Friday, February 15, 2008

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.

According to a recent British Crime Survey, overall crime has fallen by 42% between the years 1995 and 2006.

What about future trends and societies ability to confront criminal behaviour and the roots of motivation to commit crime? These questions have exercised generations of criminologists from one of its founding fathers, the French sociologist Emile Durkhiem in 1893 to the present day.

I don't think its bold to suggest, most leading criminologists believe the roots of crime lie in some form of disaffection or victimization. This disaffection grows, argued Durkheim, when society is faced with radical change which questions social cohesion and a breakdown in the national moral framework which guides the order of things.

Whatever the complexities, of which there are many, crime is here to stay and the criminologists and sociologists continue to vie and add their personal voice in the development of national social policy.

As a casual observer, keen to learn and understand about such things, I have found parallels with Durkheim's France in the late 19th century and the developing electronic world unfolding before us today.

In 1992, I was keen to investigate the emerging technologies to redress the inequalities in the transaction value chain in the automotive sector, which at the time wholly advantaged the manufacturers. I was impelled to give more influence to the consumer. This early work, was successful in demonstrating a shift in the balance of power and created the first “demand driven transaction model” in automotive retailing.

The evolution of greater interactive technologies brings with it a unique brand of conflict as it offers advantages to one group over another with the former excitedly entrenching their rights as the latter seeks to militate the effect, by increasingly confusing and complicating the offerings. We only need to look to the supply of insurance services and utilities for such examples.

What you may ask has this to do with crime? As in the case of late 19th century France, I sense we are in transition, a liminal state between the old and the new - betwixt the end of the industrial revolution and a new fully wired, interactive, demand driven world.

This new brave world will be faster, more furious and less accommodating of failure to engage with the constant influence over our lives from global rather than local initiatives.

Today, schools struggle to educate students for jobs yet to be invented and the core skill sets of today will be out of date before students leave university with an ever growing group of disaffected individuals who cannot or will not be able to engage with the new order of things.

Within a generation, jobs and opportunities will be categorized as being information rich, [technology driven] and information poor [basic service sector] with differentials been bitterly fought over. We will in my opinion see a renaissance of collective bargaining and a rise in trade unionism to counter the gap between the information rich and poor.

Disaffected groups are likely to become evermore introvert and tribal, thus deepening division and discontent which in my view can only lead to greater levels of crime. Unless we begin to think out the box we will become a collection of fragmented communities ranging from exclusive gated groups behind the latest security paraphernalia to ghettos of despair with those in the middle bearing a heightened fear of crime.

I hope I am wrong but how can we avoid this somewhat apocalyptic view?

Leaders, policy makers and their advisers must think long term - beyond the election cycle and they must act strategically and philosophically to build a consensus for the next twenty years, if our society is to remain inclusive to all.

A people that values its privileges above its principles soon loses both.
Dwight D. Eisenhower

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