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Drawing heavily on the original interviews conducted during the research, this chapter provides a comprehensive account of the history of the Prevent policy. This chapter identifies the key discursive and organisational shifts that have occurred within the development of Prevent, periodising Prevent into three distinct phases: 2001–6; 2007–10; and 2011–15. It demonstrates that the changes to Prevent reflect an underlying debate that sits at the heart of the policy: should Prevent focus on those at imminent risk of radicalisation? Or should the focus be broader, engaging with the ideas and values of communities that may justify and enable violent extremism? A security and an identity strand. The debate between these positions, narrated in the interviews and policy documents, represents the conventional narrative of Prevent, where, at times, the strands are brought together, and at times, it is their separation that is advocated.

in Counter-radicalisation policy and the securing of British identity

This chapter demonstrates that the anlaysis of chapter 1 has been, historically, reproduced across much of the academic literature on Prevent. This literature, it will be argued, often sees the ‘solution’ to Prevent as the separation of its security and identity strands. It therefore positions the two strands as ‘separable’, failing to go beyond the questions that the policy itself asks. It can thus be argued that the academic literature, even when critical, has failed to develop an account of Prevent that conceptually grasps the relationship between security and identity established in the policy. This chapter then analyses two approaches to Prevent, emergent within the literature, that provide a means of moving beyond this position: first, an approach that argues Prevent has produced Muslims in the UK as a ‘suspect community’, and second, an approach that argues Prevent represents a strategy of counter-insurgency.

in Counter-radicalisation policy and the securing of British identity
Stopping people

This chapter starts to challenge the narrative introduced in chapters 1 and 2, and establishes the central relation within Prevent between security and temporality. It argues that Prevent represents a novel ambition for the state: early intervention into processes of becoming violent. It thus intervenes within conditions of uncertainty, in that it is not certain whether such an individual would go on to participate in violence or any other illegal act. Engaging with the emergent academic literature in this area, the chapter argues that such intervention necessarily acts within conditions of uncertainty. This in turn requires discursive and institutional mechanisms that make such a threat knowable and actionable. The term preclusive is introduced here as a general term that emphasises this relation between security and temporality, making clear that all acts of securing are necessarily productive of a future threat they then preclusively act on to mediate. The chapter then demonstrates how the concept of radicalisation fulfils this function for Prevent, identifying potential future violence in the present.

in Counter-radicalisation policy and the securing of British identity