SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - New Idea, Georg Simmel, Moral Authority
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SOC203 LECTURE 9 March 18 2013
Torture: Weber vs. Durkheim
1 Torture: recent examples
2 Torture as a concept: Torture: Inflicting excruciating pain on an individual
Can be engaged by individuals or the state
Luke’s is interesting in the torture inflicted by states
Torture can be psychological or physical. Often difficult to separate the two
To humiliate someone might be a form of mental of psychological torture
3 Can torture be justified?
Luke’s is asking are there circumstances under which liberal democratic states can justify the
use of torture
Some people believe torture is wrong under all circumstances
Groups on principle opposed to all sorts of torture ex. Amnesty international
Ticking bomb argument: authorities have reason to be live an attack will take place at a
They have a suspect that they think knows where this is going to happen can they somehow
get the info out of him?
States have responsibility to protect innocent citizens should they not have the
responsibility to engage in torture to extract information
The ticking bomb argument that is being used to justify the employment of torture but Luke
says this is not very good. Luke’s says it is unlikely for those being held prisoner would have
He says this argument is not to be taken too seriously.
4 A Weberian argument - GROW UP in politics you have to do dirty things sometimes to achieve good
Weber not a sentimental thinking when it comes to politics. Upfront he says the states is an
End of politics as a vocation you find weber has a tragic view of politics – he believes those
who become involved in politics with vision of what lie ahead for their country have to
accept that in order to achieve a dreamlike future they need to adopt dirty unsavory means.
o This is a reality of political life.
When we enter politics we are entering a huge gray zone. And when we adopt clean ends
we will achieve clean (morally good) results.
Implies torture can be justified under good circumstances – perhaps torturing some people
will be an evil practice that pays off positively
5 A durkheimian counter-argument Luke’s in US and Philippines
Luke’s calls on a part of French history where Durkheim was involved
Dreyfus – Jewish captain tried of treason
o Question of anti-Semitism,
o Some people thought the trial was properly conducted – open and shut case
o Sociologist the anti Dreyfus people were right wing, military, upper class, believing
in the authority of the church
o The dreyfusars – people on his side believed that he was scapegoated and his crime
was being Jewish
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o These people were socialists of the day
o They were people that believed the French church had too much power – anti
o The anti Dreyfusaras were conservative in the sense they wanted to conserve
French society but upholding traditions.
o Novelist Zola wrote “I accuse” - accused the authority of a cover-up
He didn’t believe Drayfus has a fair trial he was sentenced to jail and had to
flee to England
1906 –evidence found that someone had framed Dreyfus. He got his job back and was
promoted 12 yrs. later
Anti dreyfusars –for conservatives national interest trumps individual interests – the need to
avoid inserting device of conflict into French society
Not just that these people were nostalgic – France had just fought a war against the
Prussians, also ww1 was coming. To the extent a society has to maintain unity you can
somewhat understand the frame of mind of the conservative
Also France went thru so much re: the French revolution.
France is unstable internally and at the same time Europe is losing its predominance in
global affairs in favour of US and soviet union – it was a period of instability
This is the preoccupations conservatives had in mind
Anti Dreyfusarus had it wrong
He says the new civil religion is one of individualism
Increasingly in modern society the military and church and old aristocracies are institutions
that do not have the same moral authority as they had before.
Does this mean there is no moral glue/authority that bonds people
At the same time this is happening there is a new belief – this belief of individualism
People believe in individualism and it is spreading
The argument: Durkheim says: in fact the problem is that in disrespecting the rights of
Drayfus one is showing a lack of respect to this new cult of individualism
Drayfus is agreeing with his opponents that it is necessary to maintain the unity of French
Individualism is the new authority the new religion of human beings and the only system of
beliefs that can maintain the moral unity of a country
Violating the civil rights on individuals cannot rest unpunished.
If France makes is possible to trample on the rights of Drayfus the respect for individual in
society will suffer
The preoccupations of conservatives – need to maintain society by respecting individuals’
Religion of the individual can allow itself to be flouted without resistance on penalty of
losing its credit
The individualist who defends the rights of the individual defends at the same time the vital
interests of society
Luke’s says allowing core individuals rights to be violated by state officials threatens the
integration of society
Liberal democratic societies must show respect and uphold standards of fairness and
protect the vulnerable.
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