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Why I am a Republican

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  • #76
    crime of course existed for as long as humanity. Law and what foucault called "illegalisms" to distinguish them from the notion of the delinquent exist from time immemorial. but the delinquent as a category of human beings is in great part a creation of capitalism (if he's to be believed...) and conveys a massive use of imprisonment.
    In ancient societies, crime is primarily interpreted as defying authority (wordly or divine) and is dealt with according to this notion: criminals are physically punished as a reaffirmation of power. they can be killed, tortured, deprived of their possesions or status, excommunicated even... basically the message is if you fuck with the powers that be you'll end up losing more than what you'll get.

    prison and "the delinquent" correspond to new needs, esp. the need to deal with the excluded part of the population. there is nothing like social exclusion in ancient regimes. as miserable as your lot can be, you are born something and can (often must ) always be that. If you commit crimes, you're either eliminated or you go back to where you belong in the social organization. With capitalism appears a class of people who have no social role and are unable to get one. The idea of the Delinquent as a social group appears. It doesn't coincide exactly with the sum of people who commit illegal acts. when you think of the Delinquent what comes to your mind is not the tax cheater...

    increased control of the individual by the state becomes a need because of the system's exclusive nature, too. the obtention of a status increasingly depends on the state (instead of your father was that, he taught you that and that's what you are, proof being your ability to do that...erm, am i being clear???). increasing amounts of information are needed to determinate and justify the individual's status.

    and of course the newborn Delinquent class has to be dealt with. which is done in the way that caracterizes this new society, that is through heavy control.
    The consequence is massive imprisonment. Prison doesn't work as it neither amends the real Delinquent nor definitively eliminates him. but then are those the actual functions of prison? Foucault's idea is that prison is the ultimate tool to keep the Delinquent class under control.

    I'm not a great fan of Foucault's anymore, but much of what he wrote i think is brilliant. I thought as a psychiatrist and a curious, unquiet spirit you might have read him.

    Prison can create a lot of cooperative almost neighborly behavior and I think that it is exciting because of the surveillance factor. I would say that many of the guys in prison are more kind to each other than you are to your next door neighbor. So it can be like a micro ideal society.
    well...http://www.hrw.org/reports/2001/prison/

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