i. When Simon writes, “Lawmakers have defined the crime victim as an idealized political subject, the model subject, whose circumstances and experiences have come to stand for the general good” (Simon, p. 110), he is discussing a sociological change by which the American government and society at large has come to frame crime and understand its implications. There is a movement in the United States away from the recognition of the rights of those who are accused of crimes. Punishment is based on concepts of retribution, where society is trying its best to figure out a punishment that will best respect the position of the person who was aggrieved. Prosecutors are led to believe that in fulfilling their duty to serve the citizenry, the citizenry is actually represented solely by the interests of the victim.
While it is true that the victim is one consideration, there are others. The general good may be something different from what is good for the victim. A victim, after all, is in no position to act rationally in response to a crime. The crime is localized for the victim, and he or she may seek an individual brand of vengeance that is not a positive for the country at large. Take, for instance, the debate between rehabilitative policies and retributive policies. Few would blame the victim for wanting a harsh punishment for the person who wrong her. This may not be the best move for society at large, though. Society might benefit more from applying a punishment that would cause the offender not to commit a crime in the future. What Simon is writing about is a phenomenon by which the government has anointed the victim as the standard bearer for the general good, even when this may not be the case. It is a natural progression of the victims’ rights movement.
ii. One of Foucault’s primary arguments centered on the development of prisons as a form of punishment. He argued that the emergence of “discipline” was designed, at least in part, to create docile bodies. The concept was to create people who could exist within the structures created in the new world, including structured schools, governments, and economies. Part of the assumption here is that the government, through its use of crime and punishment, can assert control over the people. Using Foucault’s theories, one can support Simon’s assertion. Simon is asserting in his initial statement that government uses crime and punishment to frame every issue as one fit for government. If problems exist that are scary, then government can step in as the power to save and protect people. Simon believes, it seems, that government has used the issue of crime and the fear surrounding it to produce a political culture where people are reliant on government. Using the disciplines theory as outlined by Foucault, government in the United States is attempting to create docile bodies that are fit for inclusion in modern society. It is difficult to maintain this level of control over a society as large and diverse as the United States. By instituting stiff punishments and making use of prison, government signals to the people that those who commit crimes are dangerous animals who deserve to be locked away from the public. Simon is stating that these decisions are intentional attempts by the American government to influence the political culture. This helps to create the docile bodies that are dependent upon government in one way, with the assumption that once people become dependent upon the government, they will acquiesce to the government’s authority in other areas.
- Simon, Jonathan. “Governing Through Crime,” 2005. Oxford University Press.