Author Archives: waudin

Deconstruction in Law: a contemporary case

Derrida saw law as limited calculation, thus deconstructible. As the author mentioned in the previous blog, according to Pavlich (2011), “deconstruction does not destroy meanings in a language; it reorganizes the use of language by realigning the oppositions (i.e.- male and female, gay and straight, etc.), thus making room for unexpected meanings and patterns.” It is the author’s intension to use the following case as an example to illustrate that deconstruction shifts between laws and justice and that new unexpected meanings of law and justice can emerge depends on who is on trial.

In 2006, Taiwan’s former president Chen Shui-Bian was involved in a corruption scandal that could have caused him to step down from presidency before the end of his second term in 2008. On November 4th of 2006, “the Public Prosecutor’s Office of Taiwan’s High Court formally indicted Mr. Chen’s wife, Wu Shu-Shen, on charges of issuing fake receipts to extract about $450,000 from a fund that the president controls to support Taiwan’s diplomatic initiatives overseas.” (Kahn, New York Times, 2006) Ms. Wu was accused for using the funds for personal expenditures such as diamonds and other luxury items for her family. She was also involved in another bribery scandal whereas she was rumored to have accepted a large sum of gift certificates from a department store chains (ps- a really big company with branch stores all over Asian and South-East Asian countries) for government favors.

Throughout Mr. Chen’s presidency, Chen’s family did not provide any evidence that the funds were not used improperly. Close to the end of Chen’s presidency, Ms. Wu and her family were involved in transferring the funds to over sea personal accounts in Sweden. The Court requested them to return the funds but they were unwilling to cooperate. The Court had to make a request with Sweden and the bank the funds were deposited in to retrieve the money, however, the money retrieved was clearly short compared to what had shown on record. Again, Ms. Wu and her family showed no signs of cooperation to return the money in full.

After the trial had started, Ms. Wu had requested to postpone the trial 16 times due to sudden hypotension as of April 2008. After she had been sentenced to 19 years in prison, she was not locked up due to health issues and after a prison’s auxiliary hospital refused to admit her. The government did not want to bare any responsibility that might result in any possibility on “negligence resulting death.” The court here deconstructed the laws and added elements of human rights to their likings. If the person on trial was just a regular Joe, there would be no way that the court would grant so many postpone and let alone not being locked up due to “health issues”.

Reference:

Kahn, J. (Nov. 4, 2006) Taiwanese President and Wife Are Accused of Corruption. The New         York Times. http://www.nytimes.com/2006/11/04/world/asia/04taiwan.html?fta=y&_r=0

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

United Daily News. http://mag.udn.com/mag/abian/storypage.jsp?f_ART_ID=46154

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Response to Food for Thought on Derrida’s “Deconstruction is Justice”

Food for Thought:

Explain, in your own words, the meaning of Derrida’s claim “Deconstruction is Justice”. Do you agree or disagree with this statement? Explain.

In response to this week’s food for thought, Jacques Derrida’s concept of deconstruction considers what is involved when the structure sequence of our languages are disrupted. According to Pavlich (2011), deconstruction does not destroy meanings in a language; it reorganizes the use of language by realigning the oppositions (i.e.- male and female, gay and straight, etc.), thus making room for unexpected meanings and patterns.

To Derrida, law is the element of calculation to decide the here and now. Unlike law, justice is incalculable because it never coterminous with the here and now. The concept of justice is elusive and should not be given a fixed definition. It is not that our languages cannot define and settle the meaning of justice but because “if we formulate justice…is not because of their essential nature…rather, a product of the ways those terms are authorized to relate to other terms.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.170)

Derrida sees law as limited calculation and therefore, deconstructible. Unlike law, justice is without limit and thus undeconstructible; therefore, inseparable from deconstruction. “Deconstruction takes place in the interval that separates the undeconstructibility of justice from the deconstructibility of law; and justice, therefore, enables both law and deconstruction.”

The author of this musing agrees with Derrida’s claim that deconstruction is justice. Throughout history, even in contemporary justice system, we still see cases that demonstrate deconstruction moves between law and justice. New unexpected meanings of law and justice can emerge in cases depends on who is on trial. The author of this musing intends to illustrate this example further in his next musing using Taiwan’s presidential corruption scandal that occurred back in 2006.

Reference:

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

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Social Solidarity and Evolution of Contracts

As the author of this musing mentioned previously, Durkheim was mostly concerned with the idea of social solidarity, a concept of how society was held together. Besides having crimes to assist in structuring the moral guidelines of societies, he went on to elaborate the idea of social solidarity through contracts. Usually a contract was considered as a valid agreement between two consenting free individuals and if the consent was not given voluntarily, the contract could be nulled. (Pavlich, 2011) Durkheim believed that “a contract is not sufficient by itself, but is only possible because of the regulation of contracts, which is of social origin.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.81) Durkheim believed that the formation of contract laws was linked to the evolution of societies. “Contract law emerges at a time in history when modern society requires a way to facilitate the reliable acquisition and transfer of property.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82) Durkheim demonstrated the evolution of contract law from status-based contracts such as blood covenants, “sealed through the sharing of blood” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82), that were used in primitive societies to the contemporary contracts that were more familiar to us.

A “solemn contract is expressed in words and guaranteed through sacred references to a divine authority that, say, a party possesses a particular thing.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.82) Durkheim believed that in modern society, the links to divine had weakened, but without a solemn ritual, he believed that there was no contract. Durkheim also made an interesting suggestion saying that just because an institution was needed it would appear out of thin air. “It was not enough for the consensual contract to be demanded by the advance of economic life; the public mind, too, had to be ready to conceive it as possible…a change had to be made in the region of ideas, that would allow of the having a different start.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.83) This reminded the author of this muse so many failed business strategies he had heard before. An example from the laughable Pepsi strategy twenty somewhat years ago, of thinking that if they could get one Chinese to purchase a drink, and also considering the population in China, they would have sold billions of drinks. The strategy failed miserably back then because the Chinese population seemed to see drinking soft drinks was unnecessary. And so, most soft drink companies began to promote to a younger generation.

Reference:

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

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Durkheim’s Concept of a Normal Society

Food for Thought:

Durkheim’s sociology of law proposes that crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable. What does this mean? Is Durkheim correct? Discuss, with reference to contemporary examples.

Responding to this week’s food for thought, Durkheim believed that crime was necessary, indispensable and a normal part of society because “public reactions to crime can bring a community closer together and subsequently reinforce social norms and increase social consensus.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.72) Durkheim was mostly concerned with how societies were held together, a concept known as social solidarity. He believed “society as prior and external to individuals, exercising a power of constraint over them.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.73) Durkheim believed that society was independent from the people it shaped and apparently had a life of its own. According to him, individual minds were created “through social forces because there is nothing in social life that is not in the consciousness of individuals.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.74) Durkheim argued that all crimes were tied to particular types of societies and despite their usefulness or not, they were normal because they were “linked to the fundamental conditions of all social life.” (Pavlich, 2011, p.79) Simply put, Durkheim believed that crime was a normal part of society because it was universal and necessary. Crimes were universal because they exist in all societies and no society was without them. At the same time, crimes were indispensable because without crime, people could not tell the difference between what was normal and what was not. Therefore, crimes function as a moral guideline in societies. (Pavlich, 2011) The author of this musing only agrees with Durkheim partially. According to Durkheim’s theory, if an action is not criminalized then it is normal, but is that necessarily true?

Twenty seven years old Christopher Redd had been fired from his job as a grave digger in Colorado after caught on camera “gyrating and playing a simulated guitar while standing on a burial vault” and could possibly face misdemeanor charges. (The Huffington Post, Oct 2011) Months later, the Mesa County District Attorney’s Office decided not to charge him. Although not being charged, gyrating and playing a simulated guitar on a burial vault was definitely beyond “normal”. Anyone interested in the Redd story can follow the link below to watch the recorded video of him dancing.

Reference:

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

The Huffington Post. (video/news). (2011). Colorado Grave Digger Could Be Charged For Dancing On Cemetery Grave [UPDATE, VIDEO].Retrieved from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2011/08/26/colo-grave-digger-could-b_n_937869.html

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