Traditional communal understanding of crime and the role of social therapy: ideas from African philosophy
In this essay, I challenge the contemporary social practice of conceptualizing crime as solely an individual’s fault and one’s responsibility. The individuation of the person is highly impersonal, causes fragmentation, marginalisation of the individual, and the destruction of the traditional practice of considering an individual as an integral part of the society. In contrast to this perspective, I make a case for a communal correctional system that is based on a traditional African social therapeutic system. This is a system that considers crime as causing ontological disorder or disharmony especially in communities that are communitarian in nature, and which considers all crimes as disrupting communal harmony. Furthermore, I argue that correcting wrongdoing is also an opportunity for communities to introspect themselves, i.e. reconsider existing practices and views for the community’s benefit and that of a faltering individual. My focus in this essay is on revealing African understanding of crime and correcting it as a plausible alternative to the existing western correcting system.
Keywords: Community, individual, crime, reconciliation, restorative justice, social therapy, harmony