We’ve lived so long under the spell of hierarchy—from god-kings to feudal lords to party bosses—that only recently have we awakened to see not only that “regular” citizens have the capacity for self-governance, but that without their engagement our huge global crises cannot be addressed. The changes needed for human society simply to survive, let alone thrive, are so profound that the only way we will move toward them is if we ourselves, regular citizens, feel meaningful ownership of solutions through direct engagement. Our problems are too big, interrelated, and pervasive to yield to directives from on high.
—Frances Moore LappĂ©, excerpt from Time for Progressives to Grow Up

Friday, June 30, 2017

The Myth of Liberal Policing

Click here to access an approximately 52 minute interview with Alex Vitale, Assoc. Professor of Sociology at Brooklyn College, NY City from the studios of KPFA, a listener sponsored radio station in Berkeley, California. (Note: if you access this interview at any other than the "Listen" link, the interview and program entitled "Against the Grain" starts at 5:33m.)
Each week brings another tragic account of the police injuring or killing someone, usually poor and of color.  So shouldn’t we support reforms to make the police more accountable? Alex Vitale has a surprising answer.  The sociologist discusses how liberal police reforms legitimize an illegitimate institution.  He argues instead that the reform we should get behind is reducing the number of police.
The professor supplies an excellent history of the origins of police forces used in Western countries. Like any good sociology professor he places the origins and the entire history of Western policing in the context of capitalist systems, but he doesn't do this very well directly. Rather he does it mostly implicitly in such a way as to protect him from crossing a red line of attacking the capitalist system which our masters in the ruling class do not tolerate. Otherwise his teaching career, or at least tenure, would be put in jeopardy. At the end of the program he does offers some progressive solutions, but they are all methods that are strictly within the acceptance of capitalism. The fact that they are so difficult to implement belies belief that such measures can be significantly introduced in a society such as ours than is heading in the direction of fascism.

Although there is more or less token allegiance to liberal practices historically in the US or in other capitalist countries, this appearance has to do with the historical origins of capitalism and its espousal of "democratic" propaganda to obtain the allegiance of the lower classes by the rising capitalist classes in order to overthrow the established feudal ruling classes. Thus fascist rule is capitalist rule without this fake liberal ideological element. However, police forces are expensive to maintain, therefore advanced capitalist ruling classes also put a lot of investment in organs of indoctrination and perception management. With the US going in a fascist direction, such reform measures that he suggests are all but impossible to implement. Hence our ruling class has placed far more resources in brutal police forces. Revolution is the only real solution!

Although many thinking people can recognize this insight regarding police forces as an institution that protects the ruling capitalist class, but they have a harder time recognizing that this is true of every institution (justice, media, education, entertainment, health care, etc) of all capitalist societies to a lessor or greater extent.