Neo‐Liberalism, Police, and the Governance of Little Urban Things


  • Randy K. Lippert University of Windsor



This article seeks to refine understandings of the governmental logics that comprise and shape urban governance.  Drawing on research using ethnographic methods that explore the business improvement district (BID) and the condominium corporation (condo) it is argued that exclusive focus on urban neo-liberalism neglects an urban ”police.” This latter logic is most famously remarked upon in Michel Foucault’s writings as targeting “little things” in urban spaces.  Both “police” and the ”free rider problem” it confronts predate and are irreducible to neo-liberalism.  Ethnography helps discern this “police” as well as how neo-liberalism relates to it in private urban realms typically hidden from view.  Examining BIDs and condos in this way shows that neo-liberalism and “police” co-exist and combine in the governance of urban residential and commercial life.  This matters because it reveals a more complex picture of urban governance than is sometimes assumed when neo-liberalism is exclusively invoked and one that is necessarily considered when conceiving of alternative governing arrangements.

Author Biography

Randy K. Lippert, University of Windsor

Randy K. Lippert is Professor of Sociology and Criminology at the University of Windsor, Canada specializing in security, policing, and urban governance.  He is author or co-author of more than 50 refereed articles and book chapters and is co-editor of Corporate Security in the 21st Century (Palgrave-MacMillan, 2014), Sanctuary Practices in International Perspective (Routledge, 2014), Policing Cities: Urban Securitization and Regulation in a 21st Century World (Routledge, 2013), and Eyes Everywhere: the Global Growth of Camera Surveillance (Routledge, 2012). He is also author of Sanctuary, Sovereignty, Sacrifice (University of British Columbia Press, 2006) and co-author of Municipal Corporate Security in International Context (Routledge, 2015).  He is currently Thinker-in-Residence at Deakin University, Australia.




How to Cite

Lippert, R. K. (2014). Neo‐Liberalism, Police, and the Governance of Little Urban Things. Foucault Studies, (18), 49–65.



Special Issue on Ethnographies of Neoliberal Governmentalities