New Criticals

What does the criminal reveal?  The criminals of The Wire--who are both protagonists and antagonists at once—uncover the complicated and interesting ways in which institutions and individuals are irrevocably intertwined, showing that the rigid conceptual lines that we try to draw between individual and society, criminal and citizen are not so rigid, but thin, blurry, porous, difficult to define. The hyper-individualistic, liberal, capitalist and Christian assumptions that are the foundation of American culture and identity always define the criminal in terms of "individual responsibility." The act of crime is seen simply as either, a) the failure of will to resist the temptation of evil, or b) the success of a naturally depraved will that is originally sinful and, without the aid of an intermediary (The Messiah, the Leviathan, the Social Contract), eternally evil. Punishment, then, is meted out wholly on the shoulders of the individual, Biblically ("Eye for an Eye"), the so-called "just deserts" theory of punishment.