Policing World Society: Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation, by Mathieu Deflem (Oxford University Press, 2002)

Mathieu Deflem

Oxford University Press, November 2002
ISBN 0-19-925962-3 (cloth) / 0-19-927471-1 (paperback) 301 pages

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"Mathieu Deflem's Policing World Society is a highly scholarly and groundbreaking book on a subject largely neglected by social science --the globalization of police work. The book is impressive along various dimensions, including its resourceful historical research and analysis, scientific rigor, theoretical sophistication, and rich and illuminating empirical detail. Without a doubt it will be the premier work on the subject for many years to come."
—Donald Black, University Professor of the Social Sciences, University of Virginia. 


This book offers a sociological analysis of the history of international police cooperation from the middle of the 19th century until the end of World War II. Emphasis is on international cooperation strategies involving police institutions from the United States and Germany as well as other European countries. The study provides a rich empirical account of many dimensions in the history of international policing, including the role of police in the 19th-century development towards national independence; international police aspects involved with the outbreak of World War I and the Bolshevik Revolution; the early history of international police organizations, including Interpol; the international implications of the Nazification of the German police; and the rise on the international scene of the Federal Bureau of Investigation. To account for these historical transformations, this book develops an innovative theoretical model of bureaucratization based on the sociology of Max Weber and theories of globalization. It is argued that international police cooperation is enabled through a historical process of police agencies gradually claiming and gaining a position of relative independence from the governments of their respective states. Alongside of these developments towards cooperation, nationally variable concerns of participating police remain paradoxically paramount.


1. The Rise of International Policing
2. The Expansion of World Society
3. Towards an International Criminal Police
4. War and Revolution
5. The Origins of Interpol
6. Policing Across National Borders
7. On the Road to War: The Control of World Policing
8. Policing the Peace and the Restoration of World Order

My book was the subject of two discussion symposia:

Also available in Chinese translation.

  • American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 113(3), pp. 901-903, November 2007. Reviewed by Peter Manning. The book is an impressive model of careful scholarship based upon original sources in several languages, displays sound theorizing, and presents well-chosen examples. It is a work that should be basic reading for scholars in social science, most particularly those in police studies.
  • Contemporary Sociology, Vol. 33(5), pp. 597-599, September 2004. Reviewed by Kirk Miller. Deflem's book... is ambitious, his theoretical contributions insightful, and his analysis adroit... [T]his work is a must-read for sociologists of social control or researchers conducting police studies with any sort of international focus.
  • Social Forces, Vol. 82(4), pp. 1655-1657, June 2004. Reviewed by Joachim J. Savelsberg. Policing World Society is a very scholarly and sociological, and thus fascinating, book... Deflem's book is a scholarly jewel in a sea of literature on policing... In short, Deflem's book should find a large readership.
  • Theoretical Criminology, Vol. 8(1), pp. 109-111, February 2004. Review by Malcolm Anderson. One feature which contributes to the originality of the book is the special attention paid to developments in Germany and the United States, comparisons between them and the growing interconnections between the two systems... Everyone interested in the field of international police cooperation should read this book.
  • Australian and New Zealand Journal of Criminology, Vol. 37(2), August 2004, pp. 308-312. Reviewed by David Baker. Policing World Society is a finely crafted analysis with a strong theoretical basis... This original book is informative, learned, articulate and scholarly... Deflem's book is very ambitious but he succeeds admirably.
  • International Journal of Police Science and Management, Vol. 6(1), pp. 59-61, 2004. By M. Edelbacher. Deflem's enormous contribution is that he is the first to create a fascinating theoretical basis by implementing a 'New Weberian Model' and he opens a completely new perspective in the discussion on international policing. This book is thought-provoking and can be seen as a new standard for future research.
  • Social Problems Forum: The SSSP Newsletter, Vol. 35(3). pp. 13-15. Fall 2004. Reviewed by Marc Flacks. Deflem makes his argument trenchantly, and he has meticulously assembled and analyzed an impressive array of primary and secondary materials in support of it. Deflem's book is to be commended for enhancing our critical understanding of globalization...
  • Journal of International Criminal Justice, Vol. 1(2), pp. 576-578, August 2003. Review by Neil Boister, University of Canterbury, New Zealand. One of Deflem's key arguments is a critique of the assumption that international policing can be explained in terms of the implementation of laws... Deflem's critique is most useful in that it suggests a serious degree of detachment from legality in reality. His book highlights the concern that cooperative international law enforcement is an enterprise that has been historically, and remains, more concerned with efficiency than normativity...
  • International Criminal Justice Review, Vol. 17(1), pp. 63-65, 2007. Reviewed by Aog├ín Mulcahy. Theoretically informed and characterized by rigorous empirical analysis, this book is a welcome addition to the growing criminological lietature on transnational and global developments generally in the field of policing and social control.
  • The Police Journal, Vol. 76(3), pp. 274-275, 2003. By Rob R. Jerrard. This is certainly a valuable contribution to the subject of world policing... This book should find a place in any police library. 


Because the print editions of this book have sold out, you can here download the book in pdf format:
  • PWS Part 1 (until Chapter 3) [pdf file]
  • PWS Part 2 (Chapters 4 thru 6) [pdf file]
  • PWS Part 3 (from Chapter 7 on) [pdf file]
Physical copies of the book can still be purchased via online stores, new or used. Also available in an online version via Oxford Scholarship Online (subscription). 
Citation: Deflem, Mathieu. 2002. Policing World Society: Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation. Oxford, UK: Oxford University Press. 

See also other books by Mathieu Deflem.