Sunday, May 06, 2012

At a bar a few days ago I was grateful not to be introduced to the author of this:
For most of the past two centuries, at least in so-called civilized societies, the ideal of punishment has been replaced by the hope of rehabilitation. The American penitentiary system was invented to replace punishment with "cure." Prisons were built around the noble ideas of rehabilitation. In society, at least in liberal society, we're supposed to be above punishment, as if punishment were somehow beneath us. The fact that prisons proved both inhumane and miserably ineffective did little to deter the utopian enthusiasm of those reformers who wished to abolish punishment.

Incarceration, for adults as well as children, does little but make people more criminal. Alas, so successful were the "progressive" reformers of the past two centuries that today we don't have a system designed for punishment. Certainly released prisoners need help with life—jobs, housing, health care—but what they don't need is a failed concept of "rehabilitation." Prisons today have all but abandoned rehabilitative ideals—which isn't such a bad thing if one sees the notion as nothing more than paternalistic hogwash. All that is left is punishment, and we certainly could punish in a way that is much cheaper, honest, and even more humane. We could flog.
The author's wife writes about food and dinner parties for 20. She extols the virtues of the neighborhood we live in, with its cultural and culinary diversity. She exemplifies the modern "cosmopolitan" gentrifier: enthusiastic and unreflective. Her husband, the Ivy graduate with (white) working class pretensions, espouses torture. The immigrants, of all groups, are both less pretentious and simply more interesting.

As a teacher Moskos should understand what teaching means, in terms of content, as process, as form. All education in the end is self-education, the opportunity to "cure" oneself. Institutional liberalism succeeded only in instituting pity, but good teachers have always shown concern. It's a form of respect; pity and paternalism are forms of contempt. He spent a year as a Baltimore cop; maybe he should spend a year teaching in prison.

But Moskos can't get beyond his own sense of superiority. He's a sociologist, and science is not self-reflective. It's concerned with content, not form. So his suburban arrogance is irrelevant, as irrelevant as the unrecognized distinction between concern and pity. Concern is expensive. His science ignores that too.

On his romance with lower middle class morality, we've been here before.

"Stop Snitchin'" for white folks


  1. He's a sociologist, and science is not self-reflective. It's concerned with content, not form.

    What do you mean?

  2. "Content not form" Content not context.
    Academics don't read academic papers for subtext. maybe they should.


Comment moderation is enabled.