The Origins of the Term

  • Brian Chapman
Part of the Key Concepts in Political Science book series (KCP)


The term ‘police state’ has been so misunderstood by English-speaking people that only a plain historical account of its origins will enable the reader properly to understand what follows in later chapters of this study. The misunderstanding has arisen because the word ‘police’ has actually two senses, whereas we normally only use it in one. This misunderstanding became greater when the phrase ‘police state’, a literal translation of the German Polizeistaat, entered common English usage in the late 193os. It then acquired the connotations with which we are familiar, and the real sense of the original was lost. We will see that we have two potent sources of confusion: an original failure to distinguish between two separable ideas, and a contemporary failure to distinguish between different notions of the state. The term police state has therefore come to be used indiscriminately to lump together three different types of state, which have certain features in common but which when analysed are intrinsically very different in their natures. This first chapter will attempt to describe the origins and philosophy of the first of these types, the ‘traditional police state’.


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Copyright information

© Pall Mall Press Ltd, London 1970

Authors and Affiliations

  • Brian Chapman
    • 1
  1. 1.University of ManchesterUK

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