Historical Social Research

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Karl Härter, Security and “Gute Policey” in Early Modern Europe: Concepts, Laws, and Instruments [Abstract]

The article demonstrates that the development of “security” as a leading category and main field of state activity in the Early Modern Era was closely interconnected with the concept of “gute Policey” and the increasing body of police ordinances. Within Early Modern administrative law as well as in the theoretical discourses of the administrative sciences, “security” became a crucial objective of the well-ordered police state and thus succeeded “peace” and “unity” as a leading category. In this respect, the growing importance of security indicates the “secularization” of authoritarian regulatory policy. In parallel to this, administrative law was characterized by the differentiation between “internal” and “social” security. Whereas the former focused on exterior security threats, for example mobile marginal groups, the latter manifested itself in scopes such as “poor relief”, the “health sector” and measures dealing with risks and hazards including bad harvests, epidemic plagues, fire hazards and natural disasters. The resulting regulatory policy gave rise to the gradual establishment of administrative measures in the area of internal and social security, ranging from surveillance to insurances. However, the addressees of ordinances and the subjects also participated in the production of security via “guter Policey”, and in this respect security policy partially adopted popular demands for security and security discourses. Altogether, the Early Modern “gute Policey” could well be interpreted as a prototype of “human security”. But on the other hand, “gute Policey” also implied the juridification of security and the implementation of a state-based security policy, which ultimately led to the fundamental separation between internal security and police on the one hand and welfare policy/administration on the other hand, by the beginning of the 19th century.