Category Archives: Spencer

Organ Failure…?

There is an article I read recently that contained some rather disturbing information, and information that I was not that surprised to learn when I thought about it. This article is not the most recent to the internet, but I searched it out again because I think it is still relevant. It can be found here: http://fivethirtyeight.com/features/how-many-americans-the-police-kill-each-year/ The article goes into much greater detail than I will here; but, to sum up its contents, it claims that police forces and their officers across the nation are becoming, or have been for a while depending on your perspective, much too eager to use deadly force on people who may not require such “intervention”. Maybe, even more disturbing still, is the idea that there was never a decline in the amount of force police use, but simply less media coverage, and thus less public awareness. The article mentions Michael Brown as one of the victims of extreme police violence, but he is just the most recent example in a long line of people.

I read this article prior to sociological theory, but I was made to think about it again while reading about Spencer’s theories of society as an organism. If society is an organism, then American society is likely ill. I’m sure this is not a surprise to many, but Spencer would probably be sad to see this sickness. While he did state the idea that societies move through periods of growth and stagnation, I don’t think he meant to this degree – where an arguably essential part of society starts killing some of the organism. Spencer argued that societies had requisite needs, and that one of these needs was his “regulatory function”. Well, any society is bound to have crime and those who commit them (until we accomplish Marx’s utopian communism, that is); and therefore, there could be argued the need for police – to regulate and stabilize internal structures, such as the legal system and those who would clash with it. However, in light of this article and its disturbing statistics, perhaps there is a disease in the regulatory function (i.e., law enforcement) of the organism – not just a stagnation. If this is the case, that America has a sick organ, do we need to cut the organ out, or do we need to treat the illness – and how? Unfortunately, I don’t have an answer to that question.