Thursday, July 12, 2007

More Comparative Governing through Crime

Courtesy of Elizabeth Rosenthal's reporting in the New York Times, with today's contribution being the news that a second death sentence handed down on a Palestinian doctor and five Bulgarian nurses has been uheld by the Libyan Supreme Court. The defendants have now twice been sentenced to death based on accusations that they intentionally spread AIDS among Libyan children while doing work at Libyan hospitals in 1998.

The Libyan state's insistence on a death sentence is naturally a show case for its problematic sovereignty, especially given the international community's concern over the trials and sentences. It is especially interesting because medical and governmental failures leading to the spread of the HIV virus, have led to deep erosions of public confidence and produced popular calls for retribution in other states, including France (see Francois Ewald's chapter in Embracing Risk).

From this perspective we might see governing through crime as driven primarily not by crime, but by the continuing inability of modern states to cope with seemingly new (or may be just, very old) risks grounded in biology, chemistry, climate, as well as new (old) political risks like terror. Unless new governance approaches to these threats emerge, we might expect to see the US pattern spread decisively in the coming generation.

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