New Criticals

How do these tensions and transgressions become manifest through the tragedy of The Wire? How does society speak through the criminals? What social logic is revealed in and through, say, the Barksdale crew? Were we to understand Avon, Stringer Bell, Wee-Bey and D'Angelo as merely individuals, we might see them just as we do all other abstract notions of "the criminal": animalistic, solipsistic, nihilistic, selfish, dark, evil. But they do not act as "pure" individuals, but as members of a whole, as members of the Barksdale "team." Who each of these individuals are is not defined simply as a relation to themselves but a relation to the whole, the role they play in "the Game": dealer, lieutenant, enforcer, a structure that exactly mirrors the structure of the institutions that oppose them—the police, the corporation, the "legal" bureaucracy. In fact, for these "criminals," if there is a clash between individual and whole, the individual more readily denies their own interests so that the whole may continue to exist, not only the "whole" of the particular crew of which they are a part, but the "whole" that is "the Game" itself. This happens many times as various members of the Barksdale crew willingly do time rather than snitch on their comrades. Whether this fact is motivated by a genuine sense of community, fear, or a calculated action of self-interest is not important here, only the point that these "individuals" always act with one eye to the whole, perhaps both eyes. In fact, internal to the organization at least, members of the criminal organizations act more like "citizens" than do the "citizens" of the legal, bourgeois, "inside" world. In this way, the Barksdale organization looks almost utopic, resembling moreso Plato's ideal polis or Hobbes' commonwealth than a chaotic war of all against all or a cacophonous babble of egomaniacal Randean agents.