Government and Control
Posted: 16 Jul 2008
Date Written: 2000
Advanced liberal democracies are currently witnessing a bewildering variety of developments in regimes of control. These range from demands for execution or preventive detention of implacably dangerous or risky individuals-sexual predators, paedophiles, persistent violent offenders-to the development of dispersed, designed in-control regimes for the continual, silent and largely invisible work of the assessment, management, communication and control of risk. Political programmes of crime control appear to have little stability, cycling rapidly through all the alternatives from'prison works','short, sharp shocks' and'boot camps', through'community corrections' and'reintegrative shaming' via'therapeutic rehabilitation' to'nothing works' and'three strikes and you're out'. Of course, programmes of crime control have always had less to do with control of crime than they have to do with more general concerns with the government of the moral order. And concerns about illegality and crime have been articulated as much, if not more, by institutions and practices which are not part of the criminal justice system than by those that are conventionally considered to be part of such a'system'. Nonetheless, even at this more general level, things seem confusing. Despite claims that we live in a post-disciplinary society (Simon), that dangerousness has given way to risk (Castel), that control in now continuous, immanent and cybernetic rather than discontinuous, localized and individualizing (Deleuze), there appears to be little strategic coherence about these developments at the level of their rationalities, and much diversity and contingency at the level of their technologies. This paper will attempt to explore this complexity along a number of dimensions. It will consider the ways in which particular'regimes of illegalities' have been individuated and problematized, and suggest that, although these are diverse, some at least can be understood as infractions of freedom, that is to say, as problematic because they throw into question the very presuppositions of moral consciousness, self-control and self-advancement through legitimate consumption upon which governmental regimes of freedom depend. It will consider the'conceptions of the criminal' that circulate within practices for the government of illegality, and suggest that, despite the apparent diversity of these conceptions-where biological arguments about inherited tendencies cohabit with communitarian arguments about the virtues-the pervasive image of the perpetrator of crime is not one of the juridical subject of the rule of law, nor that of the bio-psychological subject of positivist criminology, but of the responsible subject of moral community guided-or misguided-by ethical self-steering mechanisms. And it will consider the forms of knowledge and modes of expertise that are implicated in these new techniques and rationalities of control.
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