Weakness, Strength and the Business of Protection

Paper presented at the 17th Annual Conference of the ESC EuroCrim 2017, 13.09.2017-16.09.2017

Weakness, Strength and the Business of Protection

How (the Discourse of) the Weakening State Contributes to the Growth of Outlaw Motorcycle Clubs across Europe

Tereza Kuldova

University of Oslo

University of Vienna

Outlaw motorcycle clubs are often in the same business as the state, namely, protection, something that places them in competition with one another, at least in the eyes of a certain, even if marginal, segment of the population. The intent of this paper is twofold, namely to: (1) point to the ways in which the transformation of the state into a business that can actually go bankrupt and that increasingly outsources its security functions to private providers, often recruited from the very same milieu it attempts to fight, has contributed to the production of the criminogenic conditions contributing to the growth and popularity of outlaw motorcycle clubs and (2) to show how the critical discourse on the privatization of the weakening state, mobilizing the tropes of the slow death of the welfare state, widespread unemployment, inability to protect citizens from security threats, and a state indulging in ineffective symbolic pseudo-politics, such as the recent prohibition of club colors in Germany for the biggest OMCs, is strategically used by the OMCs themselves to recruit members and mobilize new supporters. The paper is grounded in qualitative ethnographic research with OMCs based in Austria, Germany, and the Czech Republic.