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Securing the supply chain – conceptualizing commodified security within logistics.
Over the last decades, we saw the extension of for-profit security providers into fields beyond the ‘simple’ provision of loss-prevention, guarding, and patrolling – ranging from the local to the global scale, intruding the more and more into (once) public spaces. Today, the largest transnational security companies (G4S, Securitas) are one-stop shops and offer integrated or systemic security management solutions. The rising importance of security technology, including newly developed IT-based tools, and predictive technologies adopted from police are transformed into ordinary tool kits. At the same time, the industry ‘matured’ in a double sense (Briken2011b). On one hand, selling consultancy became an important value adding pillar, and the industry developed domains heavily relying on the integration of knowledge work and innovation. On the other hand, the industry shares all the characteristics of a classical low-wage sector, including low levels of qualification, insecure and bad working conditions combined with poor promotion prospects (Wakefield 2003). In sum, the security value chain is based on a high-visible and marketized ‘high road’ agenda while relying on an invisible ‘low road’ strategy with degrading dead end jobs (Briken 2011a). From policing borders to warehouse workers, from port security to logistics and strike action, we see commercial security providers increasingly being involved in coercive practices that marginalize, discipline and control spaces, social groups, and individuals (Eick/Briken 2014; Briken/Eick 2017). Using data from a current research project within fulfilment centers as well as desk-based research, and previously done empirical studies, the paper will a) elaborate the empirical scale and scope of commercial security within logistics s, b) conceptualize commercial security within recent debates around global value chains, and c) discuss a further research agenda.