Friday, May 16, 2008

Il Governo della Paura

Yes the rumors are true, Governing through Crime, will shortly be out in an Italian edition, translated by the brilliant Alessandro di Giorgi (hopefully some of it rubbed off on my prose) Professor of Justice Studies at San Jose State University.

As if to celebrate, the new Italian government headed by Silvio Berlusconi, has launched a crackdown on "illegal immigrants" who are popularly blamed for much crime in Italy today. Sweeping through shanty towns police arrested hundreds of immigrants, most of whom were swiftly deported with little or no legal process. (See Elizabeth Blumenthal's reporting in the NYTimes). As di Giorgi argues in his important book on the logics of contemporary penal repression, Political Economy of Punishment: Perspectives on post-Fordism and Penal Politics (Ashgate, 2006), immigrants, especially non-western immigrants, stand at the core of the fear based efforts to recast governance in Europe.

But whether criminals, or immigrants, or criminal immigrants, the governance logic of arbitrary power in the name of the victims is the same. As a Berlusconi spokesperson said of the crack down (which almost certainly violates Italy's obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights):

“The anti-immigrant sweep was a positive thing because that’s what people want,” said Umberto Bossi, the minister of institutional reforms and federalism. “People ask us for safety, and we must give it to them.”

1 comment:

  1. Well, many thanks to Jonathan for his nice words. Translating "Governing through crime" has been a great pleasure, and very soon Italian readers will have something important to read and reflect on.

    Meanwhile, it seems that the book will be out exactly at the same time as the new anti-crime legislation drafted by the "Berlusconi III" government. And it's worth mentioning that - in a clearly populist gesture - the first council of ministers was held in Naples. Naples is the town where much of the anti-immigrants mobs took place, together with ongoing demonstrations (and riots) against the trash accumulating in the streets, due to structural inefficiencies and long term criminal infiltrations in the municipal agencies in charge of recycling and disposal.
    Among the new measures soon to be introduced: 1) illegal immigration will become a crime in itself, punishable with imprisonment (4 months to 6 years in prison); 2) The maximum period of administrative detention for undocumented immigrants will be extended from the current 60 days to 18 months; 3) Any prison sentence will be extended by 1/3 whenever the crime is committed by an "illegal immigrant".
    Last but not least, the Italian government is trying to find ways to suspend the Schengen Treaty (which regulates the free circulation of European citizens within the borders of the EU), in order to be able to deport Romanian immigrants - who are in every respect European citizens since 2007, but have been systematically depicted by Berlusconi's media as lawless and dangerous "gipsies" who endanger the quality of life in our cities - based on their dangerousness for public order and national security.
    All this, while what remained of the left has disappeared from the Italian parliament (also due to an ill-conceived electoral law), so that now any opposition to the neo-fascist "center-right" coalition (on such issues as abortion, medically assisted procreation, gay/lesbian marriage, immigration policies, etc.) is entirely in the hands of a center-center coalition strongly influenced by the Church.

    It would be really difficult to imagine a better time for publishing Jonathan's book in Italy...