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The Culture of Fear and Control in Costa Rica (II): The Talk of Crime and Social Changes

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  • Sebastian Huhn

    () (GIGA Institute of Latin American Studies)

Abstract

The Costa Rican talk of crime is fundamentally based on the assumption that a formerly explicitly nonviolent nation has been transformed into a battleground for social violence — that is, on the belief that an alarming “crime wave” is occurring today while there was no crime at all in the past. On the basis of this assumption, the fear of crime and the call for zero tolerance and drastic law enforcement actions have been increasing. In this paper I discuss the Costa Rican talk of crime from a historical perspective to demonstrate that crime has always been a topic that has generated pervasive feelings of insecurity and social pessimism. I argue that social changes in Costa Rican society and the paradigmatic shift in economic and social-welfare politics since the 1980s have been essential in the transformation of the talk of crime. As part of this transformation, the politicization of crime since the 1990s has been one of the most powerful changes in the dominant discourse.

Suggested Citation

  • Sebastian Huhn, 2009. "The Culture of Fear and Control in Costa Rica (II): The Talk of Crime and Social Changes," GIGA Working Paper Series 108, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
  • Handle: RePEc:gig:wpaper:108
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    References listed on IDEAS

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    1. Sebastian Huhn, 2008. "A History of Nonviolence: Insecurity and the Normative Power of the Imagined in Costa Rica," GIGA Working Paper Series 84, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    2. Moser, Caroline O.N. & McIlwaine, Cathy, 2006. "Latin American Urban Violence as a Development Concern: Towards a Framework for Violence Reduction," World Development, Elsevier, vol. 34(1), pages 89-112, January.
    3. Sebastian Huhn, 2009. "Contested Cornerstones of Nonviolent National Self-Perception in Costa Rica: A Historical Approach," GIGA Working Paper Series 101, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    4. Sebastian Huhn, 2008. "Discourses on Violence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: Social Perceptions in Everyday Life," GIGA Working Paper Series 81, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    5. Peter Peetz, 2008. "Discourses on Violence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: Laws and the Construction of Drug- and Gender-Related Violence," GIGA Working Paper Series 72, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    6. Bert Hoffmann, 2007. "Why Reform Fails: The ‘Politics of Policies’ in Costa Rican Telecommunications Liberalization," GIGA Working Paper Series 47, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    7. Peter Peetz, 2008. "Discourses on Violence in Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Nicaragua: Youth, Crime, and the Responses of the State," GIGA Working Paper Series 80, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    8. Sebastian Huhn, 2009. "The Culture of Fear and Control in Costa Rica (I): Crime Statistics and Law Enforcement," GIGA Working Paper Series 104, GIGA German Institute of Global and Area Studies.
    Full references (including those not matched with items on IDEAS)

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    Keywords

    Costa Rica; violence; crime; social order; public discourse; social change;

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