Author Archives: sonipooni

Deconstruction is Justice

The final ‘food for thought’ question asking us to explain Derrida’s claim “Deconstruction is Justice” is exactly what Mike said it would be, straightforward yet challenging. Unlike other theorist, Derrida gives no fixed definition of justice and deconstructs the definitions given to words by looking at new meanings within them. Derrida explains how the English language is used to make logic-based methods of understanding and is another way to address law and justice (Pavlich, 2011). Pavlich, 2011 gives us a case example in the text book describing how judges often cannot define crime, punishment or justice but instead look other case examples because the meanings of these words have other terms. Derrida explains the process of giving meaning by involving “deferring signs to one another in a dynamic way to produce provincial, context-specific meaning” (Pavlich, 2011).

Derrida’s lack of ability to define justice is examined by terms that are authorized to relate to other terms (Pavlich, 2011). He also “suggests how the process of deferring to other terms actually creates meaning, being, and presence” (Pavlich, 2011). An example of this can be shown when trying to define law, crime, justice, violence, and punishment like we had done in class. No word can be defined itself without defining another concept within that definition. For example, we said that justice is fair but the word fair also had to be defined because there are many different concepts of fairness. Pavlich 2011 describes this in the text book by saying that meanings are never fixed but are instead deferred to other terms. The reason that justice is difficult to define by Derrida is because this “realization defies any attempt to find absolute, fixed, or closed definitions.

Derrida’s claim, “Deconstruction is Justice”, looks at different ways of generating new meanings that does not destroy” but instead enhances new meaning (Pavlich, 2011). I would have to agree with Derrida’s claim because it is very true that no term has a fixed meaning thus it could mean something different to someone else. An example of this was proven to me in class during our activity to define terms. Our term was justice and yet everyone in the group had something different to say about justice. If we were to think about this in our everyday lives, there are many things that are never really clear and easy to understand for example hate crime laws. Hate crime laws are defined in the criminal code of Canada but in many case examples the definition is always being questioned and is defined differently.

References:

Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida: Deconstruction, Justice, and Law. (Class handout)

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press

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Sovereign Power and Counter-Law

Agamben’s theorization of the camp summarizes the theory of normalized exceptionality by looking at the sovereign power of juridico-political space and the Nazi Camps. He describes  those who are separated from the law and lose everything as a legal subject are no longer seen as a political subject thus, cannot commit a crime or can have crimes being committed against them. He illustrates that a state of exception is a relationship between the sovereign power, life and “the state of exception exists as a potentially underpinning all relations between individuals and the state” (Larsen, 2012). The Nazi camp, as Agamben discusses is the state of exception and people in the camps lost a since of status and are branded as an ideal type to the sovereign power in which explains how it is no longer a crime to kill these people. Those people are seen as having a bare life and Agamben describes this metaphor as the biopolitical paradigm.

Agamben’s theorization of the camp differs from the theorization presented by Larsen and Piché in that they institutionalized the state of exception and focus on the sovereign power and the law authorizing these powers. They try to answer the question of how modern sovereign power can change official mandates of authority and law and how Agamben missed the issue of governmentality. Larsen and Piché answer those questions by looking at the blurred mandates and laws created by the authority and state in which the power is disordered between the two. The Kingston Immigration holding centre (KIHC) by Larsen and Piché describes how a prison was created to hold prisoners on “security certificates” under the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act  and depriving innocent people from their rights (Larsen, 2012). Larsen points out 2 key points on KIHC, first how some prisoners released from the prison are still under conditional release and how the prison is seen as exceptional from of detention in Canada (Larsen, 2012).

My thoughts on the KIHC are that the conditions and purpose of the prison is very similar to Guantanamo Bay.     Both prisons violate human rights and the detained prisoners are in prison without evidence of law breaking or criminality. As discussed by Larsen, 2013, the prisons have been used to primarily detain Muslim men. Before reading this article by Larsen, I wonder why the media had not been paying attention to the KIHC and the security certificates allowing innocent people being detained.

References

Kingston Immigration Holding Centre Closes, Legacy Remains (Prism Magazine)

Larsen, M. (2012). Larsen: Exceptional State, Pragmatic Bureaucracy. (Class handout)

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NYPD’s stop-and-frisk policy and Critical Race Theory

This week’s food for thought question involving the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program is an event where police officers stop and search individuals who are in a public setting. Police officers do not need a warrant on the grounds that they believe the person is involved in criminal activity. Shown in the video, from a post on the Sociological Images, police officers pull aside people who look “suspicious,” more than 1800 people are stopped per day and more than 87% of the people stopped were either Black or Latino. However, as described by anonymous police officers who work for the NYPD, police officers are forced to fill a quota and if they fall short they are subjected to disciplinary actions. Disciplinary actions shown in the video include being given unwanted assignments and being put along in dangerous neighbourhoods. The city mayor shown in the video describes the police as being pro-active even though the state has prohibited the use of arrest quotas. Police officers in the video feel forced into filling a quota and have no problem violating rights and using racial profiling because they feel pressed to do so.

The NYPD’s stop-and-frisk program can be explained using the critical race theory by looking at the legal contexts and how this policy is enforced, therefore creating inequality. Firstly, the state of New York has prohibited the use of quotas in police work and yet police are still using this today.  The mayor and commissioner of the police department are promoting stop-and-frisk program as a way to prevent future crimes. Thus, police officers feel forced to meet a quota for their shifts and even infringe on the rights of an individual to meet said quotas. Critical theorists would tackle this issue by seeking the “deconstruction of legal rules and reconstruction of principles and policies from a critical race perspective” as suggested by Aylward (Pavlich, 2011). Furthermore, this can be done by looking at reasons for this policy, questioning the legal practice regarding race, and identifying any oppression (Pavlich, 2011). We would want to look at why this policy has been regarded as high importance to the NYPD and why they believe in using a quota as a measure of their effectiveness even though this is prohibited in New York. Even though no research has supported the effectiveness of the stop-and-frisk policy as shown in the NYCLU website, I question why the public is not doing more to end this racial profiling policy in New York.

Another way the critical race theory can help explain the NYPD’s stop-and-frisk- policy is by looking at how this policy is enforced and how this creates inequality. Police officers in “the hunted and the hated” video describe how they use racial profiling to find individuals to stop-and-frisk. An example given from the video shows a 17 year old that was stopped blocks before being stopped again and recorded his conversation to show police abusing their powers and provoking the individual. The 17 year old was searched and told he was pulled aside for giving the police officers a “look” while they were driving by. Another example to illustrate the racial profiling would be to look at the graph on the Sociological Images post on NYPD’s policy showing the percent of Black, Latino and Whites who were stopped. It amazes me that in 2012, 53% of Black people and 34% of Latino people had been stopped while only 9% of white people have been stopped. To gain more insight from the experiences of stop-and-frisk policy, one can simple apply the law and literature approaches by showing how “lived experiences expose the complexities of race and law” (Pavlich, 2011). This information would be helpful to examine others’ experiences with the police and if they feel racially profiled by the police.

My personal view on this topic is that the policy looks good on paper and seeing police officers on the street reinforces that police are doing their jobs, however, the racial profiling and the pressure in trying to meet a quota is wrong. I feel that if a police officer has ended his or her shift with few 220’s that individual should not be judged as not doing his or her job and should not have to look for or “hunt” people to fill their quotas. An issue brought up in today’s class discussion made me question if our local police are trying to fill a quota on how many tickets they give out during a shift.

References:

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press

http://www.nyclu.org/node/1598

Video Clip:

http://thesocietypages.org/socimages/2012/10/15/nypds-stop-and-frisk-policy/

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Durkheim and Social Solidarity

Food for thought: Durkheim

Durkheim was one of the very first theorists to conclude that there was no society that did not have crime but instead every society has crime and is normal. When looking at Durkheim’s sociology of law that proposes that crime is normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable, we must look at Durkheim’s definition of social solidarity and social facts. Durkheim’s definition of crime is an individual diverging from the collective norms and may exhibit a criminal character (Pavlich, 2011). Durkheim viewed crime as a collective function which was important for reinforcing social norms and increasing consensus (Pavlich, 2011). He also suggested social solidarity is seen as the focus on how society is held together and must be independent from the people it shapes (Pavlich, 2011). Unlike other theorist, Durkheim examined social facts such as ways of acting, thinking and feeling that are collective and not individual (Pavlich, 2011). Durkheim believed that society serves as a function and leads us to higher states of law and morality and establishes shared norms and vales. Crime is a normal part of society because without crime, there can be no sense of what is normal and what is not (Pavlich, 2011). In addition, it is a “visible symbol” of social solidarity and the embodiment of morals and norms (Pavlich, 2011).

Durkheim was also one of the first theorists to look at suicide and what social indicators made people want to kill themselves. This was very influential in his time because before Durkheim key thinkers such as Lombroso looked at the “born criminal” and believed crime was in a person and they needed to be fixed (Simpson, 2000). He looked at such social indicators that included relationship status, where the person lived and their economic status. I believe Durkheim’s theory is correct because the outcome of the study showed that individuals fail to be integrated into society and into the collective norm and gave theorists a new method to how crime can happen through social matters (Simpson, 2000). Durkheim also supported his theory by looking at the divisions of labour. In his book, The Division of Labour in Society, he pointed out contradictions in society which firstly try to increase individualism and secondly value efforts collectivity to follow the same ideals (Pavlich, 2011).

If Durkheim was to look at our society today, would he call it an organic solidarity? According to Durkheim, organic solidarity are forms of restitutive law and are common in advanced societies and point out social cohesion (Pavlich, 2011). Criminal law is no longer seen as a punishable crime, but instead are here to restore the status quo by using administrative agents (Pavlich, 2011). This can be seen in our society today with restorative justice and community reintegration playing a big role when offenders are released from prisons. However, an opposite direction to this approach for example can be shown in the criminalization and charges of cyber bullying in Canada. Recently in the news we have seen the horrific tragedy of a young girl, Amanda Todd, who committed suicide due to bullying. This is not the first suicide due to bullying and has been an ongoing issue since the first big case in 1997 of the Reena Virk Murder. If you were to ask anyone in society, society’s collective view on bullying is that it needs to be stopped and why is it still occurring with programs and education about bullying implemented in schools. Furthermore, recently on the cbc news website, an article on bullying involved 8 Ontario girls being arrested for cyber bullying. I believe societies collective view on bullying is that it is negative, harmful and needs to be stopped; however paying fines is simply not enough. Thus, increasing laws regarding cyber bullying. The question then becomes is youth imprisonment for cyber bullying going to stop this social phenomenon?

References

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law and Society Redefined. Ontario, Canada: Oxford University Press.

Simpson, S. (2000). Of crime and criminality: The use of theory in everyday life. Thousand Oaks, California: Pine Forge Press.

Cbc News Article:

http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/story/2012/10/19/london-bullying-arrests-girls-cyber.html

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