n SA Crime Quarterly - The Drug Effect: Health, Crime and Society, Suzanne Fraser and David Moore (Eds.) : book review

Volume 2012, Issue 41
  • ISSN : 1991-3877



The ethical commentator, in response to the abject failure of the global war on drugs, the harms it generates and the apparent lunacy of its continuing application, may be forgiven for an appeal to scientism. Indeed, a common refrain among drug war critics is the need for social policy decision-making that sidesteps moralising and ideology, and instead focuses on 'the facts'. In , Suzanne Fraser and David Moore have collected a range of voices that question the objectivity of the scientific approach, and, more fundamentally, the 'epistemological naiveté' of positivism - that is, the view that it is possible to produce objective, value-free knowledge about the world. Instead, they argue for constructionism, and the view that everything we think we know about 'drugs' is determined by discourse, values, history and politics. This isn't necessarily to say that there is nothing whatsoever material about matter (although the authors are interestingly inconsistent on this) and that a fatal heroin overdose is 'merely a discursive construction', but it is at the very least a warning that the supposed 'facts' may be no less subject to discourse and social norm than are the transparently moral judgements they wish to circumvent.

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