1st Edition

Unequal Security Welfare, Crime and Social Inequality

Edited By Peter Starke, Laust Lund Elbek, Georg Wenzelburger Copyright 2025
    248 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    248 Pages 18 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    We live in an age of insecurity. The Global Financial Crisis, the Covid-19 pandemic, the wars in Ukraine and Gaza and the climate crisis are just the most evident examples of shocks that have increased the level of insecurity among elites and citizens in recent years. And yet there is ample evidence that insecurity is not equally distributed across populations.

    Bringing together disciplines such as political science, criminology, sociology, and anthropology and combining quantitative and qualitative studies from a wide range of rich and middle-income countries, this collection presents a new framework for exploring the two key social challenges of our times – insecurity and inequality – together. The volume analyses the nature, causes and distribution of subjective insecurities and how various actors use or respond to unequal security. The essays cover a host of themes including the unequal spatial distribution of (in)security, unequal access to security provision in relation to crime and welfare, the impact of insecurity on political attitudes, as well as policy responses and the political exploitation of insecurity.

    An important contribution to debates across several social scientific disciplines as well as current public debate on insecurity and politics, the volume will be of great interest to scholars and researchers of criminology, social policy, peace and conflict studies, politics and international relations, sociology, development studies and economics. It will also be of interest to policy-makers and government think tanks.




    1. Introduction: Unequal Security: Why It Matters and How to Study It

    Peter Starke, Laust Lund Elbek, Georg Wenzelburger

    2. Mapping unequal security across rich OECD countries

    Kaitlin Alper, Peter Starke, Queralt Tornafoch Chirveches

    3. Diverging employment trajectories: occupational differences in unemployment risk and fear of crime

    Zhen Im

    4. The prison security fallacy: How the everyday use of force produces unequal security

    Oscar O’Mara

    5. Insecure in High Security - Health precarity among Women in Norwegian Prisons

    Ingrid Rindal Lundeberg, Peter Scharff Smith

    6. Framing, Inequality, and the Politics of Insecurity during the COVID-19 Pandemic

    Daniel Béland

    7. Economic Informality and Security Policy Preferences in Mexico and Latin America

    Barry Maydom, Ana Isabel López García, Sarah Berens

    8. The two faces of liberalism. Liberal parties and penal-welfare turns in Britain and Germany, 1906 to 2016

    Peter Starke, Georg Wenzelburger

    9. Economic Insecurity, Welfare Retrenchment and Heroin Use between the 1970s and 2000: a multi-cohort analysis

    Phil Mike Jones, Emily Gray and Stephen Farrall

    10. Conclusion

    Peter Starke, Laust Lund Elbek, Georg Wenzelburger




    Peter Starke is a political scientist and a professor at the University of Southern Denmark. Based at the Danish Centre for Welfare Studies (DaWS), he specializes in comparative public policy research and political economy.

    Laust Lund Elbek holds a PhD in social anthropology (Aarhus University 2020). His work broadly concerns the ways in which the state makes itself present in politically, economically, and/or geographically marginal places.

    Georg Wenzelburger is a political scientist and holds the Chair of Comparative European Politics at Saarland University. His research is centred on the comparative study of public policies with a focus on Western Europe.

    Unequal Security is a subtle, sophisticated treatment of a deep problem troubling modern societies. Beginning with a wide-ranging review of the security literature(s) and an in-depth treatment of conceptual issues, the editors offer a new framework for the analysis of security and insecurity in a variety of domains including economic insecurity, fear of crime, prisons, and public health. Throughout the collection – which features diverse, original studies by a group of first rate scholars – the focus is on the interplay between insecurity and inequality: an explosive dynamic that lies at the heart of current challenges to democracies around the world."    

    David Garland, NYU

    "Challenging conventional wisdom, Unequal Security compellingly demonstrates the deep entanglement of insecurity with social inequality. Through its multidisciplinary lens, the book unveils the uneven distribution of security within societies and across the globe. The authors deliver a potent message: in an era where states are increasingly abandoning their promise of equal protection, the need for a more equitable approach to security has never been more critical. This volume is an indispensable read for anyone committed to understanding and addressing the contemporary challenges of inequality and security."

    Kees van Kersbergen, Aarhus University

    "Far too often, research on insecurity has revolved around objective exposure to risk, and as such has overlooked the subjective perception of insecurity that underpins so much of human behavior, attitudes, and citizenship. As this important and timely edited volume demonstrates in rich empirical and theoretical detail, the causes and consequences of felt insecurity pervade multiple aspects of citizenship, primarily through their unequal distribution. Rarely have we seen scholarship on economic and physical insecurity come together in a study of their logical nexus: the state and society. The editors of this volume have brought together an important interdisciplinary collection of essays that will be of great importance for any scholar interested in the multidimensional nature of insecurity, and its consequences for state, society and democracy."

    Sarah M. Brooks, Professor of Political Science, Ohio State University