The Relevance of Sykes and Matza’s Techniques of Neutralization

As applied to the use of torture. First, a reminder (here as well),

The application:

Actually, in the denial of victims, I would think "who cares about terrorists" applies better.

And last but not least:

Indeed, the very existence of the legal memos wordsmithing formulations that would actually say "yeah, go ahead and torture" without actually saying so is a major form of rationalization "just in case". And the fact that such memos had to be issued over and over again clearly indicates that the people involved knew they were ordering torture or engaging in it.

There is probably a great institutional / organizational sociological study to be written about the bureaucratization of torture and its rationalization in the Bush administration, beyond the 1984 comparisons (which are eerie, though). But from what we already know, it is clear that torture had become instrumental to the internal purposes of the organization (the Bush administration), and not the pursuit of information to thwart terrorist attacks (just as we know that, in the USSR, torture was used extract false confessions as part of keeping the crumbling edifice of the statist apparatus up for a few more years) and to terrorize both the objects of torture and the larger global audience. After that, once permission was given, the actual torturers "simply" engaged in what Philip Zimbardo described in The Lucifer Effect.

In any event, Marcy Wheeler is doing a great job of going through these memos with a fine comb. Her series of posts on the subject (and her previous reporting on the Plame outing) are a must-read.

What Would Durkheim Think – Corporate Suicide And Family Annihilation

I have blogged about econocides before and today, again,

This is highly reminiscent of the Enron suicide. Both involved the fear of investigation and potential loss of reputation and status and possible humiliation rather than individual economic downfall, as we have seen before. Also, these are also masculine suicides. As Pierre Maura notes, anomic conditions might indeed bring their "contingent of voluntary deaths":

Maura also points to this post by Claude Bordes that has a detailed overview of Durkheim’s Suicide. On anomic suicide, for instance,

Indeed, deregulation unleashed wild processes of enrichment with no social limitations. But once the social structure collapses, all of a sudden, all these anomic excesses are exposed. Exposure seems to be crucial factors in these corporate suicides.

On the other hand, in the case of family annihilation followed by suicides, it is the loss of agency and control and the perspective of loss of status that seem to be central, again, as part of a masculine conception of "what men should do."

What is especially interesting is that even though it is men / fathers who murder their families and then commit suicide, this patriarchal dimension is often evacuated. Indeed, look at the Context post "When do people turn to murder-suicide?" But it is not "people" turning to murder and suicide: it is rejected husbands and fathers. And as this post in Sociological Images notes, media report tend to shift blame onto the rejecting wives. To use only one examples of many such headlines,

In such cases, Robert Merton’s Strain Theory seems to apply better, with his redefinition of anomie.

"Merton was mainly concerned with American society, where he detected a universal cultural goal of material success, an unequal distribution of the acceptable means to reach such a goal, and consequent adoption of alternative, illegitimate solution. His interest was in the structural causes of non-conformist (deviant) behaviour." (Thompson, 120)

Hence, Merton’s classical typology of acceptance / rejection of goals and means.

Sociology – Robert Merton’s Social Strain Theory: Helpful in Criminology, Understanding Anomie and Deviance via kwout

But in a patriarchal society, success is not just measured materially but also in terms of social relationships. The common trait in these murders / suicides is the anomie generated by the loss of patriarchal standing (which may have been preceded, as in some cases, by domestic violence) and of the object of one’s dominance and control (wife and children). And since patriarchal families and conjugal relationships are perceived as the only possible form of intimate relationships, once that is seen as gone, the pattern is one of (1) regaining control in an illegitimate way (murder as innovation), but then, faced with societal consequences, (2) suicide as retreatism.