Harm Minimisation and Epidemiological Criminology ?

Context: Why we should treat violence like an epidemic

An epidemiological approach to violent crime ? Seems to me to be eminently sensible. Consider Portugal’s experiment with decriminalising drugs as a harm minimisation and public health strategy, by all measures – a thorough success. But that would perhaps be to diminish or distract from the intelligence and insight exhibited in an organisationally mature and adaptive approach such as that discussed in the article.

The facts are, whatever institutional affectations and political labelling may find themselves associated with violence and violent crime, the interdiction at a public health policy level is not only more effective but is also (arguably) likely to be cheaper over a longer time scale. There is much to be said for the applied intelligence of rendering social issues as networked, emergent patterns of behaviour and as seen from a public health perspective. I am absolutely certain that such approaches will be astoundingly successful, if instances of uptake across government are sufficient enough to generate self-propagating cultural momentum at a government-organisational level.

As ever, I am also interested in the sting in the tail of semantic discovery. A question which occurs to me is: if violence propagates by memetic replication or entrainment (among other vectors) and is an emergent, complex self-propagating waveform through cultures and societies, is there some other function that violence serves such that an inability or inefficiency to successfully manage this social phenomenon generates useful entropy for other social and economic interests to harness and exploit ? From such a perspective, it is to suggest that where entropy and disorder emerges in one area, social and organisational systems possess implicit self-propagating and organic methods of harnessing and exploiting this disorder; what appears from one direction to be a social ill is simultaneously harnessed and exploited by other components or organisational entities with the social systems. Local entropy in systemic microstates may in this way contribute to overall social-systemic (macrostate) and cultural self-propagation, structural coherence and continuity; if in unexpected or at least unorthodox ways. What benefits at a whole-systems level can in microcosm appear as useless disorder, entropy and cost to the participatory inhabitants of that system. I must be clear: I am not validating violence or any other social ill; I am asserting that there are always multiple subterranean layers and forces to this dynamic social geography.

The industries of incarceration and law enforcement are one layer in a tentative answer to the question of _cui bono ?_. There are clearly socioeconomic factors, elements of power and inequity, political pros and cons, stereotypes, behavioural advantage and disadvantage, collective perseveration. It is quite difficult to abstract one’s self sufficiently from the semiotic and semantic networks of information and communication that we live through (and that live through us) to be able to disentangle causative or benefactor agents in this matrix, globally-considered. It seems to me that when we think we know what the reasons for a social phenomenon are, it usually emerges that there are other factors, subliminal effects and unacknowledged (perhaps even – unintelligible) forces at work within and through ourselves and our shared worlds that remain indistinct or poorly defined.

The extension of such an analysis to conflict and war is a logical next stage of extrapolation.

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