I just started watching this TV show The Wire. It’s been on for a while now, as usual I’m behind schedule. I’m not proud of it (being an anarchist and all) but I really like cop shows and spy shows. I’ve only watched the first two episodes or so. In this episode there’s a sequence where a homicide detective sits in a court room during a trial for murder. Some of the people involved in the murder sit in the courtroom and intimidate the witnesses. The jury finds for the defense. The judge speaks with the detective and asks to know what happened. This results in a minor scandal among the police hierarchy. It pretty much boils down to injured egos and perhaps fear of real professional and economic consequences due to mistakes and so on. The show seems to suggest a similar circumstance within the drug dealing operation that the police are opposing. What I find interesting in all this is that it implies a relative autonomy of some segments of the state from each other – at a pretty low level really, all within the police force and legal operations of one city. In this relative autonomy there also seems to be different organizational/institutional logics – different groups operate according to different sets of interests (or the same sorts of interests but opposing actual interests), which are not reducible to short-term narrow interests in the way that some people (at least me) tend to think. It reminds me of the passages in Marx where he talks about the need to recoup value advanced and about the relationship between price and value. Over all, at a general and abstract level, these things correspond and so forth, but this stuff fails in/at short term small scale predictions. There’s a Raymond Williams quote on this too, about how much of Marxim is better at diagnosing epochs than at accurately discussing changes and activities within epochs. This is part of why we need categories like gender and race. I think the epochal changes don’t make sense without those categories, for sure, but even more so the smaller scale/scope changes don’t make sense and the details of *how* changes play out make even less sense without those categories. This is over-reaching but as a starting hypothesis I think this point about relative autonomy and different logics and so on etc etc, I think these dynamics are present in most cop show scenarios where there’s a conflict between a lower level and a higher level police officer, where the lower level police officer’s argument is something like “but what I’m doing is in greater service to the law/justice” and so on. (The Wire seems to be setting up this sort of dynamic between a lower level detective and a higher level commanding officer.) The lower level officer follows a different sort of logic or procedure than the higher level one. Ultimately (in what I bet happens in the show) these activities help the state over all – the relative autonomy is part of an over all dynamic (or rather a sectoral dynamic which is itself bound up with yet relatively autonomous from other sectoral dynamics and a larger systemic dynamic.)

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