AbstractCivil libertarian accounts of the perilous state of civil liberties in modern liberal democracies are partial and unduly pessimistic, suggesting that the inevitable future for civil liberties can only be erosion. The concept of 'normalisation' purports to explain this erosion, but whilst examples of 'normalisation' are commonplace, contrary examples are equally prevalent but remain unacknowledged. This article proposes an equally plausible optimistic corrective to such pessimism, for civil libertarians have in the past successfully resisted and reversed the authoritarian instincts of governments faced with exceptional circumstances. They have done so overtly through the passage of legislation that has extended and enhanced civil liberties, such as the British Human Rights Act. They have also done so more quietly through the repeal of antiquated draconian legislation. In addition, civil libertarian pessimists exaggerate the illiberal predispositions of officials and police. Civil libertarian pessimism is good politics, but poor analysis. It testifies to the contested terrain over which the 'struggle for civil liberties' is fought.
CitationPolicing & Society, 15(3): 353-375
JournalPolicing & Society