Bureaucratization and Social Control: Historical Foundations of International Police Cooperation




Law and Society Review



I employ a theoretical framework developed on the basis of the writings of Max Weber to analyze historical developments in the formation of international police organizations. I rely on a comparative analysis of selected cases of international police networks and centrally focus on the most famous and enduring of such structures, the International Criminal Police Commission, the forerunner of the organization since 1956 known as “Interpol.” Using a Weberian perspective of bureaucratization, I maintain that the formation of international police organizations was historically made possible when public police institutions were sufficiently detached from the political centers of their respective states to function autonomously as expert bureaucracies. Under such circumstances of institutional autonomy, police bureaucracies fostered practices of collaboration across the borders of their respective national jurisdictions because and when they were motivated by a professionally defined interest in the fight against international crime. In conclusion to this analysis, I argue for the value of sociological perspectives of social control that are not reductionist, but that instead bring out the specific socially and sociologically significant dimensions of control mechanisms.

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