Ideology of Crime

1. The first thing to notice is that I use the word “ideology” in a technical sense, which is both counter-intuitive and, for the time being, idiosyncratic. It is the first, namely counter-intuitive, because, as I use it, my use of the word does not refer to any theory, or to sets of beliefs, or to what one believes in. Normally, as we use the word in English, ‘ideology’ has multiple meanings: a false consciousness; accepting a theory known to be false; presenting the interests of a small strata of people as the universal interests of all; subscribing to premises that are either unjustified or not-examined; and so on. My use has no such connotation. It is the second, namely idiosyncratic, because I have not yet developed a hypothesis about ideology that can explain and justify my use of the word.

2. Currently, as I use it, ‘ideology’ merely means the following: “the ability to…” That is to say, ideology merely ‘enables’. Enables to do what? (Or, ability to do what?) The answer to this question depends on what that ideology is about. That is to say, we have to speak about ideology of ‘something’ whenever we speak about ‘ideology’. In so far as I speak about an ideology of crime, I suggest that it is the ability to present crime as morally praiseworthy. This is the ideology of crime.

3. To get a grip on this rather unfamiliar use of the word ‘ideology’, I suggest you see ideology in relation to technology: what technology is to natural sciences is what ideology is to social theories. In the process of trying to know the natural world, human ‘ability to…’ also grows. Ability to do what? That depends on what that technology is about. That is, it could be technology of microprocessors, technology of oil recuperation, technology of automobile engineering… Even though we use ‘technology’ as an independent word, it makes more sense to specify what kind of technology we are talking about. Analogous consideration holds good for ‘ideology’ as well.

4. The more we try to understand the human world, the more our ‘ability to..’ grows. Ever since the Second World War, there is an enormous growth in and proliferation of all kinds of ‘theories’ about human beings. Especially under the onslaught of post-modernism and post-colonialism, there is an increased ability to defend almost anything as ‘moral’ and ‘justifiable’: forgery, mimicry, dishonesty, cowardice,… etc are now seen as an expressions of ‘resistance’ (something heroic) of the colonized. People like Homi Bhabha and Gayatri Spivak have made it a very lucrative business to tell such stories. Anti-rationality, anti-science, Anti-west, etc have become a part of our intellectual landscape, in no small means thanks to the post-World War theorizing. The ability to present crime as morally praise worthy comes from such theorizing. That is to say, thanks to what has happened in the post-World War theorizing, it is now possible to build an ideology of crime. This is what I am trying to get at. (I hope to begin working on the notion of ideology in the coming year.)

5. Because ideology is merely the ‘ability to…’, justification of the acts require that people appeal to theories: political, social, moral or even to sets of religious beliefs. So, Ideology of crime enables one to present crime as morally praiseworthy irrespective of what beliefs or theories one uses: Islam, Christianity, Marxism, post-colonialism… You will see, therefore, that ideology is not ‘independent’ of all these kinds of theories; nor is it ‘prior’ to them. The emergence of ideologies depend upon the nature and growth of our theorizing about human beings. Whether all possible ideologies also get built depends on other things I have no clear understanding of.

6. In the article, I speak (deliberately) a bit loosely about ‘terrorist acts’. Actually, my hypothesis forbids me from speaking in these terms: there are only criminal acts that are re-described as ‘terrorist acts’. What we call as the ‘terrorist acts’ are acts of supererogation, in so far as the terrorist is concerned. For the rest of the world, they are acts of crime. The ideology of crime enables the terrorist to provide two descriptions of one and the same act as though these two descriptions refer to two different acts. My hypothesis suggests that there is only one act, a criminal act, even though the terrorist believes that there are two sets of acts. In this sense, a terrorist (under my hypothesis) is someone who believes that the supererogatory description actually refers to some act he has done, which, he himself, would call criminal, when the same act is described differently. In very simple terms: when the others (belonging to another moral community) perform the same act he himself has performed, he would call it ‘criminal’; yet, he is convinced that he has performed a supererogatory deed.

7. Because of the above, I cannot speak of an ideology of terrorism. If I do speak about it, then I am forced to recognize that there is a class of acts called ‘terrorist acts’ that is different from ‘criminal acts’. My hypothesis denies precisely this. Not only that. To accept that there is ‘ideology of terrorism’ is to accept the self-description of the terrorists.

8. More specifically to problems regarding the first two paragraphs of “presuppositions and implications”. The first paragraph says what happens; the second paragraph elaborates on the first and suggests that it is logically impossible. That is to say, the first paragraph (logically speaking) cannot occur in the world but yet it does. The solution for this problem lies in the fact that the terrorist splits the ‘moral community’ into the ‘us’ and the ‘they’ in a particular way. In other words: the whole scenario is not logically possible; yet it occurs because of the kind of split that comes up between the moral community the terrorist momentarily attaches himself to and the ‘others’.

I know that the essay leaves many questions unanswered. It is my hope to answer some of them in the course of my research. My only advice is: do not allow your sense about the meaning of ‘ideology’ guide reading this essay. I am using it in a technical sense, by endowing it with a very narrow meaning.

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