Navigating the Politics of Anxiety

Moral Outrage, Responsiveness, and State Accountability in Denmark

in Conflict and Society
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This article explores how Danish police officers and social workers involved in countering violent extremism (CVE) seek to cope with the possibility of public moral outrage being directed at the welfare state when issues of security and integration arise. In such cases, state officials are faced with a difficult dilemma: on the one hand, they could be blamed for inefficient casework if there is a terror attack. On the other hand, the target group could perceive their intervention as outrageous, in which case it may end up producing the violence that it purports to prevent. The response to this dilemma is a dynamic shift between early and intense intervention on the one hand, and hesitation and “pulling back” from intervention on the other. I suggest that this dynamic response plays a crucial role in risk assessment and decision-making processes related to CVE efforts in Denmark.