Category Archives: Musing

“Deconstruction, Justice and Law”

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

When Derrida is explaining the concept of “deconstruction is justice,” firstly we need to look at what makes up this concept. Law is not justice. Law is a calculation that makes decisions in the present but they are always made within a sense of justice.  Law and justice work mutually together. The process of law is to make decisions that are just. Justice is incalculable. Justice appears though law and its given decisions. Deconstruction relies on the existence of human values that transcend any given culture. Justice is human values. Subjects of justice are those who can feel and experience justice and injustice. Deconstruction is relevant to justice because we can deconstruct the boundaries of who we consider a proper subject of justice. With human nature we limit the subjects of justice, but with the concept of deconstruction, we are able to question those limitations, leaving more and more subjects, (women, children and animals) to be treated with justice other than white, European men.

With deconstruction resting on the existence of human values, and justice being a human value, it is fair to say that not all will have the same definition for what is justice. Each individual will  of what justice really is. And through time and from culture to culture, ideas change and justice is never fixed. Justice is not a settled concept.

I agree with Derrida’s concept, “deconstruction is justice.” With each individual having their own ideas and thoughts of what is justice, one may feel like justice has been brought forth, where another may feel like justice wasn’t served. Justice will have a different meaning through out time and through out culture.Just like deconstruction, justice is an open-ended term. Deconstruction is justice.

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The War On Drugs

For the purpose of my term paper I have chosen to look at the war on drugs, which was a prominent issues in the 1970s in the United States. This era was ushered in very closely after the civil rights movement in which people were given equal rights, and efforts to subsidize class differences were successful. Under the guise of the war on drugs, a large portion of government spending was allocated to combat this ever-present problem. In addition a plethora of laws were passed which allowed the government to detain and convict people who were suspected of using or selling drugs. Although this movement was directed towards all levels of society, the reality is that the people who suffered the most were the lower class and the middle class. Under these new laws they faced lengthy terms for possession of small amounts of illicit drugs. This is very evident when looking at the amount of people who were incarcerated during that period. Furthermore these new laws allowed for prison demographics to change drastically, which is a contributing reason for why a large portion of inmates are of minority ethnicities.  To support my ideas I have decided to look at the Marxist theory and critical race theory, to help explain how racial and status marginalization was achieved through the war on drugs.

The Marxist theory has often been criticized for its very harsh and pessimistic views of society and governing authorities, and it is often been tied with encouraging rebellion and the demise of the government. Although these views are very harsh and unrealistic, the theory makes an excellent point in noting that the law is simply a tool for the ruling class to exercise control over society. This notion fits in very well with the changes that occurred after government officials declared the war on drugs. For example laws were drastically changed and the very famous “three strikes” rule was implemented. Furthermore the length of sentences received by people was also increased which was very detrimental to individuals who were being incarcerated for petty offences. The government also set aside a large sum of money for these programs and increased funding for new departments such as the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA), which has often been criticized for the large scope of powers it received.

In addition to the social class differences, which are exemplified by the war on drugs, race was a prominent indicator of the people who were effected most by the war on drugs. A conspicuous example of this is the amount of African Americans and Hispanic individuals who were incarcerated after the new laws were implemented. Although these individuals were the only groups of individuals who consumed or produced drugs, they were the ones who received lengthier sentences and were most commonly targeted by law enforcement. Furthermore the propaganda that was associated with the war on drugs, presented drug use as something that ruined homes, families, bred violence and most importantly was deemed to go against the American dream. People often associated drug use and production as a normal occurrence in lower class communities which were predominantly composed of ethnic minorities who has either recently immigrated to the country, or had previously been neglected by the government. These new laws only perpetuated the stereotypes and created an unprecedented divide in social class and race, which is still present in the United States.

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Deconstruction is Jusice

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.

With this week’s final musing, I agree with Jacques Derrida’s claim that “Deconstruction is Justice” because justice is not identifiable or calculable as law is. Law is clear cut and has set rules and regulations. However, justice is not so straightforward because when justice is done, each scenario or outcome is different. There is no one set of rules to define such. According to Pavlich, “law does not guarantee justice any more than justice guarantees good law. Because justice is incalculable, one can never declare that I am just, or that this law/decision is just. One could say that it is legal or that it conforms to rules, statutes and conventions” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 173). That quote illustrates that like words, justice has different meanings to individuals.

According to Jacques Derrida deconstruction is, “precisely a way to think about what is involved when ordinary flows of language are disrupted. Deconstruction is not a method or some tool that you apply to something from the outside [and it] is something which happens and which happens inside (Pavlich, 2011, p. 171). This illustrates that deconstruction delivers different meanings to things when they are picked apart. Derrida illustrates one “can never settle definitions absolutely” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 169). And that words, lead from one definition to another and so on and so forth. For example, if a decision is passed down onto a case, each individual will view justice as something different. Derrida goes on to state that deconstruction is not predetermined and will continue to have different meanings to everyone.

How one interprets the law, will lead to justice being served. The judge who is overseeing a case will make his or her decision after hearing all the facts presented to them and the outcome will be, what the judge deems to serve justice. However, with that being said others involved may not be happy with the decision because their definition of justice is or was different than that of the judge.

Derrida’s claim that “deconstruction is justice” is not a simple text to understand and requires more depth and knowledge because it can be a bit confusing because law and justice continues to progress; therefore laws and decisions must be picked apart for further development and understanding.  Justice is not stagnant or a fixed entity because it continues to evolve with every case and decision.

Reference:

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

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Deconstruction Is Justice

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004) was a twentieth century philosopher who developed a strategy called “deconstruction” in the mid 1960’s.  “Deconstruction” has been noted to be a hard term to define. Deconstruction occurs when a word or context of a statement that is believed to have a fixed meaning is changed. An everyday example of this would be the translation of words from one language or culture to another. For example the swastika as a symbol and word was adopted by Nazi Germany in 1920, and used to represent the Aryn race. Hence, the “swastika” has now been strongly stigmatized.  However, the “swastika” has also been used by various ancient cultures in the world and still to this day is associated to be a positive symbol. For example in Hinduism, the word “swastika” translates to “to be good”, and is also the sacred symbol of auspiciousness. Here we have the same symbol and the same word, however one’s fixed understanding and meaning of the word would differ from another’s because the same words don’t have the same meaning. Derrida was committed to analyzing the literal meaning of a text all whilst finding alternative meanings as to what the text was stating. Deconstruction  probes questions about the limits and edges that have been placed on contexts. Making them adhere to a certain identity, and take on only one meaning when the context, text, or word can encompass so much more.

Derrida makes the claim that “Deconstruction is Justice”. With my understanding of deconstruction it is difficult to deconstruct the term “justice”. As justice has taken various different forms throughout periods of time and has changed ideology across culture to culture. Justice may be considered to have been served in one circumstance according to one person, and someone could disagree and say justice hasn’t been served. I agree with Derrida’s claim that “Deconstruction is Justice”. Taking a look at the process in which laws are interrupted in a case or in the courtroom is a key example of “Deconstruction is Justice”. Laws are made and state a certain limitation or power to do something however, each law is interpreted differently from individual to individual. Finding justice is something that since the start of time has been sought after, however with no one definition or one interpretation we may never be able to seek justice because of the ever changing definition and ideologies packed into the word.

http://www.iep.utm.edu/derrida/#H2

Pavlich (2011) – Chapter 11 – Just Events: Law and Society

Weber, Elisabeth (2005). “Deconstruction is Justice”, SubStance 34(1): 38-43

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Capital Punishment in the United States

For the purpose of the term paper, I have chosen Capital Punishment in the United States. I have always been fascinated and disturbed at how easily a human life can be destroyed under the law. I would like to provide some background information on Capital Punishment in the United States as I will be discussing it further in detail in my paper. Capital punishment( a.k.a the death penalty) in the United States is limited under the Eighth Amendment to the United States Constitution to cases of homicide, crimes against the state, and crimes against humanity committed by mentally- competent adults( 2005). However, in practice, it is only ever used in cases where aggravating circumstances exist, including aggravated murder, felony murder, and contract killing.  The death penalty is currently a legal sentence in 37 states and in the federal civilian and military legal systems. At this point, the method of execution is thru a lethal injection (Death Penalty, 2008).There are seventeen U.S states that do not have a death penalty:

Alaska

Hawaii

Illinois

Iowa

Maine

Michigan

Minnesota

New Jersey

North Dakota

Rhode Island

Vermont

West Virginia

Wisconsin

Massachusetts

Connecticut

New Mexico

New York

John Finnis would say that the death penalty is unjust because he believes death penalty is a violation of the requirement that law should value human life. Finnis’s  7 basic forms of human flourishing include:

  1. The valuing and transmission of life.
  2. knowledge for its own self
  3. ‘play’
  4. ‘aesthetic experience’
  5. ‘sociability’ and especially friendship
  6. ‘practical reasonableness’ that ‘seeks to bring an intelligent and reasonable order into one’s own actions and habits and practical attitudes’- this structures the ways in which we pursue basic goods
  7. ‘religion ‘ or the value of spiritual experience (Pavlich, 2011)

Therefore, Finnis would argue that by cutting a person’s life short is in clear violation of the first of the seven basic forms.

Critical race theory would say that the death penalty is unjust as it mainly affects the minority race groups, such as black, Hispanics, and Aboriginal people. I will support the critical race theory by providing case studies.

Reference List

“Facts About the Death Penalty”, Retrieved on November 25, 2012 from the webpage

http://www.deathpenaltyinfor.org/FactSheet.pdf, Death Penalty Information Center, 2008

Kennedy v. Louisiana, 554 U.S. 407(2005).

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

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Term Paper – Anti-Terrorism and Security after 9/11

The topic I have chosen for my term paper is about anti-terrorism and security following post-9/11. When many measures taken by national security created fierce levels of insecurity among certain individuals and groups at home and abroad, specifically because most of the actions taken have come up against respect for human rights, international law, treaties, and conventions. Over this issue many have argued intensely that during exceptional times the state can, if necessary, suspend some of the basic human rights of the few (such as the right against arbitrary detention) in order to conserve the security of the many, others have shown that few such measures have proven themselves prosperous in actually reducing the threat of terrorism (Dobrowolsky, Rollings-Magnusson & Doucet, 2009).  Sadly, what we have seen in Canada of late is a alarming number of instances of national security preoccupations. Unfortunately, impinging on freedom and liberty, not only undermining civil liberties, but also undermining citizenship, equality and human rights (Dobrowolsky, Rollings-Magnusson & Doucet, 2009). Since 9/11, the “war on terrorism” has greatly undermined the principles of liberal democracy, altered the rule of law, expanded the use of executive mandate, held thousands in secret detention  without the right of habeas corpus or representation or trail (Teeple , 2009). Also, opened the door to torture as acceptable although its status as jus cogens in international law, and killed tens of thousands of civilians (Teeple , 2009). The principles of the “U.N. Charter and Universal Declaration of Human Rights and associated covenants and conventions, moreover, have all been trumped by declarations of unilateralism and pre-emptive intervention” (Teeple , 2009, p.33). Meanwhile, as for Western freedoms, the anti-terrorist laws passed by the state since 9/11 allow for more executive arbitrariness (I will discuss this more in my paper, and with my first theoretical approach).

For my first theoretical approach will focus on the work of Durkheim and his work on the evolution of morality, social solidarity, and law. Durkheim main argument was that there are two basic kinds of law, repressive (penal, criminal) and restitutive (civil,administrative, commercial, procedural); each is related with a particular kind of sanction, and each reflects a underlying social solidarity (Pavlich, 2011). The societies that are structured through mechanical solidarity, and which is expressed by penal law: “a social solidarity… which arises because a certain number of states of consciousness are common to all members of the same society” (Pavlich, 2011, p.77). While mechanical solidarity and penal law are common in traditional societies, “Durkheim argues that they persist in contemporary contexts where punishment to avenge offenders is used to protect and reaffirm the collective consciousness” (Pavlich, 2011, p.77). More now than ever, penal law and punishment come to be replaced by notions of deterrence rather than vengeance. This theoretical approach from Durkheim can be used when referring to anti-terrorism legislation. The main legislation post 9/11 is the Anti-Terrorism Act (2001) (or ATA), which was the first solution to the predicted terrorist threat to Canada and its people. The Act represented the Canadian government hasty response to the 9/11 attacks. (The ATA will be discussed more in detail in my paper). The act itself is incompatibly with the rule of rule and accepted principles of criminal justice requires adjustment, and undermines rights guaranteed to Canadians under the Charter, but most of the problems with the act are traced back to the way terrorist activities are defined  (Rollings-Magnusson , 2009). According to Durkheim’s ideology, I think that the ATA is a punishment to avenge offenders or deter, and is used to protect and reaffirm the collective consciousness.

For my second theoretical approach will focus on the ‘critical race theory’ which emerged in the 1960s to confront race and racism (will outline principles of the theory in my paper).  Regarding anti-terrorism and security there has been enormous implications put on race and religion. There has been this false perception in our society that links immigrants and refugees to terrorist and criminal activities and is being reinforced, serving only to further entrench racism in our society (Wilkinson, 2009). The changes to Canadian immigration law in terms of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act  and the Joint Statement on Cooperation on Border Security and Regional Migration Issues, including the fast-tracked introduction of the permanent resident card and the  introduction of the Safe Third Country Agreement all further encourage racism in our society (Wilkinson, 2009). These policies have led to instances of misuse, deportation, extraordinary rendition, and long-term detention without charge, all resulting in human rights abuses in Canada (Wilkinson, 2009).

Dobrowolsky, A., Rollings-Magnusson, S., & Doucet, M. G. (2009). Security,insecurity, and human rights. In S. Rollings-Magnusson (Ed.), Anti-Terrorism Security and Insecurity after 9/11. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

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

Rollings-Magnusson, S. (2009). Buying security with freedom In S. Rollings-Magnusson (Ed.), Anti-Terrorism Security and Insecurity after 9/11. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Teeple, G. (2009). Towards a theory of terrorism. In S. Rollings-Magnusson (Ed.), Anti-Terrorism Security and Insecurity after 9/11. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

Wilkinson, L. (2009). Are human rights jeopardized in twenty-first-century Canada. In S. Rollings-Magnusson (Ed.), Anti-Terrorism Security and Insecurity after 9/11. Halifax and Winnipeg: Fernwood Publishing.

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Drugs: Applying Theoretical Approaches

Drugs in a society is a largely debated topic. There are many reasons and theories surrounding possession, punishment and drug laws. I will analyze two early theorists, Emile Durkheim and Karl Marx.  By viewing the topic of drugs from these too perspectives we can see how greatly theories differ.

Durkheim believes that laws are passed by the views of society as a whole and that laws are based on the basis of morality and justice. Durkheim’s theory states that all laws are created equal by the majority of society agreeing upon what is acceptable behavior. On these grounds he created the term “collective conscience”. Durkheim’s views of law and punishment is he  believes that when a crime is committed the “values” of the public have been violated. However Durkheims views sometimes fail because he has a heavy emphases on sociological influences rather than psychological/biological influences. Also when he speaks about “collective conscience” or  “society’s morality” he cannot talk about every single person, so his theory is biased towards the majority

Marx’s views surrounding drugs is a more difficult approach. Marx’s theory explains how the laws of society are biased because it is a constant struggle between the upper and lower classes, and that laws and punishment are created to suppress the lower class.  Marx’s theory acknowledges the economic factors on social phenomena such as crime. He also talks about the systemic discrimination and power and how crime and drugs are necessary to maintain a capitalist society. Marx’s theory fails in aspects describing why and how individuals get into rugs and also how they reform. Furthermore Marx theory is purely from an economic stand point and   fails to explain other reasons why Individuals get into crime.

Though both have valid points and fall backs one would need to combine theories for an interdisciplinary approach for a full description of crime.

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