POLICING IN CENTRAL AND EASTERN EUROPE: Comparing Firsthand Knowledge with Experience from the West,
© 1996 College of Police and Security Studies, Slovenia


Miran Mitar

At first the article sketches some "domestic" approaches (before the short war for the independence of Slovenia in 1991) to assessment of societal security from the viewpoint of internal security. Then some theoretical dilemmas of conceptual approaches from the view of different theoretical traditions (paradigms), especially from the viewpoint of the latest development of systems theory, are discussed . Bailey's social entropy theory (in simplicated version) as a starting point for assessment of (societal) security was presented, and at last but not at least, the attention is paid to some problems with the use of systems approach.

Keywords: Assessment, societal security, security, systems theory, sociological paradigms, social entropy theory.

"If men define situations as real, they are real in their consequences" (W.I. Thomas)

"...But all the managers must have made some diagnosis; it is difficult to imagine a decision - making process with no diagnosis at all, no assessment of situation. The question is, therefore, where the diagnosis takes place?" (Mintzberg, 1988:721)


The first aim of the article is to show some "domestic" approaches (before the short war for the independence of Slovenia in 1991) to assessment of societal security from the viewpoint of internal security. The second is to present some theoretical dilemmas of conceptual approaches from the view of different theoretical traditions (paradigms), especially from the viewpoint of the latest development of systems theory. The third aim is to present Bailey's social entropy theory as a starting point for assessment of (societal) security, and at last but not at least are enumerated some basic problems with the use of systems approach.

Each nation (or multinational society), which has its state (autocratic or some form of democracy) must take care for external and internal security. This is one of the first and maybe the most important function of the state from its beginnings (for example: Hobbes: Leviathan; Machiavelli: The Prince; Adam Smith: Wealth of Nations). There exist various implicit and explicit theoretical and doctrinal approaches to the assessment of external and internal security in different countries. Here it isn't aim to give the review of all possible approaches, but to show at first that various approaches (which can be implicit or less or more explicit), are sometimes grounded on some religious dogmas, sometimes grounded on some philosophies and ideologies (also cults of personality) and sometimes grounded on scientific theories (or paradigms).

Here we must make difference between (declared and realised) doctrine of state security (both external and internal), which is the rational-(ised) basis (and/or apology) for the organisational structures and policy for obtaining and maintaining security on the one side, and between the various theoretical (more or less critical) approaches (in the fields of various scientific disciplines: international relations, political science, sociology, economy, peace studies, criminology, et.), which gave considerable efforts not only to "substantive" questions of security (what is the proper object of security, what is desired level of security, what are the necessary and sufficient conditions of security et.), but also to "technical" questions "how to take care of security" and at last but not at least to "ethical" questions why to take differential care of security for some social strata and not for other.

In some countries, especially in former socialist countries, there weren't always clear limits between official doctrine and allowed (and prevailing) theories in education and research. On the basis of this statement it is possible to pose questions not only about the similarities and differences between "scientific" theories and "political" doctrines, but also about possible and necessary similarities and differences between the approaches in societies with democratic traditions and between the approaches in societies without democratic traditions. Theoretically the differences can be clearly drawn, but practically there are many difficulties, because the reality isn't black-and-white, but colourful picture (sometimes prevail old principle: "cuius regio, eius religio").


Review of domestic approaches until 1991 (Mitar, 1993) identified 13 published works (which were available at least to professional public) and seven authors, who dealed with the problems of assessment of security. Analysis and comparison of this works show great heterogeneity in form and content. There were great differences in their chosen theoretical background, (under)development of empirical testing and also practical influence.

Near the end of 70's there appeared some articles in professional literature (which was not classified with some degree of secrecy) about the assessment of security. One of the first authors was Korbar(1972), who accentuated the need for holistic assessment of security (from the viewpoint of official doctrine of general people defence and societal self - protection). Čelik (1979) dealed with the problem of assessment of security from the narrower viewpoint of police station, rather than from the viewpoint of community or society.

In the beginnings of the 80's there appeared some more elaborated approaches. Kranjčevič (1981) stressed the importance of assessment of security, not only as starting point in the process of formulation of security policies (of various state's bodies), but also as important basis in the process of formulation of developmental programmes on communal, regional and societal level.

Drašković (1982, 1983) was the first who explicitly theoretically defined his approach. He defined his approach from the viewpoint of Marxist theory of society and dialectical method. In his approach he defined the system of seven types of indicators for assessment of security (indicators of material production; indicators of the prevailing relationships in the sphere of material production; indicators of functioning of relationships based on the selfmanagement in economy and politics; indicators of work of subjects of social self-protection; indicators of phenomena which jeopardise societal security).

Kirbus (1982, 1983) gave more attention for the practical side of assessment from the viewpoint of the needs of the then Federal Ministry of Interior of former Yugoslavia. He defined the term "assessment of security", polythematic content and structure of assessment, organisation of process of assessment (by the special organisational sub-unit which uses scientific methods) and formed also categorisation of assessments (for example- general - particular; long run - short run, strategic -tactical, periodical et.). He also warned on several main dangers and mistakes which were usually present in the process of assessment of security.

Brvar (1984, 1985) dealed with the problem of assessment of security from the theoretical viewpoint of "systems analysis" and from the practical view of information systems engineer(ing), when he defined the need for organisation of Information and Analitic system (as subunit of Ministry of Interior), which would prepare the data and analyses for assessments. He also offered one possible operationalization for the databases, which contains data about place, various phenomena with undesirable consequences (crime and other offences, traffic and other accidents and other offences and other events), calls for police assistance, police's resources and policy and programs of police work.

Vršec (1983, 1988a, 1988b, 1989) stressed the importance of holistic and systematic approach from the viewpoint of theories of organisation. He accentuated the equal importance of negative (sum of potential and actual dangers) and positive factors (sum of security activities and other factors, which enhance security) in the assessment of equation of societal security. He also gave several procedural and organisational proposals for police work.

Review and comparison of approaches to the assessment of security in the period before 1991 showed the move from implicit to explicit, from theoretical (without much empirical research) to practical (organisational and procedural) questions of security assessments (as a necessary starting points for making security policies).

Theoretically was the most important shift from Marxist theory to the holistic approaches, which were more or less close connected with the ideas of general systems theory. Although these approaches didn't elaborated theoretical standpoints and didn't pose sometimes enough critical questions about the relationships between "nice theory" and sometimes doctrinal definition of ideal of "selfmanagement" in everyday reality, nonetheless they contributed to study of some problems of assessment of security (chiefly organisational, procedural and informational questions).


Before the questions about societal security are posed, we must find the answers to the questions about the nature of social science and society which in great deal determine the questions and answers about (societal) security.

Many worldviews can coexist in various combinations, which are more or less consistent.

History of political ideas and history of scientific theories show great amount of different approaches. Different authors give different classifications of ideas and theories, here as a starting point for classification of scientific theories (which are main topic of interest here) about society and security is taken the proposal of four key paradigms (Burrell and Morgan, 1972, viii) based upon different sets of metatheoretical assumptions about the nature of social science (in terms of the subjective - objective dimension) and the nature of society (in terms of a regulation - radical change dimension).


Figure 1: Four paradigms for the analysis of social theories (Burrel and Morgan, 1972, 22)

The four (sociological) paradigms (radical humanist, radical structuralist, interpretative, functionalist) are founded upon mutually exclusive views of the social world. Each stands in its own right and generates its own distinctive analyses of social life. The four paradigms taken together provide a map for negotiating the subject area, which offers a convenient means of identifying the basic similarities and differences between the work of various theorists and, in particular, the underlying frame of reference which they adopt. The map provides a convenient way of locating one's own personal frame of reference with regard to social theory and those of the theorists who have contributed to the subject area.


Figure 2: Overview of sociological theories from the viewpoint of four paradigms (Burrel&Morgan, 1972, 29)

Here one point is worthy of special emphasis (Burrel and Morgan, 1972,25). Four paradigms are mutually exclusive, they offer alternative views of social reality . They offer different ways of seeing. A synthesis is not possible, since in their pure forms they are contradictory, being based on at least one set of opposing meta-theoretical assumptions. They are alternatives, in the sense that one can operate in different paradigms sequentially over time, but mutually exclusive, in the sense that one cannot operate in more than one paradigm at any given point in time, since in accepting the assumptions of one, we defy the assumptions of all others. Each set identifies quite separate social-scientific reality. To be located in a particular paradigm is to view the world in a particular way. The four paradigms thus define four views of the social world based upon different meta-theoretical assumptions with regard to the nature of science and society.

Burrell's and Morgan's classification of theories is used as possible frame for explicit determination of theoretical assumptions, then Bailey's social entropy theory (a variant of open systems theory) (Bailey, 1990, 1994) is chosen as a starting point for building the model for assessment of societal security, although there were various possibilities for making choice (outside or inside systems approach or paradigm). It must be also stressed, that Renn (1992) used similar two axis (individualistic versus structural; objective versus constructivist) in overview of sociological theories of risk (various approaches to risk can be treated as one of possible causes of various conditions of security) and that Baylis (1992) in the field of international relations also used two axis (methodological and conceptual/normative).

Because pluralism is probably inherent quality of thinking (where all people have only one idea, there is no much thinking at all), it is taken for granted here, that in the future, as it was in past, there will be various theoretical approaches to the assessment of societal security. This doesn't means, that there will not be the dialogue among approaches about the core problems of security. As a starting point for dialogue (with scientific arguments) it is necessary to explicitly define assumptions and value orientations of selected approach.


As a starting point to assessment of societal security is proposed a systemic model for assessment of societal security (Mitar, 1995). The base of the proposed model is the social entropy theory (Bailey, 1990, 1994). It tries to grasp the problems of society on the different interconnected levels (individual, group, organisation, community, society, supranational system) and used entropy as the measure of the state of the system (instead of equilibrium). Bailey defined six societal macrovariables (P= population; I=information, knowledge; S =space; T = technology; O = organisation; L = level of quality of life) and made the model with six differential equations:

P = f (I, S, T, O, L)
I = f (P, S, T, O, L)
S = f (P, I, T, O, L)
T = f (P, I, S, O, L)
O = f (P, I, S, T, L)
L = f (P, I, S, T, O)

Here it is important, that the levels and the distribution of variables on some levels (individual level -/without variable P/, group level, organisation, community level, society, international society) have influence on the whole system and on the parts of it.

It is significant to stress, that the unit of analysis could be each society, regardless of the level of development and also its subunits and supraunits.

Baylis social entropy theory was accomplishmed with the addition of a macrovariable called D (deviancy), which includes all unwanted and harmful individual and social phenomena (various forms of criminality, social pathology, internal and international wars and various natural and technical accidents et.).

So new equation is:

L (quality of life) + D (all sorts of unwanted phenomena) = f (P, I, S, T, O).

Equation stresses the importance of the recognition, that life includes both "positive" and "negative" sides (for example, the dark yin and the bright yang). Bailey's model gave us opportunity to define the security of (quality of) life both positively and negatively. Positive definition of security of (quality of) life of selected level (individual, group, organisation, community, society, international society) is that level, which enables that units to maintain and/or enhance the achieved security. Negative definition includes the sum of various unwanted consequences of purposeful (and other individual and social) activities, expressed in the level and the distribution of macrovariable D.

Complete                         Intermediate Entropy -              Complete

Disorder                          Usual Empirical                    Disorder

                                   Occurrence of a

*<---------------------------Social System----------------------------------->*

Maximum Minimum Entropy Entropy

Figure 3: Range of entropy values in social system (Bailey,1994:45)

In Bailey's approach the assessment of the state of the system (and its security) (Figure 3) is possible with with the help of the Prigogine entropy equation (see bellow) of change of quantity of entropy in the system (Bailey, 1994:123) instead with the concept of equilibrium (as classical functionalist approach). This make possible to treat equally the problems of equilibrium and disequilibrium, status quo and the change of the system.

dSt = dSi + dSe

(dSt = total entropy change in the system; dSi = change in internal entropy /entropy produced within the system/; dSe = change in external entropy (from outside the system).

Important is acknowledgement, that the living and societal systems can cope with the problem of entropy, at least in the short run (may be not without end). One way of coping with entropy is the importation of energy from environment, other way is to minimise internally produced entropy (conflicts of all sorts).

Proposed simplificated and accomplished model (with addition of macrovariable D) must be correctly operationalised to get useful data from various resources (internal and external) for scientific research, for problem -solving and policy- making. The process of operationalisation is always limited, because it is not possible to have sufficient information about all macrovariables (which includes several components and factors each), but we must find satisfying solution, this is, we must make choice in order to get insight of variables which have the greatest influence on the entropy of the system and especially to get insight of variables which enable us to reduce the entropy (or which enable us to enhance security). At this point the developed countries have strategic advantage before other countries, because they have besides greater material power also the greater knowledge and capacity to process informations. Because of this fact they have also (a bit greater) responsibility for construction of conditions for minimisation of entropy (on societal and suprasocietal level).


There are some basic problems, which must be solved (Bailey,17 -18), if one wants to successfully model complex social systems:

  1. An adequate definition of the system.
  2. An adequate specification of the boundaries for the system as a whole, for systems components, and for subsystems (if any) and their components.
  3. An adequate measure of system state and adequate operationalization of such a measure.
  4. The attainment of isomorphism between the theoretical systems model and the actual operating, empirical, complex system.
  5. The selection of a suitable set of explanatory variables out of almost infinite number that could be identified in a complex social system.
  6. An adequate understanding of the relationship among the components of the system and between each component, and the whole, to overcome the problem of unwitting displacement of scope.
  7. An adequate analysis of both micro and macro levels and their interrelationships to solve or avoid problems such as reductionism and emergence.
  8. A recognition of the needs of individuals and subgroups within the system and of the systems as a whole.
  9. An adequate defense against the critics that the systems analysis is an inappropriate organic or mechanical analogy.
  10. The recognition of individual, subgroup, and systems goals and an understanding of how they are attained.
  11. An understanding of the role of matter - energy and information in ongoing system functioning.
  12. An adequate diachronic analysis of the system, to understand change over time.
  13. The adequate explanation and prediction (including verification) of salient aspects of the complex system via the social systems model.

Anyone, who wants to make scientifically based assessment of societal security, must give due attention to explicit determination of methodological and conceptual (descriptive/normative) assumptions. The process of operationalization of theoretical model can be narrow (including few macrovariables, few components, factors) or broad (many macrovariables) and can be oriented toward one-level or be multi-level. The main point is to get information about variables, which aren't only explanatory but also controllable, with the main aim of the reduction of entropy of the social system.

At last but not at least it must be kept in mind the acknowledgement (Checkland& Sholes, 1990:23), that the world isn't necessarily systemic, but the method for study of the world is.

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