Things Fall Apart, the Center Cannot Hold

43 Pages Posted: 30 Jan 2009

See all articles by Sandra Berns

Sandra Berns

affiliation not provided to SSRN

Date Written: January, 29 2009


This article argues that the modes of governmentality characteristic of post-industrial risk societies have the potential to fatally compromise rule of law values. While, post-9/11, the desire to prevent future terrorist attacks is one driver of such policies, populist demands for measures such as the indefinite detention of violent offenders or the introduction into Australia of forms of Megan's Law, are equally potent forces. Against this background, this article explores a variety of phenomena characteristic of risk societies including the rise of gated communities and other forms of voluntary ghetto. When the management of anxieties becomes the core object of government, the author argues the primacy of this objective both overrides rule of law values such the presumption of innocence and replaces key liberal values such as tolerance and respect for the Other with a greatly expanded panopticon in which we are all commanded to take our place among the watchers (and, simultaneously, the watched).

Keywords: Risk, rule of law, terrorism, ghetto, anxiety, presumption of innocence, liberalism, tolerance, panopticon

Suggested Citation

Berns, Sandra, Things Fall Apart, the Center Cannot Hold (January, 29 2009). Griffith Socio-Legal Research Centre, Research Paper No. 09-02, Available at SSRN: or

Sandra Berns (Contact Author)

affiliation not provided to SSRN