race & murder

Wojtek Sokolowski sokol at jhu.edu
Fri Apr 23 10:56:26 PDT 1999

At 12:30 PM 4/23/99 -0400, Rakesh wrote:
>Wojtek, I agree that what I wrote was ludicrous (it was just the mood I was
>in; if even raising the racism of these kids is taboo, I just wanted to
>undermine the taboo, though it may be that discussion of those screwy
>social relations is really what is taboo). I am not sure what it means to
>blame screwed up social relations for these thugs--what do you mean by
>this? It's also not quite clear to me what we are trying to do by
>explaining why they did what they did or what kinds of explanations we will
>count as a adequate and what the *latent functions* such validated
>explanations are meant to serve.
>But I stick to my first line for now:
>>> But these kids were not anti conformists; they
>>>were the the most violent expression of the basic premises of middle class
>>>youth society: misanthropically individualistic, racist, and computer and
>>>video game obsessed.
>Thanks for the honest evaluation, Rakesh


I fully agree with your "first line." As to to your question of what it means of being screwed by social relationships, I am re-posting something I wrote in reply to a posting on another list (even though you might have read it). I have to run now, so I do not have time for a more detailed analysis, and I think I already exceeded my posting limit (sorry, Doug).



At 08:21 AM 4/22/99 -0700, Jim Devine wrote:
>Whatever the answer, it seems to me that having a solid community where
>individuals feel a part of a society with others they are less likely to
>want to hold guns. Liberal efforts at gun control seem to miss this point.
>The problem is that capitalism abhors community, especially egalitarian and
>democratic ones. The permanence of everyday forms of living which allows
>people to develop ways of living with each other is continually disrupted
>by the dynamism of an economy dominated by aggressive profit-seeking.
>Further, a lot of communities have been destroyed by government efforts (in
>alliance with corporate greed) to solve social problems using "urban
>renewal" (what people in Chicago learned to call "Negro removal"),
>freeway-building, and the like.
>The kind of communities favored by capitalism are (a) top-down bureaucratic
>communities ("corporate culture"), very much under control, and (b)
>atomized communities joined by such weak links as the passive voting in a
>secret ballot, based on information received by corporate media. Even
>community organizations of people upset about violence and the like seem to
>be subordinated to the official police and encouraged to go in the
>direction of walling themselves off from the world, which encourages
>another kind of atomization.

That is an excellent point indeed. Empricial research of the Chicago School carried back in 1930s demonstrated a relationship between community stability and crime rates. I think those findings hold to this day.

More importantly, the dissolution of community by capitalist development removes social control mechanisms that under normal circumstances mediate th eprocessing of information and reaction to it. That is likely to result in the following:

1. Alienated individuals seek to construct they own identity;

2. In that process, they rely on models and resources most readily available, i.e. pop culture

3. The information supplied by pop culture is not mediated by social relations (i.e the is nobody to say "look, this is crap") - it the alienated individual vis a vis the Big Brother, the Tube, the Celebrity.

4. This process of artifical identity creation is likely to pull together like-minded people and isolate people who differ from each other. That in turn create a group dynamics that encourages the assumed identities with the absence of any reality check. Thus in natural communities, if someone starts acting 'weird,' there are usulally others who impose a variety of informal sanctions for such 'weird' behavior, and that in most cases mitigates that behavior. In like-minded identity groups, by contrast, weird behavior embedded in group's identity receives only positive reinforcement.

In short, the lack of social control resulting from community dissolution makes people more prone to media influence, more likely to act based on that influence. That is why countries like US and Japan have much different crime rates, even though the violence contents of their media is not that much different.



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