Sociology as a Skin Trade: Essays Towards a Reflexive Sociology

By John O'Neill | Go to book overview

4: Political Delinquency and the Iron Mountain Boys

The experience of modern societies has altered our perception of violence. This, however, is not simply a question of finding fresh formulas for the levels of destructive power contained in modern armoury and warfare. At 8.15 on the morning of 6 August 1945, America entered history as a stone age society swinging an atomic bomb. The bomb dropped on Hiroshima had more power than twenty thousand tons of TNT, if there is any meaningful unit of the destructiveness of TNT that can be carried through such multiplication. The heat from the explosion was sufficient to print the shadows of men and buildings into the stone around them.

Modern social science literature bulges with studies of rates of mortality, disease, unemployment, mental illness, crime in America and elsewhere. The old style literature of this sort is cast in a model of prediction and control. What science it contains withers for lack of an adequate political framework to make any sense of the implications of its findings. But there is also a new style of social science literature in which the old assumptions of humanism and political democracy as the will to turn knowledge to welfare are totally lacking. This new literature, which makes use of the game metaphor, treats alike war-games and peace-games in a strange third world beyond the conventional borders of fact and value. The Report from Iron Mountain1 adopts what is called a 'military contingency' model (p. 12) for its study of the possibility and, note, the desirability of

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1
Report from Iron Mountain on the Possibility and Desirability of Peace, with introductory material by Leonard C. Lewin, New York, Dell Publishing Company, 1967.

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