505.1 The culture of fear and urban space: Thoughts on the social sensation of insecurity

Friday, August 3, 2012: 10:45 AM
Faculty of Economics, TBA
Renata Almeida DA COSTA , School of Law, UniRitter, Porto Alegre, Brazil
Urban living and a feeling of insecurity: a paradox. Social groups, established since the dawn of civilization as mechanisms for protection against adversity, in post modern times consist of a source of indetermination. Insecurity. Uncertainty. Fear. It is about the urban ground, a space that is more private that public, the location where insecurity is produced and attempts of formal social control are made. Currently, the fear of personal and professional victimization determines choices for medieval models of urban construction, whereas these same constructions contribute to increasing the sensation of insecurity. Therefore, and first of all, facing the characteristics of this fear, as well as its presence in contemporary urban society, demands one question, first off: can one affirm fear's existence or inexistence? In other words, has there ever been a time in history when civilization has been absolutely disconnected from the sensation of fear? Might it be the propelling force towards a society's evolution or involution? The following argument has been defended: that governmental agencies employ Criminal Law as a formal social control mechanism and instrument for reducing complexity, which, for its part, uses fear as a form of neutralizing its own presence in society. This is the central thesis of punishment's traditional functions, especially general prevention. In other words, the State employs fear of punishment, seeking to inhibit the fear of crime. In this sense, as focus of this paper, fear constitutes a feeling that is invariably inseparable from a sensation: that of danger. It develops as a response to it. Starting from individual experiences, said personal impressions become characteristics of (and common to) several social groups. Subjective experimentation transmutes into collective, and the symbolic effects culminate in characterization of a social group's way of life.