SOC203H1 Lecture Notes - Individualism, Stress Position, Alexis De Tocqueville
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SOC203: Lecture 9 18.03.12
Torture: Weber VS Durkheim
1. Torture: some recent examples.
2. Torture as a concept.
3. Can torture be justified?
4. A Weberian argument.
5. A Durkheimian counter-argument.
6. What is the Durkheimian counter-argument missing?
Examples of U.S. military intelligence torture practices in Iraq
- Handcuffs using “flexicuff”
- Beatings with hard objects
- Punching, kicking, slapping
- Being paraded naked
- Prolonged exposure while hooded to hot weather, the sun, loud noises, stress positions
- The Feast of the Goat by Vargas Llosa discusses the depravity of the regime in the
Torture as a concept
- Torture: The infliction of excruciating pain. The torture might be physical or
psychological (e.g. humiliation may inflict psychological pain).
- Torture deals with moral authority.
- This also pits Weber against Durkheim (a position paper almost).
- According to Durkheim, to even consider whether torture is right under circumstances is
wrong and immoral. However, some like Weber say that being a political leader, we need
to make some unethical decisions.
- Lukes is interested in state torture, not criminal torture.
Can torture be justified?
Yes – Weber
- Liberal democratic states.
- Amnesty International is opposed to all forms of torture.
- Ticking-bomb scenario: Reason to believe that a predetermined attack will take place at a
certain time and place and information can be extracted from a suspect in custody.
o Lukes says this isn’t a good way of posing the problem.
o In practice, it is not likely that prisoners in custody of the states will have access
to such information. How can authorities really know that the suspect in custody
have access to such information?
- Weber is not a sentimental thinker when it comes to politics. He says the state is an
association with the monopoly over the use of violence. Violence is central to the
definition of the state.
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