State security and national security

Image: Ekaterina Bolovtsova


The new meanings of public security in the global order.

“Between the two worlds, the truce we are not in”
(Pier Paolo Pasolini, Gramsci's Ashes).

The public “state of security” of a formally organized State based on the rule of law is that material situation in which its formal institutions are able to ward off “any danger” or serious instability, operating within its legitimate institutions and in its legal forms. The greater meaning of the “security state” in a democracy is the defense of life, citizenship rights, environmental health and territorial integrity, and in whose political capacity, the possibility is also contained to decide on the exception.

State Security, in the Constitutional Social State, therefore, must compose a specific vision of the “nation's security”, whose objectives link the National Security policy to constitutional democracy, with the objectives expressed in the Preamble of the Constitution.

The parameters that involve these relations, however, are no longer the same as in the last century, since the human beings who form the nation's political community are both closer and more distant from each other; they are both more humiliated and oppressed; they are both more supportive and more isolated in their voluntary prisons on social networks. The network society of the modern nation is both a society of socialization of virtues and the distribution of crises and human perversions, produced in the flows of the unbridled movement of globalized financial capital and the speed of information in which the world is local and the place is the world, where everyone is always at the center, regardless of where they are geographically: parodying Jorge Luis Borges, in the desert of utopias, one is always at the “center”.

I resort to the thought of master Luigi Ferrajoli, in his Legal Reasons for Pacifism,[I] where he organizes the preliminaries of his proposal for a "Constitution of the Earth". I do so to argue that Public Security, based on the Preamble of the Constitution – today – must be redefined in the face of the new global situation. It is, more than before, a structural part of State Security, whose qualities or negativities generate - more than anything - the most forceful effects in the daily life of the nation's community.

It is in security to live in public that the bonds of common life, more or less humanized, are found, as well as in the most evident gaps in the complex relationship between morality and law, which transits to daily life in security. It is through the police State and the social control State that Public Security, as a public policy integrated with State Security, reveals and apprehends both the greatness of the right enshrined in the Constitution, and can also show the perverse side of lawless force.

The issue of universal security as an abstract set of global situations opens up –in this context– a new basic problem, to be resolved at the various levels of legal and political intervention by the State in order to 'remove any danger'”. The different levels of security are no longer separated from State Security, whose institutions are expressed not only as a “norm”, but also as part of a predictable “conduct” in the social environment. When Ferrajoli spoke about the hopes for peace on the planet, he warned about it: “what happened without a doubt is certainly the opposite. In the new multipolar world, (...) the great problems of the planet were ignored and even aggravated (...) (which thus) accumulated against the West its threats to world peace and security, which our own myopia contributed to generate. ”

The meaning of Public Security, therefore, ceases to be something to be treated in isolation, seen only from within the territory, as its problem is no longer predominantly parochial, but comes integrally within the new global order. It comes in financial, information, cultural and powerful weapons flows, it comes in the exploitation of biodiversity and in the illegal appropriation of internal biodiversity, in the illegal processes of drug trafficking, people and goods, which originate –both inside and outside the formal economy – inside and outside the territory, from the world to any neighborhood and coming from any neighborhood to the whole world. This movement – ​​internal and external – is promoted by new interests, both legal and illegal, conjugated in the new geopolitical order, in the new and diverse fragmented points of political power, at the same time that they are close and distant from the new centers of real power.

In chapter III of the book by Rogério Gesta Leal,[ii] Matrix of Public Security Policies in Brazil, it is said: “it is necessary to create conditions for universalizing the expectation that the laws will be complied with and the rights will be respected, especially the fundamental ones, such as the right to life, (…) Liberal democracy only survives, therefore, as an affirmation, not as a denial of the Enlightenment idea of ​​a society based on reason and equality, in the form of the Social Constitutional State: only in it can democracy, with a reformed public security system, be imposed on the illusion of immediate and arbitrary security of the old totalitarian orders.

The truth is that no government will be able to remain legitimate, in the current global context, without putting a coherent three-step strategy on its agenda, with a view to citizen “public security”: (i) the idea of ​​public security must be thought of in the universal – planetary – moment now experienced, through the integration of the democratic idea with “State Security” (constitutional democratic), connected with “National Security” (founded on the Rule of Law); (ii) the current conception of public security, bureaucratic-Weberian, depends on the production of a new vision of “public security”, going beyond the traditional vision of the Weberian machine-function; (iii) understand that there is a permanent dispute, virtual and real – ideological and military – for the control of the territories richest in natural assets that is based on “military Keynesianism” (from the “Reagan era”), whereby the acceleration of the arms industry in rich countries is an economic strategy to defend their national economy and a way of waging their wars of geopolitical interest.

In an article published in May 2019, I wrote the following about the situation in South Africa in the last century, where this integrated idea of ​​security served racist and totalitarian purposes: “Nelson Mandela was imprisoned for 27 years, first in Robben Island Prison, after 6 years in Pollmoore Prison. Finally, (…) he went to the Victor Vester complex – from 88 to 90 –already assisted by an Officer of the South African Army. This last stage of his martyrdom closed the circuit (…) of political command and negotiations with the racist Government, which had been on the rise since the improvement of his prison conditions, when Mandela was removed from Robben Island.”[iii]

The aforementioned historical situation, which began in the “apartheid“Social and racial” – promoted within the “legal order” – merged issues of State Security with the formal institutions of National Security, which provided for the exclusion of the black majority from the current order and thus shaped an expanded conception of Public Security, to point to any social “disorder” (or common crimes) – committed within communities of the black majority – concrete threats to the security of the racist “Rule of law” and the idea of ​​a racist nation, “legally” instituted.

The transition from a “highly dangerous” common criminal (“terrorist”) to the condition of Head of State was only possible when something very strong befell the concrete State, in a fusion that is now historically unlikely: in it the dying order it already contained within it another order, which had already become hegemonic without fully dominating the state. This is what does not happen today in the transition to be made politically and normatively from the modern rule of law to the constitutional social state.

It is worth remembering Theodor Adorno's studies on right-wing radicalism, which is present in the most narcissistic modern periods when the dissolution of utopias is transformed into “eras of diminishing expectations” through a “fringe of lunatics” that, in given social conditions, tends to expand. In later studies, in a 1967 lecture, the philosopher already found that these groups are not only composed of “lunatics”, but also of “anticipators” of a “generalized state of mind”, which takes the form of a “collective desire for the apocalypse”.[iv] It is the emergence of the cultural archetype of the XNUMXth century.

The idea that law, in constitutional democracies – in any country centered on liberal-democratic institutions – has of itself, is a key idea to verify the effectiveness of the values ​​contained in its superior norms. The view of American constitutional liberalism on the protection of the citizen "in the face of state arbitrariness" - brought to the sociological reality of living with "other equals" - acquires in the "fundamental right" to collective "public security", a founding idea[v], because it, the true and universal public security, is what generates a free and equal social life. Replacing the “explanatory bet”, a fringe of lunatics, by entire social groups subordinated to the hypnosis of the market, which breaks or violates social cohesion, in which people can be minimally supportive in order to survive, explains the vision that democratic liberalism wants to cultivate for itself same. And that must be worshiped both by a reorganization of concepts, as by government practices consistent with the globalized universal society.

*Tarsus in law he was governor of the state of Rio Grande do Sul, mayor of Porto Alegre, Minister of Justice, Minister of Education and Minister of Institutional Relations in Brazil. Author, among other books, of possible utopia (Arts & Crafts).


[I] FERRAJOLI, Luigi. Legal reasons for pacifism. Edited by Gerardo Pisarello. Madrid: Editorial Trotta, A. S, 2004, p. 66.

[ii] LEAL, Rogerio Gesta. Public security in the Brazilian democratic state of law: advances and setbacks. (under development).

[iii] GENRO, Tarsus. Lula and Mandela: negotiation, revolution and democracy. Available here.

[iv] GENRO, Tarsus. The hydra has not been nullified. Available here.

[v] KRIELE, Martin. Introduction to Theory of the State: The historical foundations of the legitimacy of the Constitutional Democratic State (Einführung in die Staatslehre: Die Geschichtlichen Legitimitätsgrundlagen des demokratischen Verfassungsstaates). Translation: Urbano Carvelli. Porto Alegre: Sérgio Antônio Fabris Editor, 2009, p. 239.

the earth is round exists thanks to our readers and supporters.
Help us keep this idea going.

See this link for all articles