Around 11:30 in this segment, Linda Lutton reports what is surely meant to be devastating revelation to people like you and me, people who catch bits of This American Life on the radio on the way to Whole Foods. In Chicago’s South Side, you don’t join a gang. You’re just in one. You live on this block? That corner? That’s your gang. You haven’t got any choice in the matter. You can’t just be neutral.
Anyway, while I listened, I thought of this:
In fact, right up the road, there are surely some very smart political scientist sorts at the University of Chicago who, despite Hume’s best warnings, will tell you all about the Social Contract and elucidate the principle of tacit consent.
Obviously in this context the idea is laughable. These kids didn’t agree to this. They didn’t make the informed decision to subordinate themselves to some group based on some principle of geographic destiny. Still, they belong.
Meanwhile, the gangs, it’s fair to say, have some mechanism of governance and decision making, even though the absence of an absolute monarch leads the reporter and the various official interlocutors to proclaim the groups “leaderless” and anarchic. The gangs protect kids on the way to school, confer identity, have habits and traditions, allies and enemies, practices and policies.
And they have guns. And violence is a tool of statecraft. What, after all, is a drone strike if not a drive-by shooting? In either case, obscure intelligence suggests that some person who may or may not be whom someone thinks he is and may or may not be affiliated with a group with whom we are currently in something like conflict may or may not be at a certain place at a certain time, and so we shoot in that general direction, and whomever we hit should’ve known better, been elsewhere, been someone else, had a better father.
9 thoughts on “How Hume’s Critique of the Social Contract and an Anarchist Critique of the State Explains Pervasive Gang Violence on Chicago’s South Side”
now there is a godawful gang, those that shop at ..and work for whole foods that have no part in growing or fair exchange , a better place to start looking for where the problems all begin , of ganging
I read about it in Newsweek
a little confused. which idea is laughable? that kids don’t “join” or that there’s “social contract”?
that tacit consent is implied in gang membership.
i’m not a patriot, i was just born here.
Yeah, but they don’t have flags.
If anything Hume’s critique gave birth–unfortunately not a still birth in this case–to pragmatism. Not the philosophical kind; but the liberal, crackpot kind. While pointing out the social contract is a fraud; never the less concluding–lest we be reduced back to savages–“If the reason be asked of that obedience, which we are bound to pay the government, I readily answer, because society could not otherwise subsist…
Isn’t consent of the governed meaningless if it is not informed? Is there any threshold for consent? Who does the quality control?
I don’t think Hume’s intervention solves anything.
I think the point is that there is, to begin with, no such thing as consent when it can’t be withheld.
And at least gang violence is localized and face to face–not that that’s something to be desired in itself. International violence, meanwhile, is conducted without our minds and with our bodies.