THE MAINTENANCE OF ORDER AMONGST
LIGHTLY ENGAGED STRANGERS
"There is commotion around the need of community mainly because it is less and less clear whether the realities which the portraits of 'community' claim to represent are much in evidence, and if such realities can be found, will their life-expectancy allow them to be treated with the kind of respect which realities command. The valiant defence of community … would hardly have happened had it not been for the fact that the harness by which collectivities tie their members to a joint history, custom, language or schooling is getting more threadbare by the year. In the liquid stage of modernity, only zipped harnesses are supplied, and their selling point is the facility with which they can be put on in the morning and taken off in the evening (or vice versa). Communities come in many colours and sizes, but if plotted on the Weberian axis stretching from 'light cloak' to 'iron cage', they all come remarkably close to the first pole."
Zygmunt Bauman, Liquid Modernity, p.169
For the majority of social commentators community safety programmes to control crime and anti-social behaviour are an exercise in the obvious. 'Community' is a wholesome, homogeneous entity waiting to be mobilised, 'safety' is a risk free end state - the self-evident goal of public desire, whilst 'crime and anti-social behaviour' are entities readily recognisable by any decent citizen. Indeed the trio, community, safety and crime, become elided together each term defining each other: thus the intense, socially rich interacting community is seen to be the very antithesis of crime and is indeed the place and source of all safety.
Nowadays, as Adam Crawford puts it, "the attraction of the notion of 'community' unites and transcends the established … political parties," adding later in his book, "community … is cleansed of any negative or criminogenic connotations and endowed with a simplistic and naïve purity and virtue." (1997, pp.45 and 153). Thus problems of crime and disorder are ascribed to a malaise of community and their solution is seen as the regeneration of community. Such a perspective can be readily seen as an aspect of modernity, in particular the social engineering characteristic of the post-war period. In this slums were cleared, towns planned, 'rational' communities constructed - the apotheosis of this being the New Town developments, the more mundane and commonplace being the modernist tower blocks interspersed with family maisonettes and bleak gardens characteristic of the post-war city.
It has been the role of critical criminology to stand outside such conventional wisdoms and to problematise each of these seeming certainties. Community becomes to be seen as a reality lacking coherence, a rhetoric invoked to ensure the domination of one group over another, a key instrument of social exclusion. Safety becomes a curtain for fear, the miscalculation of risks, the denial of excitement and the excuse for xenophobia towards outgroups. Finally, crime and anti-social behaviour are social constructs which are bestowed by the powerful on disapproved behaviour but with no essential reality or core. In fact their definitions are frequently contested within localities and adherence to criminal values can even be a dominant aspect of community.
My concern, here, is not to reiterate these doubts but to point to the fashion by which the massive changes which have occurred in the last third of the twentieth century, in the basic building blocks of society: employment, the family and community itself, have transformed and magnified such doubts. For the shift from the modernity of the post-war period with its high (male) employment, intense communities and stable families, to the conditions of late modernity has been associated with a remarkable problematisation of each area.
The Coordinates of Order:
Class and Identity in the Late Twentieth Century
At this point before mapping the terrain of late modernity I wish to briefly establish coordinates. Nancy Fraser in her influential Justice Interruptus: Critical Reflections on the Post-Socialist Condition (1997) outlines two types of politics: those centring around distributive justice and those centring around the justice of recognition - that is class politics and identity politics. She points to the rise in prominence of the latter - a phenomenon which I will attempt to explain later in this article. But what concerns me here is to develop and explain this distinction as a basis for an analysis of social order and political legitimacy. In The Exclusive Society (1999) I point to the two fundamental problems in a liberal democracy to be the need to distribute rewards fairly so as to encourage commitment to work within the division of labour and the need to encourage respect between individuals and groups so that the self-seeking individualism characteristic of a competitive society does not lead to a situation of war of all against all. Individuals must experience their rewards as fair and just and they must feel valued and respected.
Let us develop the distinction between the sphere of distribution and that of recognition. Central to distributive justice is the notion of fairness of reward and in modern capitalist societies this entails a meritocracy, that is where merit is matched to reward. Recognition involves the notion of respect and status allocated to all but if we stretch the concept a little further: it also involves the notion of the level of esteem or social status being related justly. Indeed both the discourses of distributive justice and recognition have the notion of a basic equality (all must receive a base level of reward as part of being citizens) but on top of this rather than a general equality of outcome: a hierarchy of reward and recognition dependant on the individual's achievements.
What terms are we to use when distributive justice or recognition is wanting? When material reward is unjustly allocated we commonly use the term relative deprivation, when recognition is denied someone we call this ontological insecurity. But let us finesse these further: we can talk of two aspects of unfairness: deprivation and insecurity and the two dimensions: economic and ontological.
How does this help inform us as to the genesis of crime and punishment. Firstly, that a major cause of crime lies in deprivation that is, very frequently, the combination of feeling relatively deprived economically (which causes discontent) and misrecognized socially and politically (which causes disaffection). The classic combination is to be marginalised economically and treated as a second rate citizen on the street by the police. Secondly, a common argument is that widespread economic and ontological insecurity in the population engenders a punitive response to crime and deviancy (see for example Luttwak, 1995; Young, 2000).
As we shall see in the process of the transition from modernity to late modernity powerful currents shake the social structure transforming the nature of relative deprivation, causing new modes of misrecognition and exclusion, whilst at the same time being accompanied by widespread economic and ontological insecurity. The purchase of each of these currents impacts differentially throughout the social structure by each of the prime social axes of class, age, ethnicity and gender.
The Journey Into Late Modernity
"How can long-term purposes be pursued in a short-term society? How can durable social relations be sustained? How can a human being develop a narrative of identity and life history in a society composed of episodes and fragments? The conditions of the new economy feed instead on experience which drifts in time, from place to place, from job to job." (Richard Sennett, 1998, pp.26-27)
If one wishes to travel anywhere one must know what terrain one has to travel over, what means of travel are available and last, and by no means least, where one wants to go. In reality over the last twenty years the terrain, the structure of society, has radically changed, effective means of intervening in the social world have profoundly altered and, most importantly, the metropolis of possibility and desire in which we find ourselves has altered beyond recognition.
Let us start with the change in terrain.
The last third of the twentieth century has witnessed a remarkable transformation in the lives of citizens living in advanced industrial societies. The Golden Age of the post-war settlement with high employment, stable family structures, and consensual values underpinned by the safety net of the welfare state has been replaced by a world of structural unemployment, economic precariousness, a systematic cutting of welfare provisions and the growing instability of family life and interpersonal relations. And where there once was a consensus of value, there is now burgeoning pluralism and individualism (see Hobsbawm, 1994). A world of material and ontological security from cradle to grave is replaced by precariousness and uncertainty and where social commentators of the fifties and sixties berated the complacency of a comfortable 'never had it so good' generation, those of today talk of a risk society where social change becomes the central dynamo of existence and where anything might happen. As Anthony Giddens put it: "to live in the world produced by high modernity has the feeling of riding a juggernaut" (1991, p.28; see also Beck, 1992; Berman, 1983).
Such a change has been brought about by market forces which have systematically transformed both the sphere of production and consumption. This shift from Fordism to Post-Fordism involves the unravelling of the world of work where the primary labour market of secure employment and 'safe' careers shrinks, the secondary labour market of short-term contracts, flexibility and insecurity increases as does the growth of an underclass of the structurally unemployed. It results, in Will Hutton's catchphrase, in a "40:30:30 society" (1995) where forty percent of the population are in tenured secure employment, thirty percent in insecure employment, and thirty percent marginalised, idle or working for poverty wages.
Secondly, the world of leisure is transformed from one of mass consumption, to one where choice and preference is elevated to a major ideal and where the constant stress on immediacy, hedonism and self-actualisation has had a profound effect on late modern sensibilities (see Campbell, 1987; Featherstone, 1985). These changes both in work and leisure, characteristic of the late modern period, generate a situation of widespread relative deprivation and heightened individualism. Market forces generate a more unequal and less meritocratic society, market values encourage: and ethos of every person for themselves, together these create a combination which is severely criminogenic. Such a process is combined with a decline in the forces of informal social control, as communities are disintegrated by social mobility of them and left to decay as capital finds more profitable areas to invest and develop. At the same time, families are stressed and fragmented by the decline in communities systems of support, the reduction of state support and the more diverse pressures of work (see Currie, 1997; Wilson, 1996). Thus, as the pressures which lead to crime increase, the forces which attempt to control it decrease.
The journey into late modernity involves both a change in perceptions of the fairness of distributive justice and in the security of identity. There is a shift in relative deprivation from being a comparison between groups (what Runciman, 1966, calls 'fraternal' relative deprivation) to that which is between individuals (what Runciman terms 'egoistic' relative deprivation). The likely effect on crime is, I would suggest, to move from a pattern committing crimes outside of one's neighbourhood onto other richer people to committing crimes in an internecine way within one's neighbourhood. That is the frustrations generated by relative deprivation become focused inside the 'community' rather than, as formerly, projected out of it.
Thus Roger Hood and his associates in their fascinating oral history of three generations in London's East End find a sharp difference between the 'eighties' generation who left school in the late 1970s and 1980s and those of 'thirties' and 'fifties' generations. Again and again, the older respondents talk of their lack of fear of crime in the earlier periods and make the distinction between the tolerated crime committed against shops, warehouses, rich outsiders and the anathema of crime against one's family, friends or neighbours. For the 'eighties' generation all of this had changed. Thus: "crime had formerly been seen as an activity on the margins of everyday relationships, something that a few segregated members of the community did to outsiders: the bosses and impersonal companies. It was now perceived to be increasingly an internal threat. Indeed some young men, as well as women described it as pervasive within their neighbourhoods." (1999, pp.154-5).
But it is also in the realm of identity that relative deprivation is increased and transformed. For here, on one side, you have raised expectations: the spin off of the consumer society is the market in lifestyles. On the other hand, both in work and in leisure, there has been a disembeddedness. That is identity is no longer secure; it is fragmentary and transitional - all of which is underscored by a culture of reflexivity which no longer takes the world for granted. The identity crisis permeates our society. As the security of the lifelong job, as the comfort of stability in marriage and relationship fade, as movement makes community a phantasmagoria where each unit of the structure stays in place but each individual occupant regularly moves, where the structure itself expands and transforms and where the habit of reflexivity itself makes choice part of everyday life and problematises the taken for granted - all of these things call into question the notion of a fixed, solid sense of self. Essentialism offers a panacea for this sense of disembeddedness.
The Identity Crisis and the Attractions of Essentialism
In The Exclusive Society I discuss the attractions of essentialism to the ontologically insecure and denigrated. To believe that one's culture, "race", gender or community has a fixed essence which is valorised and unchanging is, of course, by its very nature the answer to a feeling that the human condition is one of shifting sands, and that the social order is feckless and arbitrary. To successfully essentialise oneself it is of great purchase to negatively essentialise others. That is to ascribe to the other either features which lack one's own values (and solidity) or which are an inversion of one's own cherished beliefs about one's self. To seek identity for oneself, in an essentialist fashion, inevitably involves denying or denigrating the identity of others.
Crime and its control is a prime site for essentialisation. Who, by definition, could be a better candidate for such a negative 'othering' than the criminal and the culture that he or she is seen to live in? Thus the criminal underclass replete with single mothers and living in slum estates or ghettos, drug addicts committing crime to maintain their habits and the immigrants who commit crime to deceitfully enter the country and continue their lives of crime, in order to maintain themselves become the three major foci of emerging discourses around law and order of the last third of the twentieth century - that is the welfare "scrounger", the "junkie", and the "immigrant".
This triptych of deviancy, each picture reflecting each other in a late modern portrait of degeneracy and despair, comes to dominate public discussion of social problems. As the discourse develops their ontologies become distinct and different from 'normal' people, their social norms absent or aberrant, their natures frequently racialised and rendered inferior. Crime a product of our society becomes separated from the social structure: it is viewed as a result of distinct aetiologies, it embodies differing values, it emanates from distinct and feared areas of the city. It is these areas that are contrasted with the organic community where social trust and harmony are seen to reside.
The Organic Community
The community of the post-war period was characterised by a sense of permanence and solidity. Placed there by the needs of capital around large scale manufacturing industry or labour fixed to land for centuries it involved the following characteristics:
The obverse of the organic community is that of the anomic community, the locality without norms and the inevitable consequence of this is seen as the proliferation of crime and anti-social behaviour. This formulation is wrong on two scores: firstly, there is no direct one to one relationship between strong community and crime, secondly, even slum estates have strong social networks.
Thus the organic community could easily support criminal values. As Adam Crawford nicely puts it:
"the logic behind this association between the lack of 'organized' community and crime is that, conversely, more community equals less crime. … This benevolent understanding of community is highly misleading. In some instances 'community', i.e. its communal normative values, itself may be the source of criminogenic tendencies. Recent British research into criminal subcultures has reiterated the long established criminological truism that the collective values of a community may serve to stimulate and sustain criminality (Hobbs 1988; Robins 1992)." (1997, p.153)
And the most recent research of Sandra Walklate and Karen Evans (1999) in Salford corroborates this. But the important conclusion from this is that the although intense community does not necessarily inoculate against crime it exerts considerable levels of social control - which may influence law-abiding or criminal behaviour.
Conversely the image of the sink estate, the inner city ghetto or the satellite slum is often seen as in a state of anomie. The immune system of informal control is down and gross social pathology abounds. But even a brief visit to one of these estates quickly dissipates such a notion. The mothers congregate around the local school at delivery and collecting times discussing the teachers, kids and this and that, the older kids hang out at the entrance to the tower blocks, or along the road by the shops, the men meet in the pubs and betting shops. Networks, networks, networks everywhere, divided, of course, by all the axes of age and gender and ethnicity and economic situation, but certainly not a lack of informal system or anomie in a sense of normlessness, or "broken windows" because no one knows each other (Wilson and Kelling, 1982). Ironically, of course, the stigmatised estates of the so-called underclass allow, because of structural unemployment, poverty and both geographical and social immobility, greater social interaction than say would occur on a middle class dormitory estate on the edge of any of our great cities where there is a quick turnover of people, dual time-consuming careers of man and wife, bussing of kids to relatively distant schools and little time except at the weekend to interact with anyone - even with their own family.
The work of Janet Foster has completely blown such images of the normless community. Thus in her study of the London housing estate of 'Riverside' she notes:
"The differing types and composition of networks on Riverside aptly demonstrate that different forms of neighbourliness can occur in the same setting simultaneously among different groups of people. These networks played an important role in an environment where Asian, white, black and Chinese/Vietnamese households alike lived with an underlying suspicion about the their neighbours and expressed concerns about their safety.
The very existence of these networks suggests that popular perceptions of council housing - and the very poorest and most difficult-to-let estates in particular - as alienating environments in which there is little tenant interaction and support, are too simplistic. Instead of condemning such places as 'dreadful enclosures' (Damer 1974) we should look more closely at the patterns of interaction between tenants in these contexts. We need to understand more about how they are characterised, in what ways they influence tenants' perceptions of the estates on which they live, and how different individuals and groups, who have had little or no choice in their housing allocation, manage to co-exist." (1999, p.126)
Crime and Community: The One to One Fallacy
The argument that there is no one to one relationship between strong community and little crime often teeters on the edge of suggesting that there is no relationship. This crucially mistakes the situation and it is worth turning for a moment to fundamentals. Crime occurs when you have motivation to commit crime (because of structural reasons such as those which engender relative deprivation) and where there are insufficient countervailing norms (chiefly informal although enforced legal norms are a vital backup). The major site of such informal norms is the community yet, of course, you can have communities which have norms which are supportive or at least tolerant of crime and thus do not act in such a controlling fashion. Thus crime will occur when you have motivation and no community or where you have motivation and some level of support for criminal activity. Crime will be much less prevalent where there is no motivation even though there might be a lack of community or where there is strongly enforced communal norms against crime. In the Barbican in London or in the tower blocks of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, community may be near zero yet no conventional crime may occur. In contrast, in the past, many poor communities were carriers of strong norms which stressed honesty and respectability which was underscored by intensive day to day, face to face, interaction and underwritten by the disciplines of locally-based work and the fear of losing one's job. Hence crime despite severe deprivation tended to be low.
If, then, we are to make anything of the finding that the organic community sometimes supported crime and that conversely areas without a hint of Gemeinschaft, often have low crime rates - it is merely to register that there is no logical necessity of countering crime in this time honoured fashion. The communitarian notion that the most effective means of tackling crime is to reconstitute the community (see Etzioni, 1997) is, therefore, not only nostalgic (in the sense of a politics which is backward looking and difficult to achieve) but unnecessary. We know that communities of lightly engaged strangers can have low crime rates and, as we shall see, we know also that the phrase 'lightly engaged strangers' does not imply an atomistic and anomic society. What demands our attention is how the territory of community has changed and how we can find new and appropriate ways of fostering civility.
In late modernity, we face severe problems: the organic community is in decline, whilst the rise in change in the nature of relative deprivation gives greater motive to commit crime of a more internecine nature. Thus both the rise in motivation and the decline in informal control give rise to higher crime rates of a type which further fragments the already weakened community. The desire to 'maintain order amongst lightly engaged strangers' has, therefore, an urgency and this is further extended by the progressive demands of the new social movements to improve upon levels of civility in the areas of gender and ethnic relations and between diverse sexual, religious, and other subcultures which have flourished in late modernity.
The Search for Community
"One of the unintended consequences of modern capitalism is that it has strengthened the value of place, aroused a longing for community. All the emotional conditions we have explored in the workplace animate that desire: the uncertainties of flexibility; the absence of deeply rooted trust and commitment; the superficiality of teamwork; most of all, the spectre of failing to make something of oneself in the world, to "get a life" through one's work. All these conditions impel people to look for some other scene of attachment and depth.
Today, in the new regime of time, that usage "we" has become an act of self-protection. The desire for community is defensive, often expressed as rejection of immigrants or other outsiders - the most important communal architecture being the walls against a hostile economic order. To be sure, it is almost a universal law that "we" can be used as a defense against confusion and dislocation. Current politics based on this desire for refuge takes aim more at the weak, those who travel the circuits of the global labor market, rather than at the strong, those institutions which set poor workers in motion or make use of their relative deprivation." (R Sennett, 1998, p.138)
Thus as Sennett notes that modern capitalism drives people to seek identity in community, Hobsbawm counters that it is precisely the self-same late modern capitalism which has destroyed community and rendered destitute the bank of social trust that underwrote it. The local community becomes increasingly more invoked as a place of identity and moves to become a major part of the rhetoric of political mobilisation just at the time that it is transforming. Thus Hobsbawm in a famous passage writes:
"we have been living - we are living - through a gigantic 'cultural revolution' an extraordinary dissolution of traditional norms, textures and values, which left so many inhabitants of the developed world orphaned and bereft. … Never was the word "community" used more indiscriminately and emptily than in the decades when communities in the sociological sense become hard to find hard to find in real life. men and women look for groups to which they can belong, certainly and forever, in a world in which all else is moving and shifting, in which nothing else is certain." (1996, p.40)
The organic community is, however, in decline affected by both the globalisation of the economy and of culture. Manufacturing industries shrink and in many instances disappear leaving areas bereft of work, service industries proliferate often with small sizes, commuting increases to and from work, local cultures become less self contained, more penetrated by the global. They become, in Giddens' graphic phrase, 'phantasmagoric', constituted by the ghostly presence of distant influences (1990).
I want to argue that this paradox of a search for identity in community when organic community is failing and whose failure to provide tradition and embeddedness is a core reason for the search for identity, is not nearly as cataclysmic as either Sennett or Hobsbawm would have it. In part this is because they cannot envisage the notions of association and trust outside of the image of the face to face, organic community.
The Privileging of Community
Iris Marian Young has been one of the most ardent advocates of urban life as an ideal and, at the same time, effective critic of the privileging of the organic community:
"theorists of community privilege fact-to-face relations because they conceive them as immediate. Immediacy is better than mediation because immediate relations have the purity and security longed for in the Rousseauist dream: we are transparent to one another, purely copresent in the same time and space, close enough to touch, and nothing comes between us to obstruct our vision of one another.
This ideal of the immediate copresence of subjects, however, is a metaphysical illusion. Even a face-to-face relation between two people is mediated by voice and gesture, spacing and temporality. As soon as a third person enters the interaction the possibility arises of the relation between the first two being mediated through the third, and so on. The mediation of relations among persons by the speech and actions of other persons is a fundamental condition of sociality. The richness, creativity, diversity, and potential of a society expand with growth in the scope and means of its media, linking persons across time and distance. The greater the time and distance, however, the greater the number of persons who stand between other persons." (1990, p.233)
She has no doubt about the oppressive nature of many relationships in modern urban societies and the real dangers of the city nor that the closest relationships are those of immediate intimates. But the city in its anonymity allows deviance, freedom to develop (of which more later), its difference offers a frisson of excitement and entertainment, its access to such a huge bulk of people via the mediation of telephone and mass transit allows for the creation of vibrant new communities of difference. Let us first of all examine what changes have occurred in the late modern community.
The Deterritorialisation of Community
"the use of the term 'community' in crime prevention discourse commonly evokes images of localism and 'neighbourhood'; of territorially bounded communities in which it is assumed members also share other dense cultural and social bonds. But in 'modern' Western societies, high and increasing residential and spatial mobility among large sections of the population; high levels of functional specialisation mirrored in the spatial differentiation of social life; and sophisticated mass communications and transport systems, mean that the centrality of geography and the embeddedness of existing social relations give way to the importance of other, 'deterriorialised' communities in the lives of many citizens. These are communities of interest and function related to work, leisure, education, taste, and so on, which increasingly owe little to geographical locale or residence for most citizens. These provide individuals with plural communities and identities, in and through which they live their lives. Crime prevention needs to be considered in relation to these 'deterritorialised', as well as the more familiar residential, communities." (Hogg and Brown, 1998, p.6)
"in the sense of an embedded affinity to place, community has indeed largely been destroyed" (Giddens, 1991, p.250)
Writers in cultural studies note the fashion in which the late modern community has lost its mooring in the locale - in the coincidence of the social and the spatial. Thus Mike Tomlinson (1999) talks of its 'deterritorialisation', whilst John Thompson (1995) refers to the notion of 'despatialised commonality' and, perhaps a little more elegantly, Joshua Meyrowitz talks of "the Generalised Elsewhere" (1989). Important here is the way in which people through the various media can share experiences and identity despite the separation of physical distance. This is not to deny locality, people after all must live somewhere, but it is to point to the diminution and transformation of the local community and the rise of the virtual community.
John Thompson usefully classifies social interaction into three sorts:
What is new is the developments in the second two. Let us note that portable telephone companies are presently the fastest growing firms and that e-mail communication has begun to become part of everyday life. But even before this: the old fashioned landline telephone has had a major impact on people's lives. Thus Barry Wellman and other social network analysts have long pointed to the way in which social technology has liberated people from dependence on spatial locality. Thus, he argues that it makes more sense to perceive of personal communities and networks rather than communities of neighbourhood (Wellman, 1982). Indeed as Meyrowitz wryly comments: "access to nonlocal people is now, via the telephone, often faster and simpler than access to physical neighbors." (1989, p.331). Furthermore within mass media the rise of multi-media and the vast expansion of choice in radio and television allows the development of niche audiences and subcultures (see McRobbie and Thornton, 1995). Indeed the mass media takes up a surprisingly larger and larger proportion of people's lives. In England and Wales, for example, watching television and listening to the radio constitute 36% of the waking life of the average citizen (figures sourced from Social Trends, 2000). Such an avid consumption should not be viewed so alarmingly, however, for as David Morley (1986) showed in his studies of television audiences: the television provides topics of conversation for those who, often very intermittently, watch it. The audience has conversation with the television rather than the audience is not simply subject to a monologue from the box.
Thus on one side the local is penetrated by the global in terms of distant events, consumer choices, values (such as those emphasising lifestyle choice, feminism, meritocracy etc.), on the other, virtual communities develop on the back of the local which incorporate images, reference groups, favoured characters and celebrities from a global repertoire and which involve both mass media and mediated interaction. Indeed as Ulrich Beck puts it:
"the persons we experience as significant others are no longer restricted to those we know from direct encounters within a local community. Some persons, or perhaps even media-constructed and reproducible homunculi, serve people as mirrors of themselves." (2000, p.156)
Similarly Taylor and Mullan (1986) in their celebrated study of television viewing, Uninvited Guests, deny any passivity in viewing patterns noting that it may have been true in the past that television was watched with reverence and respect, that it entranced the audience. But with multiple channels and pre-recorded tapes this is hardly true today. Moreover, people used the television to make sense of their lives. Thus the characters on soap operas such as Coronation Street and Brookside were talked about as real people, their triumphs and vicissitudes related to the everyday life of the viewers. To this extent despite the title, they are invited guests: they are talked about as real but they can be turned off at will.
The Community in Late Modern times
"Organic communication, where communities communicate within themselves and then outwards, sending messages about their conflicts, oppressions and material conditions of existence, is breaking down. 'Community walls' now zigzag wildly around the urban mass. Immediate next-door neighbours may know nothing about each other's work, workplaces or wider kinships. Often they share only their postcodes. Organic communities and organic communications are slowly disappearing." (P Willis, 1990, p.141).
"Now, physically bounded spaces are less significant as information is able to flow through walls and rush across great distances. As a result, where one is has less and less to do with what one knows or experiences. Electronic media have altered the significance of time and space for social interaction." (Meyrowitz, 1985, p.viii)
Tim Hope's excellent classification of images of community and crime prevention practices (1995) from community as disorganised (in the 1930s), to community as disadvantaged (in the 1960s) to community as frightened (in the late 1970s and 80s) requires a further reappraisal by the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st. For all of these previous conceptions perceived a fixed entity which is variously disorganised, disadvantaged or frightened and consequently a thing which can be regenerated, redistributed or mobilised as strategies to regenerate itself and tackle crime. And even more recently, the Social Exclusion Unit (1999a) carries the further image of the excluded community which needs to be included into citizenship in order to tackle crime and disorders. All of these images encompass facets of the truth but need to be drastically reviewed in the light of the late modern community. For the single entity has long gone and any notion of fixity has disappeared - there is no reified community out there to mobilise or repair, no fixed thing in need of incorporation. Nor can this situation be solved by adopting the conventional language of multiculturalism and communitarianism. Namely, that there is now a series of communities to reinvigorate and galvanise. That is to replace the fallacy of a single fixed entity with the chimera of the multiple community. None of this fully captures the fluidity and plurality of late modernity.
Let us delineate the basic features of the late modern community:
Such a late modern mixture of local and virtual community can clearly enhance people's ability to realise identity, yet it is also a prime site of misrecognition, threats to one's status and identity.
Freedom in the City
"We have emerged from a world of neighbours and entered what has increasingly become one of strangers. Here we have the old theme in social science of a shift from community (crudely, the familiar, interpersonal and village-centred life of pre-industrialism) to associations which involve the mixing of people unknown to one another save in specific ways such as bus conductor, shop assistant, and newsvendor (crudely, the urban-oriented way of life of the modern). Ever since at least Simmel we have appreciated how disorienting and also often liberating the transfer from closed community to a world of strangers can be. The city may fragment and depersonalise, but in doing so it can also release one from the strictures of village life. with the shift towards town life comes about a decline in personal observation by neighbours and, accompanying this, a weakening of the power of community controls that are exercised on an interpersonal basis. Entering urban-industrial life from a country existence one is freed from the intrusions of local gossip, of face-to-face interactions, from close scrutiny of one's everyday behaviour by neighbours. … By the same token, in the urban realm one can readily choose freedom, to be as private as one likes, to mix with others on one's own terms, to indulge in the exotic without fear of reprimand, to be anonymous …" (Webster, 1995, pp.56-57).
The breakdown of the organic community, the deterritorialisation of the local, is, on the face of it, an immediate gain in terms of personal freedom. Freed from the constraints of control of the organic community people become more free to change. Narrow chauvinisms, conceptions of masculinity rooted to industrial plant and local pub, respectabilities which were once policed by gossip and sanctioning all crumble.
It is conventional, particularly in liberal political philosophy, to think of that which is public as good and that which is private as concealed and possibly reprehensive. But such liberalism which sees freedom as bringing private problems into the light of public debate, however commendable, forgets the sociology of resistance and subterfuge (see Fraser, 1997). For the public world, whether it is the local community or the wider polity, consists for the powerless of distinctly unequal partners and fellow citizens who can be potentially both censorious and coercive. Youth culture, for example, would be moribund and conformist, if it did not learn to manoeuvre the restrictions of family by the device of deviance and half truth. Teenagers are in Dick Hebdidge's marvellous phrase, 'hiding in the light' (1988). Likewise from the black diaspora (see Gilroy, 1993) to the gay community (see K Plummer, 1995) subcultures develop in the freedom of the urban landscape and spread into a virtual community of mass media and cultural artefact. The privacy, therefore provided by the late modern city permits the exercise of freedom - it is surely more possible, here, to develop genuine identity and sense of self than in the stifling atmosphere of the organic community?
Richard Sennett in The Conscience of the Eye remarks that "deviance is the freedom made possible in a crowded city of lightly engaged people" (1991, pp.126-7). But he then adds a pessimistic caveat: that the tolerance of diversity is not so much because the city encourages diversity but rather it permits it because it is merely indifferent towards it: It could not care less. And, indeed, if our mapping of the terrain of late modernity is correct, we can go a deal further than this. Because indifference can very easily disintegrate into predation and punitiveness from both sides of the spectrum of criminal justice. Tony Bottoms and Paul Wiles capture this well when they write:
"recent technology means that neither time nor space is the fixed framework of our routines … The result can be globalised cultures, no longer fixed in time or space, from which we choose and indeed make a series of different choices. Television representations based on the culture of Australia or west coast America have taken on an autonomous existence and may be as 'real' to some British youth as anything else. Yet geographically localised cultures, in the sense of 'community' and spatially fixed, institutions, such as churches and families, have been regarded by much criminological theory as the main defences against crime: hence the Chicagoans' concern with community 'disorganization' and crime." (Bottoms and Wiles, 1997, p.351)
I have argued that there is no one to one relationship between the organic community and the crime-free society. Yet how can we ensure that crime is diminished rather than enhanced by the freedoms of the city?
Similarly the disembeddedness of the self: the collapse of fixed, pre-destined narratives of biography, poses both problems and yet possibilities of progress. The dangers of essentialism of creating a fixed identity for oneself and a demonisation of the other is the premises for a punitive and exclusionary response to diversity. Yet, as we have seen, the freeing up from these constraints, also, presents precisely the opposite path: changes which might deconstruct the fixed categories of gender, age, and ethnicity, for example - those which open up rather than foreclose on freedom. The question, therefore, boils down to how can we achieve and maintain a civilised society which minimises oppressive and predatory behaviour towards each other, in a world where the power of the localised organic community is diminished and replaced by the new community of late modernity?
From Generalised Other to Generalised Elsewhere
The notion of who you are becomes constructed on a much wider stage in late modernity. To understand this one must look at the late modern self and its reference points. Joshua Meyrowitz (1989), in a seminal article, develops the work of Charles Cooley and George Herbert Mead on the generalised other. The self according to the symbolic interactionist tradition, is given reality by its reflections in the significant others around us. Cooley calls this "the looking glass self", Mead "the generalized other" - we see ourselves through our perceptions of others' perceptions of us. Now the relative decline in community and rise in the media has:
"extended the generalized other so that those who we perceive as significant others are no longer only the people we experience in face-to-face interaction within the community. People from other communities and localities also serve as self-mirrors. The 'mediated generalized other' weakens (but surely does not eliminate) our dependence on locality and on people in it for a sense of self" (p.327).
Let us expand this a little further, for the series of other reference points against which we judge ourselves fairly or unfairly treated in comparison with others, widen out as does our knowledge of what is fairness and unfairness and its distribution. Reference groups are much less attached to locality in late modernity, for instance, as Bottoms and Wiles pointed out, the culture of Australia or the west coast of America can be as 'real' to British youth as anything else.
How does this relate to crime and its control? What has happened is that people's notion of their self (and hence their sense of shame, of losing self-respect when certain norms are transgressed), the actual norms themselves - the informal mores which structure behaviour, the feelings of discontent which provide the wellsprings of criminality and the vocabularies of motive and justifying circumstances of crime, all to a greater extent than ever before are a product of discourses which are of a global rather than a local nature.
Relative deprivation, for example, is global in its comparison points: aspirations jump frontiers, discourses about crime (including notions of fear, risk and danger) are a free floating commodity of a world media, the informal mores of everyday life (including the introduction of new and more or less stringent definitions of deviance) are constituted within public cultures which are global in their reach. Indeed, the twin impact of cultural and economic globalisation penetrates the local, moulding aspirations and changing opportunities, so that the causes of crime can invariably be tied to global processes. All that is consistently local about crime itself (and here only conventional crimes) is its actual impact … the burglary of the dwelling, the violence on the street, the brutality in the home.
But let us return to our pressing problem: the maintenance of order among lightly engaged strangers. In late modernity the generalised other immediately presented to the self in the organic community by the reactions of neighbour and local friend becomes potentially more remote. Deviance is less likely to be directly observed, there are more nooks and crannies in the contemporary world, but the weakening of the local is accompanied by the rise of the Generalized Elsewhere: our notions of respectable and proper behaviour are then a product of a wider interaction and a more public discourse. Thus our feelings of shame and guilt are no longer solely constituted by the face to face encounter but shame and guilt scarcely vanishes. Indeed it might well be argued that in a society where identity is both precarious and sought after, the need for the recognition of social worth is all the more pressing. But this takes us ahead of the argument, let us turn now to the work of John Braithwaite for he, more than any of his contemporary criminologists, has been most concerned with shame and its mobilisation.
John Braithwaite's theory of Reintegrative Shaming (1989) is one of the major contributions to criminological theory in the late twentieth century. In a nutshell it argues that "nations with low crime rates and periods of history where crime is more effectively controlled, are those where shaming has the greatest social power" (1993, p.1). But for shaming to be maximally effective it must serve to reintegrate the offender into the community not stigmatise so as to create a subculture of outcasts all the more committed to criminality than before. Its "only originality", according to the author, is that it attempts to solve the dilemma between "the (old) notion that shaming controls crime - but so is the seemingly contradictory idea that stigmatisation makes it worse" (1998, p.52). That is to take on board the warnings of labelling theory yet to believe, unlike the latter, that the community definitions of deviance and the possible shaming associated with them can be a potent - indeed the most powerful - mechanism in the control of crime. The theory demands, therefore, that we partition that sort of shaming which is reintegrative and that which is stigmatising. Further, he backs this explanatory theory of crime with a fully developed normative theory of criminal justice - republican theory - which places clear limits on the rights of the State and community to interfere in the individual's life (Braithwaite and Petit, 1990).
Before I detail the criticisms of such a theory let me first highlight its undoubted merits:
"This is, " he maintains, "both true and false. At the level of geographical it is true. … However, in terms of their total sets of interdependencies twentieth-century city-dwellers have many more interdependencies than fifteenth-century villagers … The contemporary city-dweller may have a set of colleagues at work, in her trade union, among members of his golf club, among drinking associates whom he meets at the same pub, among members of a professional association, the parents and citizens' committee for her daughter's school, not to mention a geographically extended family, where many of these significant others can mobilize potent disapproval. There are actually more interdependencies in the nineteenth- and twentieth-century city; it is just that they are not geographically segregated within a community. If I think of my own place in the division of labour, it becomes clear that some of the actors in the bets position to shame me are professional colleagues who life as far away from me on this planet as it is possible to live. I care more about the approval of Gilbert Geis than I care about the approval of my next door neighbour." (ibid., p.13).
Let us briefly reconceptualise Braithwaite's contribution in the more recent language of political philosophy: exclusion, recognition, demonisation and the cultural 'other'. Braithwaite's goal is to achieve the good society by interventions which are specifically inclusionist, which explicitly avoid demonisation/stigmatisation, they are designed to avoid cultural 'othering' and they utilise the sanction of negative recognition ('shame'). In contrast much of previous reactions to crime and offenders can be seen as acts of gross misrecognition involving stereotypes and labels which exclude rather than integrate. Furthermore, Braithwaite recognises the deterritorialisation of community in the modern world and indeed insists that this offers up potentialities rather than makes sanctioning more difficult.
There is, as we have seen, much to be admired in Braithwaite's proposal but there are distinct problems and limitations which become apparent particularly in its realisation - I will deal with these below:
Now informal social control is undoubtedly a potent force in the control of crime yet it tends to fall down if blatant social deprivation is experienced. This is the basis of Marshall Berman's critique (1983, p.325) of Jane Jacobs' celebrated The Death and Life of Great American Cities (1961). The poor of Jacobs' West Village were tolerant, lightly engaged and civil whilst they believed in the American Dream and the Dream offered them stability - the community collapsed when black and Hispanic immigration into Manhattan brought people who were palpably excluded.
Similarly it may well be, as Braithwaite constantly points out, that Japan has a culture of shaming which contributes significantly to its comparatively low recorded crime rate but it is odd, to say the least, that this is not also related to the relatively small income differentials between classes, the extraordinary security of employment (Fukuyama, 1996) and the meritocratic nature of the society (Moriyama, 1993; see overall commentary in Hughes, 1998, pp.144-5). Furthermore, the anomalous decline in crime in Japan for most of the post-war period must surely relate to the fact that it has had an exceptionally long-term decline in income differences (see Wilkinson, 1994). It would be difficult, of course, to argue that levels of shaming had increased in this period.
Without solving the problem of maldistribution, it is unlikely that inclusion within society can be successful. Further, if one thinks of crimes of the poor such as burglary, street robbery and petty theft - shame will find little purchase on a surface of resentment and anger.
Given such a belief in already existing consensus, however, it is easy for him to suggest that what is needed is to reintegrate the offender into this consensual community and that the focus of policy should be after the offence has occurred not before. That is to change the offender rather than change the community.
"It is such patterns, codes and rules to which one could conform, which one could select as stable orientation points and by which one could subsequently let oneself be guided, that are nowadays in increasingly short supply. It does not mean that our contemporaries are guided solely by their own imagination and resolve and are free to construct their mode of life from scratch and at will, or that they are no longer dependent on society for the building materials and design blueprints. But it does mean that we are presently moving from the era of pre-allocated 'reference groups' into the epoch of 'universal comparison', in which the destination of individual self-constructing labours is endemically and incurably underdetermined, is not given in advance, and tends to undergo numerous and profound changes before such labours reach their only genuine end: that is, the end of the individual's life." (Bauman, 2000, p.7)
Braithwaite, following Elias, argues that in the modern world there is greater interdependency and this carries with it the greater possibility of shaming. This rather mechanical gearing of the two together via market relations and the possibility of loss of income because of blackened reputation, on the one hand, underplays the ability of individuals to conceal their behaviour in the late modern world and, on the other, considerably underestimates the role of human agency and choice. That is, not only is interdependence much more easily circumvented but, ironically, the construction of identity (and hence what abuses and to whom one feels shame) is not pivoted on dependency. Identity in the late modern world is something which is decoupled from dependency. People shop around on a global level for lifestyles and identities, in Helmut Schlesky's (1957) evocative phrase they exist in 'the market of worlds'. Identity becomes detached from structural position. The housewife in Milwaukee or Middlesborough takes her images of femininity from a global repertoire. Identity is often forged against dependency whether it is that of women, teenagers, blacks or gay people (witness Ken Plummer's 19XX, of ______________). The source is the generalised elsewhere not the immediate conditions of coercion and dependency. Identity so forged explicitly disclaims local wisdoms as to shameful behaviour and rewrites their own vocabulary of pride and shame. Conversely such learned identities can be individualistic and shameless. Braithwaite rather amusingly cites the City of London as a place where interdependency between entrepreneurs ensured a communitarian culture. In fact, as my colleague John Lea pointed out to me, it is here that shameful behaviour is institutionalised and an identity of shamelessness prized.
But just as informal control has priority over formal control (see Matthews, 1988; Young, 1992), so its effective operation is as part of the ongoing experience of everyday life - rather than the process that occurs within the courts. That is, it is massively involved in preventing crime ever occurring whereas the courts involve only a minute number of offences. Of course, sentencing has a deterrent value, although most of the literature suggests that this can often by exaggerated, and it has a symbolic value in publicly stating the parameters of social tolerance. Both physical deterrence and symbolic statement are important backups to the informal system which is the prime instrument of order, indeed almost tautologically, it in itself constitutes social order. Indeed, John Braithwaite, in his analysis of the historical development of social order, quotes approvingly Norbert Elias from his magnum opus, The Civilising Process:
"Shame takes on its particular coloration from the fact that the person feeling it has done or is about to do something through which he comes into contradiction with people to whom he is bound in one form or another, and with himself, with the sector of his consciousness by which he controls himself. The conflict expressed in shame-fear is not merely a conflict of the individual with prevalent social opinion; the individual's behaviour has brought him into conflict with the part of himself that represents this social opinion." (Elias 1982: 292)
Nothing could be clearer than this: shame is neither guilt, nor an external force over and beyond the actor. Yet Braithwaite in his actual, practical discussions of reintegrative shaming focuses very largely on the reintegration of offenders, and the symbolic value of the justice process to the community as a whole. That is as an alternative to the criminal justice system. In doing this he elevates law to a pivotal position and focuses after the act rather than on directly prevailing mores. His actual practice is legalistic (even if explicitly 'anti-statist') rather than sociological. So he ignores both the causes of crime in structural inequality and in the informal system both of which we must address if we are to tackle crime. As Shahid Alvi puts it in his excellent book on youth and criminal justice:
"Changes in the mandates and operations of alternative measures programs of youth justice communities, as well as the implementation of strategies based on reintegrating offenders could potentially go a long way to reduce the harmful effects of formal processing. Ultimately, however, such programs are post-hoc. In other words, they do not allow us to address the causes of youth crime. [My] central argument … is that we cannot deal with youth crime appropriately if we deal with it only after it has happened, no matter how progressively we do so." (2000, p.157)
"The theory assumed that individual make incorrect choices which ultimately lead to their criminal behaviour. However, if the social and economic world of the individual is falling apart, the offender is obviously in a difficult situation. The theory has little to say about the structural characteristics of the young offenders being targeted. How does the family group conference or other arenas which flow from republican theory aim to take account of these issues? The policies that have been suggested thus far appear unable to deal with real clashes of interest between wealth and poverty, issues of racism, and the wider issues of class structure. The policies emanating from the theory do not address the degree to which young people may be brought into the system because of institutional biases, such as police bias, or bias in decision-making of the courts." (1996, p.187)
"The genius of the Maori approach, as adapted in New Zealand and Australia, is that it is a particularistic individual-centred communitarianism that can work in an urban setting. The strategy does not rely on fixed assumptions of where community will be fund. It does not assume that there will be meaningful community in the geographical area surrounding an offender's home. Nor does it assume that members of a nuclear family will be a positive basis of care, though it always attempts to nurture caring in families. It does not assume that members of the extended family will be caring and effective problem-solvers. It does assume one thing: if a group who cares about both the offender and victim cannot be assembled, this means the conference coordinator is incompetent, not that these human beings are devoid of caring relationships." (1994, pp.194-5)
There is much of this which is good: the process is reintegrative, involves informal networks and does not base itself on the sort of tight knit community which is, as we have seen, less common today and, for individuals, often absent. We can, of course, learn much from the various forms of informal justice that have been evolved over the centuries in various communities and there is no doubt that the Western legal system has many faults and weaknesses. Yet many doubts spring to mind: first of all we should note that such restorative justice tends to be focused on tackling problems amongst indigenous people, particularly the youth, rather than in practice being generalised out to the population as a whole. (See Hughes, 1998, p.125). This alone should ring alarm bells and raise suspicions. Secondly, that this is seen as a benign form of multiculturalism which empowers and reveres a pluralism of justice systems:
"Another important features is that the conference approach is geared to a multicultural society. Anglo-Saxon liberal legalism has crushed the communitarian justice of the Celtic peoples, the Maoris, Aboriginal Australians, native Americans, and Asian ethnic groups, with a [sic] unequivocal imperial system that sacrifices diversity in problem-solving strategies to belief in equal treatment under one standard strategy. The community conference, in contrast, empowers particular communities of citizens who care about particular people to come up with unique solutions in ways that seem culturally appropriate to those people and circumstances." (Braithwaite and Daly, 1994, p.195)
Braithwaite and Daly acknowledge the 'valuable role' which Western liberal legalism can supply in guaranteeing "certain human rights" but there can be little doubt that they see, in essence, a legal pluralism as appropriate to a multicultural society. Furthermore, the rigour of their relativism is, as is often the case, slightly bent by an advocacy which stresses the superiority of pre-bourgeois or pre-colonial forms. Such a romanticism can be taken to surprising lengths. So Harry Blagg criticises the reintegrative shaming programmes for an "Orientalist" approach to Maori practices as it involves a Westernised reading of the culture and admonishes the advocates for attempting to "franchise" Maori custom by attempting to transpose it upon other indigenous peoples. For "Maori society with its highly organised hierarchies of family and trivial association and its elaborately structured warrior system" is contrasted with the Australian Aboriginal society with its "looseness" and "disaggregation" (1997, p.488). Indeed, he wonders whether shame itself is a cultural universal and not more applicable to elaborate hierarchical societies concerned with the public presentations of the self.
The need to maintain the purity of the pre-modern form and the uniqueness of each culture is thus stressed. In reply to this, Braithwaite agrees very largely with Blagg's comments but admonishes us to see colonialism as having "wreaked havoc of various kinds on the justice of indigenous ordering. So much that male elders sometimes do dominate indigenous justice in ways that viciously exploit women and children, indeed other males." (1997, p.505). And he quotes approvingly the Canadian Jeremy Webber who writes "the challenge is to reinvent aboriginal institutions so that they draw upon indigenous tradition and insights in a manner appropriate to the new situation. This may mean inventing checks to prevent abuse that were unnecessary two hundred years ago …" (1992, p.147).
Let us summarise the remarkable parameters of such a debate. First of all Braithwaite and his co-workers see the pre-modern Maori institutions of dispute resolution as the very epitome of the theory of integrative shaming. Western legality is seen as merely providing an outer ring to guarantee these rights. Secondly, in fact, such restorative justice is applied largely to indigenous peoples. At which point, thirdly, Harry Blagg mentions that such "franchising" of Maori institutions to other indigenous people, particularly the Australian aborigines, violates the principle of legal pluralism and multiculturalism. Furthermore, the Maori institutions are 'contaminated' (this is the word that is used) by Western interpretation. Lastly, in reply, Braithwaite concedes that changes have occurred to the pristine Maori ways but these were necessary because colonialism had caused problems which were never there previously. It is difficult to think of a more thoroughgoing romanticism: a relativism which uncritically accepts a multiculturalism of value and practice. This contrasts remarkably with Braithwaite's constant evocation of the new social movements as the basis for late modern shaming. Yet these social movements represent cultural universals - they deplore all violence against all women, they denigrate homophobia, racism and other hate crimes - without exception, they castigate those who devastate our common environment on Earth, they vehemently criticise those who cause animals suffering. They are not relativistic: they do not say, for instance, that the cultures of Southern Italy, Northern Germany, Scandinavia, the Maoris in New Zealand, the Deep South of the United States are all different and have different definitions of what is appropriate violence against women and that we should adapt our politics to their place. Far from it: they seek to extend their prescriptions to all societies equally. Furthermore, they do not posit a consensus upon which to shame the offenders rather than are critical of what they see as the present consensus and wish to create a new universal.
Thus Braithwaite's notion of reintegrative shaming starts out as a sociology of shame and ends up as restorative justice, begins as inspired by the universalism of the new social movements and ends up with a pre-modern particularism, mentions intermittently the importance of equality in tackling crime yet sidelines this by granting shaming the central role. Yet there is much we can rescue from this, Braithwaite's distinction between shaming and stigmatising is of key importance. For shaming is part and parcel of the norms of everyday life, it is, as we have seen, a sense of justice being violated whereas stigmatising is the unjust labelling or misrecognition of an individual.
A just society is one in which there is social contentment with regards to the distribution of goods and the recognition of worth. The moral dynamics of social life involve the matching of effort and contribution to society with reward, a meritocracy in short, whilst on the level of social valuation, it involves social praise and approval for behaviour which upholds and extends cherished values or disapproval and shaming when people violate normative standards. Shaming is, therefore, part of the currency of a just society. Conversely, an unjust society is where inequalities occur materially - where opportunities are blocked and merit is unrewarded and where people are unjustly categorised and deemed unworthy.
Let us return, with this in mind, to the problem of how community has been transformed. Because it is community, in whatever new mode or transformation, which is the carrier of internal norms and the main bearer of the power to shame.
The Reality of Diversity
"Identity politics confronts a world in flux and commands it to stop. Because the flux is not going to stop, neither will identity politics. Many varieties will rise, flourish, fall, give way to others, some more strident, others (one can hope) more temperate. Today, some cultural fundamentalists defend the formulas of 'multiculturalism' as solutions to the riddles of national identity in a world where the powers of any nation or state are steadily being eroded. Other fundamentalists, probably more numerous, claim that multiculturalism, racial preferences, and the like are instruments of an elite of usurpers from Harvard and Hollywood who are uncivilizing a formerly robust nation. The apparent opposites are twins. What frightens both is the flimsiness of a culture where everything is in motion and authority has perpetually to prove itself, where marginality is no longer always so marginal and the fragments of identity are on sale everywhere from the university to the mall. In the minds of all fundamentalists, porousness makes for corrosiveness. A porous society is an impure society. The impulse is to purge impurities, to wall off the stranger."
Todd Gitlin, The Twilight of Common Dreams, p.223
Thus gradually our concept of community becomes less territorialised, less tethered to locality, for the social and the spatial, once soldered tightly together, begin to drift apart. When we use the word we begin to speak of the black community, the Asian community, women, teenagers, the Irish. Each step less moored to any specific place. We must take on board that many of the new communities have not only a considerable non-territorial basis in terms of telephone and internet friendships but have large components where the individuals concerned have never (nor probably will ever) meet each other, have significant reference points, which cannot be underestimated, which are fictional (eg soap opera) or artistic (particularly musical), and can actively create coherence and identity in their lives by reference to favourite news channels, newspapers and, indeed, newscasters. Further we begin to realise that the values of such "communities" are rarely transmitted in a quasi-passive, traditional sense, as were those of the organic community, but are subject of constant contest and reinvention.
In stark contrast essentialism, of course, demands that we localise very distinctly. From the point of view of the dominant group, they seek identity in their area, as Sennett suggest, and consistently exaggerate the 'cosiness' of their urban villages whilst cannily noting the fixed perimeters of their area despite a reality of ever changing boundaries (determined very largely by rapidly shifting property prices) and changing definitions of what are desirable and socially threatening areas. From the perspective of essentialising the other, the demand is to locate the problem areas: where exactly are the demons, so to speak? The powerful seek, in Gitlin's poignant phrase, "to purge impurities, to wall off the stranger". Thus the underclass is said to be located within the clear cut ghettos of the inner city sink estates or the long lost satellite slums at the cities' edge. But, in fact, there is no such precision here: the poor are not as firmly corralled as some might make out. Thus, as Gerry Mooney and Mike Danson write, in their critique of the "dual city" concept, based on their research in Glasgow - a city, some would say, of extreme cultural and economic contrasts:
"The conclusion which is drawn from the analysis of poverty and deprivation in contemporary Glasgow presented here is not one which lends support to the dual city model. … This is not to deny however, that there is an uneven distribution of poverty in the city or that poverty is concentrated in certain areas. What is being contested is the usefulness of the dual city argument for our understanding of such distributions and the processes which contribute to it. …
The language of the two city/dual city argument is one which is seriously flawed by definitional and conceptual difficulties. Despite the continuing use of concepts such as polarisation, underclass,, exclusion and marginalisation, we are little clearer about the underlying factors which are viewed as contributing to such processes. In this respect the dual city perspective and its implicit arguments about growing socio-spatial polarisation are plagued by ambiguity and vagueness.
In discussions of the emerging 'tale of two cities' in Glasgow, the attention which the peripheral estates received does not relate directly to the levels and proportions of poverty to be found there. In part this is a consequence of reluctance to define adequately the areas or social groups concerned. Further within peripheral estates there is a marked differentiation between the various component parts in terms of unemployment, poverty and deprivation. This is almost completely neglected in the dominant picture of these estates which has emerged in recent years which stereotypes the estates as homogeneous enclaves of 'despair' or 'hopelessness'." (1997, pp.84-5)
Maybe urban geographers of all political persuasions would like more of a clear cut cartography than is healthy but, in reality, the contours of late modernity always blur, fudge and cross over. Mooney and Danson, in their critique, cite Manuel Castells advocacy of the dual city as a fundamental urban dualism of our time:
"It opposes the cosmopolitanism of the elite, living on a daily connection to the whole world … to the tribalism of local communities, retrenched in their spaces that they try to control as their last stand against the macro-forces that shape their lives out of their reach. The fundamental dividing line in our cities is the inclusion of the cosmopolitans in the making of the new history while excluding the locals from the control of the global city to which ultimately their neighbourhoods belong." (Castells, 1994, p.30).
In this conception the rich live in late modernity whereas the poor are trapped in locality, tribalism and the past. Such a notion tied to that of a class divide based on information fails to grasp the cultural penetration of globalisation. For, as John Tomlinson points out:
"those marginalized groups for whom 'locality is destiny' experience a transformed locality into which the wider world intrudes more and more. They may in all sorts of ways be the 'losers' in globalization, but this does not mean that they are excluded from its effects, that they are consigned to cultural backwaters out of the mainstream of global modernity. Quite to the contrary, it seems to me that the poor and marginalized - for example those living in inner-city areas - often find themselves daily closest to some of most turbulent transformations, while it is the affluent who can afford to retire to the rural backwaters which have at least the appearance of a preserved and stable 'locality'." (1999, pp.133-4)
Thus in terms of mass communication they are exposed to messages and commodities from all over the world, whilst the inner city area in which they live becomes multi-ethnic and diverse due to labour immigration. They are exposed to what Dick Hebdidge (1990) calls a 'mundane cosmopolitanism' just as real or perhaps more significant than the rich tourist who travels the world in a fairly sanitised fashion from chain hotel to chain hotel, from airport lounge to airport lounge. And cultures of distant places either through the media or on the streets become incorporated in the local cultures particularly of the youth (see Back, 1996).
On the Edge: The Test Case of the Philadelphian Underclass
In The Exclusive Society I examine the notion that the outcasts of American society are a distinct and localised entity. In particular I looked at Carl Nightingale's brilliant ethnography of the black ghetto of Philadelphia. The conservative image is a spatially segregated underclass, whose values are different from the wider society, who have evolved a highly differentiated and dysfunctional way of life. they are a caste apart: a disgrace to the American dream (see, for example, Murray, 1984). A common liberal image is rather similar to this. The underclass are the excluded, the people whom the economy has left behind, whose social behaviour is dependent and aberrant, the problem is to resocialise them, retrain them, get them to work and back into society (eg Social Exclusion Unit, 1999a, 1999b).
What Nightingale discovered confounded such an image. For here surely at the bottom of this most segregated society would be a separate culture? But instead in the ghetto was the apotheosis of America. Here is full immersion in the American Dream: a culture hooked on Gucci, BMW, Nike's, watching television eleven hours per day, sharing the mainstream culture's obsession with violence, backing, at the time of the study, Bush's involvement in the Gulf War, lining up outside the cinemas, worshipping success, money, wealth and status - even sharing in a perverse way the racism of the wider society. The problem of the ghetto was not so much the process of it being simply excluded but rather one which was all too strongly included in the culture but, then, systematically excluded from its realisation. All of this reminiscent of Merton - but where, in a late modern context, the implosion of the wider culture on the local is dramatically increased. We have a process which I likened to a bulimia of the social system: a society which choruses the liberal mantra of liberty, equality and fraternity yet systematically in the job market, on the streets, in the day to day contacts with the outside world, practices exclusion. It brands as 'losers' those who had learnt to believe that the world consisted of 'winners' and 'losers'.
None of this is to suggest that there is not a subcultural diversity within late modern societies but this is what it is subcultural. Cultures criss-cross with each other, hybridise, transform and constantly change. They are not separate in any essentialist fashion. Nor, for that matter, are they separate in such a strict spatial sense as is frequently suggested. Thus Zygmunt Bauman writes of Washington D.C.:
"One difference between those 'high up' and those 'low down' is that the first may leave the second behind - but not vice versa. Contemporary cities are sites of an 'apartheid ´ rebours': those who can afford it, abandon the filth and squalor of the regions that those who cannot afford the move are stuck to. In Washington D.C. … there is an invisible border stretching along 16th Street in the west and the Potomac river in the north-west, which those left behind are wise never to cross. Most of the adolescents left behind the invisible yet all-too-tangible border never saw downtown Washington with all its splendours, ostentatious elegance and refined pleasures. In their life, that downtown does not exist. There is no talking over the border. The life experiences are so sharply different that it is not clear what the residents of the two sides could talk to each other about were they to meet and stop to converse. As Ludwig Wittgenstein remarked, 'If lions could talk, we would not understand them'." (1998, p.86).
This eloquent expression of the dual city thesis is wrong, not in its sense of division, but in its sense of borders. For the borders are regularly crossed and the language spoken on each side is remarkably similar. The most obvious flaw in the argument is that of gender: maids, nurses, clerical staff move across into work everyday. Women, as William Julius Wilson argues in When Work Disappears, are more acceptable to the world outside of the ghetto than their male counterparts. It is after all "home boys" who stay at home. But bellhops, taxi drivers, doormen, maintenance men regularly ply their way across the invisible borders of Washington D.C. It is not, therefore, just through television that the sense of relative deprivation of the poor is heightened, it is in the direct and often intimate knowledge of the lives of the affluent.
David Rieff in Los Angeles: Capital of the Third World (1993) writes of the close physical proximity of the professionals and the underclass in Los Angeles, their interdependence yet the chasm that separates their lives. Frank Webster captures this well when he comments:
"Illustrations of this are easy to find. On the one hand, maids are an essential element of the professionals' lifestyles, to cook, to clean, to look after children, to prepare for the dinner parties held in the gaps found in the frenetic work schedules of those deep into careers in law, corporate affairs, trading and brokerage. The maids, generally Hispanics, ride the infamously inadequate public transit buses to points in the city where their employers may pick them up in their cars to bring them home to clean up breakfast and take the children off to school. On the other hand, visitors are often struck by how verdant are the gardens of those living in the select areas of LA. Often they make the assumption that 'anything grows here in this wonderful sunshine'. But they are wrong: Los Angeles is a desert and gardens need most intensive care to bloom. They get it from an army of mainly Chicano labourers which arrives on the back of trucks very early in the mornings to weed, water and hoe - for a few dollars in wages, cash in hand.
In spite of this dependence, which obviously involves a good deal of personal interaction, the lives of the two groups are very far apart. Of course this is largely because they occupy markedly different territories, with members of the poor venturing out only to service the affluent on their terms as waiters, valets, shop assistants and the like the underclass also inhabit areas which the well-to-do have no reason (or desire) to visit." (1995, pp.205-6).
Including the Excluded
"The decline of old industries and the shift to an economy based on knowledge and skills has given rise to a new class: a workless class … Today the greatest challenge for any democratic government is to refashion our institutions to bring this new workless class back into society and into useful work, and to bring back the will to win." (Tony Blair, Speech at the Aylesbury Estate, Southwark, 2 June 1997, cited in Peck, 1999).
In Britain the work of the Social Exclusion Unit (1999a) set up under the New Labour administration explicitly sees its task as the integration of what they see as socially disorganised communities into the mainstream. Such a task is explicitly aimed at reducing the levels of crime and disorder within society as a whole. So, once again, we have a notion of the dual city but the political aim here is overtly inclusionist and can fittingly be seen as a social democratic attempt to tackle the correlate of social problems occurring in the poorest part of society. Here a key concept is the notion of the welfare dependency of the poor and the emancipating effect of work in transforming their lives.
THE BINARIES OF SOCIAL EXCLUSION
The danger of the concept of social exclusion is that it carries with it a series of false binaries: it ignores the fact that problems occur on both sides of the line, however much one has clusters in one area rather than another and, more subtly, it conceals the fact that the 'normality' of the majority is itself deeply problematic.
Thus in the first respect, as we have seen, unemployment, poverty, economic insecurity is scarcely unknown outside the designated areas - indeed quantitatively they are overall more prevalent in the supposedly secure majoritarian heartlands of society than they are in the selected minority of 'excluded' areas. And the same, of course, is true of illicit drug use, community disorganisation, unstable family structures etc. In the case of the notion of 'the normal majority' it assumes that, in this world, class differentials are somehow insignificant, that paid work is an unambiguous benefit, that 'stable' family life is unproblematic, licit psychoactive drug use is less a problem than illegal drug 'abuse' etc. Furthermore, it assumes that the transition from the social excluded to the majority via the vehicle of work will miraculously solve all these problems.
The centrality of work to the process of inclusion cannot be overemphasised. Being a member of society, being included, means being in work and useful work means paid work, labour sold in the market place. As Ruth Levitas clearly puts it:
"Under cover of a concern with 'social exclusion', and a rhetoric of solidarity, society dissolves into market relations. The importance of unpaid work to the maintenance of social life and human relationships is ignored. The possibility of integration into society through any institution other than the labour market has disappeared. There is no such thing as society - only individual men and women and their jobs. …
"The concept of social exclusion as it is currently deployed places people either inside or outside mainstream society, synonymous with outside the labour market. The concept works both to devalue unpaid work and to obscure the inequalities between paid workers - not to mention the inequalities between paid workers and a property-owning class who can afford not to work at all, but who are apparently not among the ranks of the socially excluded. But then they do have a relationship with the labour market: it just happens to be one of exploitation." (1996, pp.12 and 19).
From Community to Public Sphere
Having discarded the notion of a series of organic communities either actually in existence or, as in the communitarian dream, to be greatly regenerated and refurbished, as nostalgic and impractical can we, therefore, substitute a series of virtual communities with some territorial basis - a multiculturalism of a late modern sort? Thus we have the gay community, the Sikh community, the Irish community, the black community, women, etc. Such a formulation is a currency of contemporary politics and the media: events are publicly examined and debated by turning to representatives of various 'communities'. There can be no doubt that such a formulation has some foundation. A whole series of what Nancy Fraser calls "subaltern public spheres" occur where genuine debates occur and which can by careful argument and presentation influence the debate within the more general public sphere. A key example which Fraser gives, is that of second wave feminism which as a new social movement has elaborated extensive networks, journals, activist groups and discussion centres. Furthermore, such activism has produced wide debate in the wider public sphere over a whole series of issues concerned with crimes against women: sexual harassment, rape, domestic violence etc., many of which has resulted in changes in public attitudes and a broad raft of legislation. But it would be wrong to see such sections of the population as late modern equivalents of the organic community.
Nancy Fraser in her essay 'Sex, Lies and the Public Sphere' discusses the 1991 struggle over the confirmation of Clarence Thomas as an associate justice of the US Supreme Court who was passed to be only the second African American on the Court in US history. Thomas was accused of sexual harassment by Anita Hill, a black female law professor who had served as Thomas's assistant at the Equal Employment commission in the 1980s. Fraser takes us through a fascinating account of the discourses surrounding this struggle: for discourses of gender, race and class each entered the public arena as the debate developed. What became clear was that there was no clear line from women, from blacks, from the middle or working class white males. It was not that self-conscious 'communities' of a sort existed, particularly in this context of American multiculturalism, but that each divided and crossed in their alliances. A result was what Nancy Fraser called "the fracturing of the myth of homogeneous 'communities'." (1997, p.117). as a result, she continues, it would be better to consider :
"replacing the homogenizing ideological category of 'community' with the potentially more critical category of 'public' in the sense of a discursive arena for staging conflicts … In these respects, the concept of a public differs from that of a community. "Community" suggests a bounded and fairly homogeneous group, and it often connotes consensus. "Public", in contrast, emphasizes discursive interaction that is in principle unbounded and open-ended, and this in turn implies a plurality of perspectives. Thus, the idea of a public, better than that of a community, can accommodate internal differences, antagonisms, and debates." (ibid., p.118 and p.97, n.33)
We start then from noting how the notion of 'community' has changed remarkably in late modernity but, further to this, that what takes its place is not simply a series of discrete multicultural communities with both local and virtual dimensions, which both criss-cross and are contested. The community loosens its mooring in the locality and the various public discourses no longer have any one to one relationship to a specific section of the population.
It is now time for us to bring the threads of this discussion together. The problem of crime is inevitably one of order, to tackle crime we must, therefore, involve the politics of distribution and the politics of recognition. We must, in short, intervene both upon a material and a symbolic level. This essay has been concerned largely with the latter although it has been argued that without some form of redistribution any considerable reduction in crime is unlikely. The significance of the symbolic level has changed remarkably with the transition to late modernity. First of all a more individualistic society generates greater and greater demands for self-actualisation and recognition, secondly, the increased sense of disembeddedness makes, at the same time, a sense of secure identity more and more precarious, thirdly, a potent solution to this ontological uncertainty is that of essentialism, fourthly such a fake sense of solidity is more easily achieved by regaling others, lastly such a dehumanisation of others can be a potent facilitation both of crime (particularly violence) and a punitive attitude towards the criminal. It is therefore crucial that we attend to the problems of identity, arguing for policies which ensure a sense of self-worth and actualisation yet which do not rest upon the fake premises of essentialism where others are systematically denigrated and then abused. Not the least reason for this is that such a sense of identity brings with it the informal norms which apportion praise and shame and help control predatory crime towards others.
Nancy Fraser in Justice Interruptus develops an extremely useful typology of the politics of reform based on the two dimensions of redistribution and recognition. Reform, she argues, must recognise the necessity of changes in both these areas assuaging both the failings of distributive justice and misrecognition and devaluation. But to this dichotomy she adds a further distinction: between the politics of affirmation and the politics of transformation. Affirmative politics merely involves the surface transfer of resources without changing the basic underlying divisions whereas transformative politics seek to eliminate the basic underlying structures of injustice (see Young, 1999; Mooney, 2000). Thus in the area of redistribution affirmative remedies involve, for example, coercing the underclass into the labour market at extremely low wages. Their underclass position is merely reproduced this time within the lower reaches of the market place (see Levitas, 1996). This dragooning of people from one category of exclusion to another ("getting the people to work", as the Social Exclusion Unit - 1999a - put it, with its cheerless double entendre) is experienced all too frequently not as inclusion but as exclusion, not as the 'free' sale of labour but as straightforward coercion. Relative deprivation would, of course, not be solved by such 'inclusionary' politics and the sources of discontent which are liable to generate high crime rates would be unabated. Transformative redistribution, on the other hand, would involve such measures as retraining so that jobs could be gained and then rewarded on a meritocratic basis - thus putting a genuine element of equality into equal opportunity policies, the recognition of non-paid work (eg child rearing, caring for ageing parents) as of vital importance for social reproduction, the creation of viable childcare infrastructures for women with children, ad the enforcement of a minimum wage on a level which allows the individual an existence which is neither demeaning nor severely straitening in circumstance. Above all it would not fetishize paid work - it would not view such work as the vital prerequisite for full citizenship, for acceptance and inclusion in society.
An affirmative politics of recognition does not question the various essentialisms of difference. That is, in the case of conventional multiculturalism, what is stressed is the need for the positive recognition of various groups on equal terms, for example: Irish, African-Caribbean, Gays, Women, etc. In contrast, transformative politics seek to break down and destabilise the categories by questioning the very notion of fixed identity and essence. Thus the invented notion of tradition is challenged, the overlapping, interwoven nature of what are supposedly separate cultures stressed, and the ambiguity and blurred nature of boundaries emphasised. Diversity is encouraged and, where non-oppressive, celebrated, but difference is seen as a phenomenon of cultures in flux not essences which are fixed.
In the case of crime and punishment, the critique of essences both in criminal victimisation and in punishment is a high priority. The category of hate crimes must be widened out in the realisation that a considerable proportion of acts of violence involve vocabularies of motive which debase and dehumanise the victim (see I Young, 1990). Thus not only crimes against gays and blacks, but against women, the elderly, the poor etc. In terms of our response to crime it is vital that the essentialism which runs through the discourses about crime and its causes is thoroughly debunked. Important, here, is to confront and shatter the triptych which locates crime spatially and socially in three loci - the underclass, the drug user and the immigrant. Such a combination, portrayed as interdependent and very frequently racialised, is presented as the major source of crime and disorder in our society.
Against this we must emphasise that crime occurs throughout the structure of society and that its origins lie not in a separate aetiology but in the structure of society and its core values. The identification of a distinct criminal class is an endeavour bound to failure. Politicians forget this at their peril. As I write Tony Blair roundly castigates drunken hooligans one week and calls for robust legislation to bring them under control when in the next week his own 16 year old son is arrested for drunkenness in Central London. A year previously, the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, famous for his tough on crime approach and the appointment of a drug Czar, is awakened from sleep by a telephone call from the police to inform them that his son has been arrested for selling drugs. As the perceptive journalist Joan Smith put it: "The Government's responses are off the cuff and authoritarian … Again and again it reveals an us-and-them mentality as though there are only two Britons: decent God-fearing folk whose only transgression is the occasional parking ticket and a violent, anti-social sub-class whose members habitually exploit drugs and alcohol and deliberately go out deliberately looking for trouble." (2000, p.13).
At the start of this essay I discussed the need to chart the journey into late modernity. It was necessary to examine the terrain, chose our means of travel and be clear as to our destination. We have seen how the terrain has changed dramatically: employment, family, community - the structure of society, has become less secure, boundaries blur, identities are less and less fixed, place and social category become less determinate in prescribing behaviour, vocabularies of motive lose their mooring in discrete parts of the structure - we have entered the period of what Bauman graphically calls 'liquid modernity'. And this terrain has become a more risky place both in terms of crime and disorder and in terms of demonisation and scapegoating. On the one hand, the organic community has diminished and fragmented becoming much less capable of controlling the rising tide of crime and discontent whilst on the other hand, community itself becomes reinvented as a mythical Gemeinschaft which serves to exclude and essentialise others.
Yet the organic community of the past is in terminal decline although not into a black hole of atomistic individuals devoid of trust as the more dystopian of commentators would have it. For it has reformed into the late modern community: virtual and mediated in part and global in its reach which touches down at the local sometimes substantially but always intermittently in the biography of each individual. It is in this new community, the Generalised Elsewhere, where old identities are discarded and new identities reconstructed. It is here both in the more general public sphere and the host of subaltern publics where concepts of appropriate and inappropriate behaviour, and the criteria of social worth and opprobrium are regularly debated. Never have so many people looked at so many people: never in human history has there been such a degree of reflexivity about human behaviour. The paradox of identity, of course, is that it is precisely at the point in history where it becomes most apparent as a social construction that there is a widespread desire for essence and fixity. The importance of the new social movements here, as John Braithwaite clearly recognises, is vital. For they become the key axes of the debate about gender, ethnicity, or relations with other species and the environment. The worry, of course, even here, is the tendency to essentialise whether it is anti-racists who give credence to 'race', radical feminisms who essentialise masculinity and femininity or gay rights activists who begin to believe in the biological basis of homosexuality.
Furthermore, as Nancy Fraser (2000) points out in a recent essay, it is necessary to recognise the need to tackle the institutionalised patterns which maintain such essences. For example, the institutionalised racism within police practice which causes such disproportionate focusing on African-Caribbeans, the Irish etc. (see Mooney and Young, 2000).
The terrain has changed and, of course, with it the available means of change. Thus as Hans Hofman (1996) pointed out, the worthy social democratic critiques of society which link crime and punitiveness to lack of stabile employment, community and family life assume that we can nostalgically bring these entities of the 1960s back into existence by an act of political will. We have seen how, in the case of community, this is an implausible dream possible only for a minority. Artificially created communities, such as Disney's new town 'Celebration' in central Florida (Ross, 1999) are the exceptions which prove this rule. But this is true of the other institutional areas. Take paid work as an example, an important site both of distributive justice and identity. Herein, as André Gorz trenchantly puts it:
"is an enormous fraud. There is not and never will be 'enough work' (enough paid, steady, full-time employment) for everyone any longer, but society (or, rather, capital), which no longer needs everyone's labour, and is coming to need it less and less, keeps on repeating that it is not society which needs work (far from it!), but you who need it, …
"Never has the 'irreplaceable', 'indispensable' function of labour as the source of 'social ties', 'social cohesion', 'integration', 'socialization', 'personalization', 'personal identity' and meaning been invoked so obsessively as it has since the day it became unable any longer to fulfil any of these functions … Having become insecure, flexible, intermittent, variable as regards hours and wages, employment no longer integrates one into a community, no longer structures the daily, weekly or annual round, or the stages of life, and is no longer the foundation on which everyone can base his/her life project.
"The society in which everyone could hope to have a place and a future marked out for him/her - the 'worked-based society', in which he/she could hope to have security and usefulness - is dead. Work now retains merely a phantom centrality: phantom in the sense of phantom limb from which an amputee might continue to feel pain …" (1999, pp.57-8).
Work in the sense of that which involves self-realisation and creativity, is not, of course, dead but secure, paid, full-time employment for life is considerably diminished and where it exists does not have this quality. Hence Gorz's title 'Reclaiming Work'. Work, like the community, needs to be reformulated if we are to seek to provide the basis of identity and social worth.
Lastly, let us look at our final destination. The transition to late modernity is one which involves the most dramatic changes in the fabric of society. Anthony Giddens describes it like a juggernaut sweeping all solid institutions aside, Francis Wheen (1999) in his recent biography of Marx wryly notes how the images of globalisation and the metaphor of the "melting" of all that seemed solid in the Communist Manifesto is prescient more of the present time than in the nineteenth century. Indeed there is more than a slight resonance of today when we read of a world where there is "uninterrupted disturbance of all social conditions, everlasting uncertainty and agitation … fixed, fast-frozen relations, with their train of ancient and venerable prejudices and opinions are swept away"; such changes with heavy irony swept away the fossilised state socialist regimes of Eastern Europe just as they transform our lives in the West. Community, work, the family - all the major institutions of social order, face a transformation. Whether this is in the direction of greater equality and a sense of self worth or towards inequality and essentialism is the central hub of the politics of the future.
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