Singapore’s “Broken Windows” Theory of Morals

This is the kind of thing you see, and you go: only in Singapore. It’s a sign outside a disco near the river:

singapur disco

It makes me think: unlike the injunction to enjoy in Sentosa, this one should be rather effective. It spells out what is banned in a very general way, thus opening up a space for forbidden practices that is pretty wide. Even dancing cheek-to-cheek in such a place probably makes one feel extremely filthy and sinful, thus making it easier for locals and visitors to break the rules a little bit so they don’t feel too constrained.

This a great political advantage of morally-strict places: that the unavoidable, half-secret undermining of the ruling ideology by the rebel types will still be not such a big deal as they think it is. The authorities make it easy to rebel and yet stay well away from the real boundaries; one might call this Singapore’s “broken windows” theory of morals, after the similar theory applied in the U.S. to lower crime rates in the 1990s:



About David Roman

Communicator. I tweet @dromanber.
This entry was posted in Sights and Sounds and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to Singapore’s “Broken Windows” Theory of Morals

  1. These sort of signs are what we call “wayang.” It’s more of a statement to tell authorities that the shop is doing its best to avoid criminal activities, and even if caught red-handed, should not be faulted.

    Of course, it does nothing to really restrict crime. The prostitutes, for eg, would just loiter outside the premises.


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