Who Does Law Affect?

Food for Thought:

“Law’s repressive coercive (material) functions are obscured by its ideological (symbolic) functions that portray it as equal, universal, and just”.

What does this mean? Do you agree? Discuss! Use contemporary examples to illustrate your response.

This statement is referring to the fact that laws are made to be equal and are supposed to apply to everyone. But people are able to ‘get off’ because they may be part of the upper class and are able to use their connections to change the outcomes that normally should apply. For this reason as much as we might think that everyone gets treated the same way because that what we are supposed to believe we know that this in fact is not true. people are treated differently even depending were they are for example even within the same country there can be different laws within each province or state and there is really no justification on  how something is allowed or not allowed in one province or state and not in the other. “Ideology is used as a mask created to obscure inequality and the work of power”(Garth & Sarat, 1998). This quote refers to the fact that the reason that we believe that everything is fair and is because ideologies lead us to believe that we are all being treated equally and laws are being made with our well being in mind.

Karl Marx argues that in a capitalist society there is always someone with the power and everybody else is at the mercy of the people with power. ( Pavlich, 2011).  The people in power are the ones making the laws, therefore when these laws would normally hurt a normal individual the people in power are able to minimize any negative effects because of the power they have. We have seen countless examples in the last few years where people in power e.g. politicians are able to get off the hook for any wrong doing because they are in a position of authority and have the money and resources to minimize and negative outcomes of their behavior. Where as any regular citizen could not manage this because they have no power or authority and have to feel the full affect of the law.

I think that this is definitely the type of society we live in that some people have more power and authority than others. Most people just accept this because we have been accustomed to this our whole lives. We know that if people who have money, resources and power do something that is against the law they probably will not be punished or not punished to the full extent of the law. But we also know that if we were to do the same thing surely their would be different consequences for us. Everyone pretty much knows this and accepts it and does not question it and that reason is because we do not think that there is anything we can do about this, this is just the way it is. We are made to feel this way by the people with authority so that we do not question them when we know that they are doing something wrong or not fair.

References

http://web.mit.edu/anthropology/pdf/articles/silbey/silbey_justice.pdf

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1 Comment

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One response to “Who Does Law Affect?

  1. You propose that “This statement is referring to the fact that laws are made to be equal and are supposed to apply to everyone. But people are able to ‘get off’ because they may be part of the upper class and are able to use their connections to change the outcomes that normally should apply.”
    While status, resources, and privilege definitely have an impact on the outcome of court proceedings, Marx’s statement goes further than this. It addresses the content of law in addition to legal processes. Marx argues that the legal system itself is designed to perpetuate the unequal political-economic status quo. This is reflected in the nature of criminal law. Note that criminal statutes reflect an abiding concern with street crime and violent crime, but are comparatively silent on matters of corporate and white-collar crime or state crime.
    Question: do you think that there are meaningful exceptions to the rule that “politicians [or other elites] are able to get off the hook for any wrongdoing”?
    You note that “I think that this is definitely the type of society we live in that some people have more power and authority than others”.
    Remember this statement when we study the sociology of Michel Foucault. He has a different conceptualization of power. It will be interesting to compare and contrast the two.