histories of criminal statistics in Germany and the United States, there are differences too, even in terms of technology. In the United States, in particular, harmonization of criminal statistics not only meant technical improvement but also entailed a clash between various, national and local, levels of government. Thus the move towards more accurate statistics also comprised a fight over authority and control. But once technical difficulties of uniform crime collection had been mastered on both sides of the Atlantic, criminal statistics did in effect become influential for crime control, as exemplified by such diverse applications in such varied settings as the Meldewesen system in Germany and the development of predictive parole in the United States. Such technologies reveal not only the definite attempts but also the realizations, however modest, to transform the legally regulated and policed nation-state into a statistically administered society.

The simultaneously totalizing and individualizing aspects of criminal statistics were accompanied by changes in the police function and criminology. Whereas in the United States the role of the police was intimately connected with the federal structure of U.S. government, in Germany the nationalistically sustained unification of the German nation enabled a return to a very broad concept of policing. Notwithstanding the many differences between these two countries in terms of political, legal and cultural developments, in both cases an efficiently conceived management of crime was directed at quantities and qualities of spaces and beings, not based on law as a corpus of rules, but on objective assessments of the criminal species in society. The science of criminology sought to replace the sovereignty of law with the truth of society, and criminal statistics provided a tool tailored towards the management of a population of living bodies.

Criminal Statistics and Law

Conceived in terms of regularities and probabilities, the rationality of risk and governmentality manifested in criminal statistics implies a different concept of society and individual than the one adopted by a concept of law based on rights. Particularly relevant, in my view, are the following four characteristics of the relationship between risk-based criminal statistics and rights-based law.

First, through criminal statistics it was attempted to substitute the individuality of juridical responsibility with the collectivity of risk (Ewald 1991a:201-205; Feeley and Simon 1992:452). With criminal statistics each and all were counted because entire classes of the population as a whole were conceived to be threatened by a generalized risk of crime. The distinct motives of individual violators of law were dispensed in favor of average probabilities of segments of the population. The individualizing totality of crime control based on criminal statistics also led to a shift of responsibility away from the individual criminal, not only to an entire class of probable criminals, but also to aggregates of potential victims. The anticipated actions of the potential victim could become a basis for risk control because criminal statistics revealed the probability and regularity of crime.

Second, criminal statistics aspired to supplant the justice of law with an economic efficiency of risk. Particularly since the early 20th century, criminal statisticians, as experts of the risks of crime, tried to take over from the judges of right, an endeavor in which they were at least in part successful. And while surveillance strategies based on criminal statistics could not exclude or abolish crime, they could economically distribute the negative effects of crime over the population as a whole.

Third, through criminal statistics it was endeavored to replace the morality of law with the calculability of risk. Criminal statistics had established regularities of crime, on the basis of which the probability of future crimes could be calculated. This calculation did not take into account the moral will of legal actors, neither judge nor suspect, but the objective, social and/or natural, correlations of crime.

Fourth, as indicated by the rather limited applicability of criminal statistics, there remained an important breach between statistical dreams and political-legal realities. In Germany, criminal statisticians more readily found an ally in the political-legal system, relying as they could on a long tradition of broad police powers and autocratic rule. Indicative, most tragically, is the ease with which the Nazi regime incorporated existing statistical structures, procedures and organizations in its ruthless program (Hughes 1955). In clear contrast, criminal statistics in America was much slower to develop to the same level of competency, and not only for reasons of a lack of technical prowess. In terms of the realization of the aspirations of American criminal statisticians, Robinson (1920) summarized the problem well: "Most scientists are Prussians at heart, having as their goal a system of government wherein they will be fixed as bright and immovable stars. In a democracy, however, scientists must fight for their position and for their opinions as vigorously as the veriest ward politicians, and the sooner they realize this, the sooner will science exercise some influence in our government" (Robinson 1920:163). That realization, of course, was never fully attained and criminal statistics would continue to remain confronted with political and legal realities. Even the most totalizing of plans for control and surveillance face resistance; or, in the words of Foucault (1975a:27), power is omnipresent but not omnipotent. The development of criminal statistics did not entail a transformation towards a totally administered society but towards a society where total administration is deemed a possibility and a necessity.

Transformations of Social Control: On the Realization of the "Prussian Dream"

The science and practice of criminal statistics constituted an important technology of preventive and predictive surveillance which shares a rationality of risk and governmentality with central currents in contemporary crime control strategies. This suggests not that there is nothing new about contemporary practices of preventive and predictive control strategies, only that they are not altogether new and have roots in the 19th century. This rather restricted thesis should not be understood as a presentist argument, i.e. as an analysis of the past through the present, but merely underscores the value of history, of looking at the present through its past.

Additionally qualifying the conclusions of this paper, I emphasize and acknowledge that I have in my analysis uncovered only one aspect of a broader and more ambiguous evolution of law and surveillance. It would be mistaken to hold that the rationality of risk and governmentality is all that has emerged in strategies of surveillance developed over the past two centuries. Particularly with the formation and transformation of the nation-state and the rule of law, the history of surveillance does not only entail an increasing aspiration towards efficiency and technicality but also includes the development and expansion of social and legal rights. Criminal statisticians aimed this complex relationship to ultimately entail a norm-alization of law (Ewald 1986, 1991b, 1992; Garland 1985:130-134). As such, this aspiration indeed corresponds to Foucault’s suggestion that while governmental power is "probably irreducible to the representation of law", this does not mean that "law fades into the background..., but that the law operates more and more as a norm" (Foucault 1976a:89, 144). Indeed, Foucault in his work explicitly stated, although it is often less acknowledged, that power and control are of various kinds. Most notably, even with the development towards disciplinary and governmental control, there remained relevant to be considered issues of rights and justice (Foucault 1975a:16, 1977b:148, 155, 1983b:380). Likewise, it should be noted that Foucault never claimed that the state would be disappearing, but rather that the "reason of the state" (raison d’état) can not be understood in terms of its self-proclaimed principles (civil society, territory, rule of law, sovereignty). Instead, the state should be uncovered on the basis of its governmental strategies and techniques, that is, as a process of the governmentalization of the state rather than a state appropriation of powers (Foucault 1978b:101-102, 1979a:112-113, 1978a:103-104).

Nevertheless, as Habermas (1985:340, 1992:452) and others have pointed out against Foucault, developments in the legal protection and political appropriation of rights and duties have to be considered in their own right to sketch a more balanced picture of the history of modern surveillance. Foucault, too, acknowledged that there could be no power without resistance (Foucault 1976a:95-96, 1981a:253, 1982b:213). But, though fixing the attitude of critique in the Kantian notion of Enlightenment, he also held that the question of "how not to be governed" appears "rather as a partner as well as an adversary of the arts of government" (Foucault 1978f:38). The motives and interests underlying the development and application of criminal statistics are in fact more complex.

Both in Germany and in the United States, various agencies, private and public, at various levels, regional and federal, were involved with the development of criminal statistics and they all attempted to forward their own, potentially conflicting agendas. In Germany, it was most striking that a nationalization of statistics (as of police and law) was never fully achieved, not even with the formation of a strongly autocratic regime like the German Empire, and not even during Nazi rule. Instead, local agencies and structures continued to dominate practices of governmental control rather autonomously. In the case of the United States, there was not only the clash between levels of government, but additionally impeding uniform criminal statistics was the fact that so many law enforcement agencies were developing competing systems. These police systems, moreover, had their own agendas in developing criminal statistics to further police professionalization rather than crime control (Walker 1977).

Acknowledging the critique of the occasionally rather sweeping implications of Foucault’s notion of governmentality, the central problem for historical studies of power and crime control, then, is not so much whether risk-based control strategies have developed, nor whether modern politics and law have not dispensed with normative issues, but how and why both processes, the development of risk-based surveillance and of rights-based law, occurred together. This issue is not altogether new to the sociology and the discussed tension, generally coined in terms of a confrontation between legality and legitimacy, has been discussed in the works of Weber (1922), Gurvitch (1942), and Fuller (1969). More recently, it has been suggested that the issue can be approached in terms of bringing together insights derived from the work of Foucault and Habermas, uniting an attention for the stubborn, potentially alienating technologies of control with a recognition of the developments and gains regarding democracy, legal normativity and rights (Deflem 1994; Simon 1994).

But what I hope to have revealed primarily in this paper, is that criminal statistics was part of a plurality of activities directed at the fertility of territories and the health and movements of the population regardless of national culture and political context. The fact that the sciences of statistics were applied not only to crime, but also to birth, death, commerce, race and migration, to a general calculus of everything and everybody, testifies to this. But it is beyond the scope of this paper to assess how these different dimensions of statistics co-operated and conflicted with politics and law. I pointed out that the history of control is definitely not only a history of rights and justice, but the duality between surveillance as technicality and law as justice is what needs to be emphasized. As much as the criminal statisticians urged for the adoption of a notion of crime conceived from diverging but always scientifically substantiated criminological perspectives, they also had to regret the fact that the legal definition and treatment of crime still prevailed and that, in von Mayr’s terms, the "continuing production" of criminal statistics was not matched by an equally enthusiastic "consumption" (von Mayr 1914:409). Thus the "Prussian dream" of criminal statistics remained in an ambiguous relationship with the reality of legal rights. In fact, as Feeley and Simon (1992:451, 459) argue, although actuarial control practices have recently found much more fertile ground of application - in part because they can rely on far more sophisticated statistical techniques than in earlier times - even today the "new penology" is not a hegemonic strategy of control and lacks coherence.


I have in this paper sought to demonstrate that the rationality guiding contemporary forms of risk-based social control was already established in the previous century. This does not mean that contemporary forms of governmental control deserve no detailed discussion beyond and because of their historical roots in criminal statistics. On the contrary, while this paper has uncovered important parallels and similarities between criminal statistics and contemporary risk-based surveillance, a full assessment of present forms of control, and of their developmental path from, and differences with, previous forms (e.g., Feeley and Simon 1992:460-465), would be needed to reach a more balanced conclusion. Among the differences between 19th century criminal statistics and present forms of preventive and predictive control, I suggest, the issue of efficacy may be among the most crucial. While the 18th-century cameralist notion of policing, for instance, presents the ultimate Orwellian picture of a society policed in all aspects of life, it should be noted that this form of surveillance was by and large not effective. European societies in the 18th and 19th century were marked by numerous incidences of crime and they remained largely unpoliced. As sociologist Charles Tilly (1994) points out, a history of the rationality and organization of crime control and police must also focus on "policing seen from below" (p. 894), that is, on the actual practices of police and control in confrontation with popular unrest, resistance, and violence.

Particularly two contemporary social processes may be crucial for the realization potentials of risk-based surveillance: the expansion of information systems, and the increasing reliance on computerized technologies. From several theoretical perspectives it has recently been suggested that modern societies are witnessing an expansion of constructed social organizations which are based on systems of specialized knowledge that specify how to act in light of certain risks (Coleman 1990; Giddens 1990). Ever more organizational designs are being produced to address the risks created by technologies, and other technologies are invented to respond to the

risks these technologies in turn pose. Under these circumstances, contemporary forms of risk-based surveillance, unlike criminal statistics of a century ago, do have at their disposal the powerful means necessary, and perhaps sufficient, to fulfill the cameralist ideal. But, importantly, the increased potentials for the realization of the "Prussian dream" in western democratic societies coincides with an unprecedented expansion of legally guaranteed social and individual rights. An important question is what direction this clash between risk-based technology and rights-based normativity will take.


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