Technologies of social control: Crowd management in liberal democracy

Kevin Durrheim, Don Foster

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

17 Citations (Scopus)


Crowd protest activity within liberal democratic countries of the West brings into view a series of tensions within the liberal democratic mode of rule. Crowds must be controlled, but at the same time the state should not limit the right of communities to protest. In this paper we argue that these tensions may be resolved by adopting a form of rule which seeks to manage crowds through authority internal to the crowd, by means of strategies aimed to intensify the self-regulatory processes of crowds. Liberal strategies and tactics of social control are identified in South African legislation during the period of transition from apartheid's repressive mode of rule to the democracy of the new South Africa. Throughout the paper it is argued that liberal democratic forms of crowd management find their conditions of possibility in recent developments in crowd psychology, which treat crowds as relational, self-regulating and identified phenomena.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)56-74
Number of pages19
JournalEconomy and Society
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Feb 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Crowd control
  • Expertise
  • Governmentality
  • Psychology
  • Self-regulation
  • Technology

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • History
  • Economics and Econometrics
  • General Social Sciences


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