Marx, law, and ideology

“Law’s repressive coercive (material) functions are obscured by its ideological (symbolic) functions that portray it as equal, universal, and just”. This is basically saying that crime, although made to be equal with the hope that they are imposed equally, aren’t so much at all. It’s seen often how someone commits a crime or breaks the law, and the sentence imposed doesn’t fit the crime at all. It is one thing when the punishment is too severe, but when it isn’t even remotely adequate for the crime committed, that’s when law enforcers need to really shake their heads. The idea that law and laws are created, like man, to be equal and fair across the board is a nice adage, but it’s clear that it although laws are created fairly and to help maintain a happy, safe and prosperous society, they aren’t enforced equally, fairly or sometimes at all and that’s what is the root of the problem with law enforcement today.
This is why Karl Marx loves the concept of Capitalism, because it means that there is always one person in charge of all others, and that that one body of power has the power to enforce the law as they see fit. In other words, people in power use and abuse that power to deflect blame off of themselves when they’ve gotten into trouble, and they then use their status in society and the community to bring the idea that it isn’t a huge deal to light and deflect the public’s eye elsewhere and away from them. The classic case is simply when former Vice-President of the United States Dick Cheney, shot his lawyer in the face while quail hunting. Now normally, when one person, shoots another person, in the FACE, there is some sort of reprimand, now albeit the entire thing was by accident, and they were hunting, so accidents do happen while hunting, so it’s understandable that he wouldn’t necessarily serve jail time or something, but the fact that he shot a fellow human being in the face and got nothing more than a lot of jokes on Saturday Night Live, and one great sketch by Lewis Black during which he compares that incident to the war in Iraq (viewer discretion is advised), is all slightly nerve racking, because if I was to shoot someone in the face I’d more than likely serve some hard time. But because of who he was/is he didn’t get anything.
Now all isn’t lost. Some people do the time for the crime regardless of who they are. Enter, Rod Blagojevich, former governor of Illinois, who is currently serving 14 years in federal prison on federal corruption charges including conspiracy to commit mail and wire fraud and solicitation of bribery. To even further how the laws are being enforced for the severity of what he did while in office, he can’t even be granted parole until he has served over 11 years of his imprisonment, so as we see here, yes people of power do tend to get off, but they also maybe get a harsher penalty than usual; in other words, they are made an example of to the public because of their high status within the community to get across the point that nobody can get away with “this”, and because “he” tried, we’re going to maybe go overboard with the penalty but again, it’s all to bring light to this act that isn’t ok to commit. It can also be seen in sports, especially with the evolution of Facebook and Twitter, how professional athletes take to the internet after a game/match and belittle the refereeing, or another player, and sometimes the league itself, and they get fined almost every time. The Royal Scottish Pipe Band Association (www.rspba.org) has a rule, under section three – general rules (http://www.rspba.org/html/ordersandrules.php#THREE) where if you aren’t a paid member of the association and your band competes, the band could face some heavy sanctioning and that was enforced this past summer when the House of Edgar Shotts and Dykehead Caledonia Pipe Band weren’t allowed to compete at the last three Major Championships of the season due to a member of fairly high ranking not being a paid member (amongst other ‘charges’). He was made an example of because of who he is in the pipe band but also the drumming community, and so to get the point across that certain behaviours aren’t going to be tolerated they imposed a hefty suspension that cost the band the opportunity to compete. SO it’s not like all laws and rules aren’t being imposed fairly all the time, it’s just sometimes they are, and sometimes they aren’t, but when they are being imposed, perhaps they are being a little too severe in an attempt at deterrence directed at the general public.

More and more we see that the powers within democratic society’s just maybe don’t have it within them to rule/run the society because they abuse their power to do whatever they want or they manipulate the existing laws to find loopholes within them so that they can justify their sometimes immoral and/or unethical ‘business’ decisions. But on the same token, sometimes when those people’s power and authority is being blocked by all the channels that they have to go through to get a bill or law passed, sometimes it’s worth asking, would a capitalist society be beneficial for societies like Canada, where people always complain about the Harper government but whenever there’s an election he seems to get re-elected. It seems as if some democratic societies are already becoming slightly capitalistic in the ways that certain things are being done, or by considering persons being appointed to do this or that. It definitely brings rise to the fact that although laws are created to enforce the law justly and fairly across all walks of life, it doesn’t. status and rank within the community definitely play a role in whether someone gets the just blame for what they’ve done, and money is another contributor in it because people with power, are people with money (whether it’s their own or via outside contributors) who are able to buy their way out of sticky situations. It’s not pretty, but democracy has shown at times to maybe be the only course of action to instill fairness across the nation, but at other times it handcuffs the government from doing something now what the community needs desperately, and it’s not like we can put an “urgent” or “express” stamp on certain things so that they get decided faster.

References:
-Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills, Ontario: Oxford University Press.

Websites:
-www.rspba.org

wikipedia:
-http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rod_Blagojevich

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1 Comment

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One response to “Marx, law, and ideology

  1. You propose that the ‘food for thought statement’ “is basically saying that crime, although made to be equal with the hope that they are imposed equally, aren’t so much at all”. Do you mean crime, or do you mean ‘criminal laws’?

    I am not sure how the perception of lax punishment resulting from a criminal trial is illustrative of Marx’s point about the ideological functions of law. Could you elaborate?

    You also propose that “Karl Marx loves the concept of Capitalism, because it means that there is always one person in charge of all others, and that that one body of power has the power to enforce the law as they see fit. ”

    Capitalism does not mean that one person is in charge of all others. Capitalism is the name given to an economic system that is based on wage labour and the accumulation and reinvestment of capital. It is a system that creates marked divisions between the ownership class and the working class, with the former benefiting from the exploitation of the latter. Marx views power differentials as arising out of class positions. The legal system in a capitalist society arises out of *and reinforces* the capitalist mode of production.

    Interesting discussion of law enforcement within the drumming community!

    In your concluding paragraph, you write that “It seems as if some democratic societies are already becoming slightly capitalistic in the ways that certain things are being done, or by considering persons being appointed to do this or that. ”

    Some clarification is necessary here.

    All contemporary democracies are capitalist. This is an uncontroversial statement of fact. I think that what you are getting at is not that liberal democracies are ‘becoming slightly capitalistic’, but that they are increasingly visibly incapable of ameliorating the contradictions that arise out of capitalism. Is this correct?