Historian and political scientist Mark Neocleous explains that the “term Polizeistaat, usually translated as ‘police state,’ came into general English usage in the 1930s,” increasingly used at that time to describe totalitarian governments such as those of Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia. Still, Neocleous is quick to clarify that, notwithstanding this popular twentieth century usage, it presents a “historical problem” to the extent that it suggests a certain inappropriate picture of “the original ‘police states.’” Those original police states were, rather than brutal, totalitarian regimes like Nazi Germany, early predecessors to the modern welfare state, or Wohlfahrtsstaat.
Given these historical connections between the welfare state and the police state, we might revise our understanding beyond the twentieth century definition, broadening the concept to include not only the most extreme and draconian twentieth century tyrannies, but most, if not all, contemporary “administrative” states. Once we begin to understand these connections and the growth and development of the total state during the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, phenomena such as the murder of Michael Brown become easier to understand. Whether we call it the welfare state or the police state, the reality is that we live in an environment completely dominated by regimentation — coercive control over and regulation of almost every aspect of our lives
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