Category Archives: Musing

Deconstruction is justice

This week’s food for thought asked to discuss the Jacques Derrida’s claim that ‘deconstruction is justice’.  By stating that ‘deconstruction is justice’ Derrida’s notes that ‘justice’ is constructed in the process of making ‘justice’. To put it differently, Derrida notes that there can be no fixed definition as the true essence of justice relies on combining different terms. That is, we must constantly refer to things that are external to the definition we attempt to construct. To better exemplify, consider this example. If the government proposes to its citizens that ‘justice is equality’, then this statement alone would raise many questions for Derrida and Derrida’s followers. To put it differently, one of the question which would arise is as follows: what does equality mean and who is defining equality?.  From practicing this approach, we would have involved ourselves in interrogating the terms which would appear to be fixed. In short, Derrida’s overall point to his readers is that concepts are always in the process of becoming and never finalized. In other words, an individual is always ‘deferring’ terms to better understand their meaning. The above mentioned points connect to the next point which Derrida makes.

An additional point that Derrida makes when he notes that ‘deconstruction is justice’ is that one would be able to find the hidden meanings in text. There is nothing outside of text. In brief, there is no way to escape language. As noted, “[d]econstruction emerges in a reading of texts that is attentive to traces and absences-signs and associations that are not out found within the text, but which give the text meaning” (Larsen, 2012).  Moreover, Derrida defines ‘deconstruction’ in relation to binaries. One must interrogate the terms in which these binaries exist and then interrogate them. As explained, “[d]econstruction involves the overturning of binary oppositions through the identification of implicit hierarchies, unintended meanings, historical contingencies, and- above all-through questioning” (Larsen, 2012). For example, to better understand the meaning of ‘rich and poor’ it would be important to interrogate what constitutes the term ‘rich’ and ‘poor’. Overall, it is important to remain open-ended when defining terms as it is this process which allows us to connect to various other terms. As stated in the criminology 3305-Law and Society lecture, ‘[j]ustice is like a butterfly-the act of attempt to grasp justice-actually kills the purpose of justice. The whole purpose of justice is in the pursuit-its always becoming’ (Larsen, 2012).

References:

Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida: Deconstruction, Justice, and Law. [CRIM 3305-Law and Society –Class Handout]. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

Larsen, M. (2012). Derrida-Lecture Notes. Surrey, Canada: Kwantlen Polytechnic University.

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Prohibition Laws by Durkheim and Marx

The paper I am writing about will be on laws governing prohibited substances.  Laws prohibiting illegal substances have been created and repealed many times throughout our society, with the infamous alcohol prohibition in the early 1900’s to the recent legalization of marijuana in Washington and Colorado.  Both Durkheim and Marx provide differing opinions on this issue and what the causes and effects are.  For Durkheim, his belief is that law shapes society, meaning that our society’s norms are reflected in our laws.  Marx suggests the contrary, that our society is what shapes law.  This is in regards to his beliefs that society’s common interests must arise from our methods of production.  A State does not directly form a society; rather it develops based on the social conditions at the time.  He argues that a society cannot be based on old laws that were created from previous social conditions.

Durkheim’s theories of society and its structures covered a broad range of topics, but “he was mostly concerned with social solidarity, or how society is held together” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 73).  This social solidarity can be separated into two different categories dependant on the type of society: ‘Mechanical solidarity’ and ‘Organic solidarity’.  Mechanical solidarity occurs when “a certain number of states of consciousness are common to all members of the same society” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 77).  In this type of solidarity exists a ‘repressive’ system of punishment (e.g. criminal, penal).  The reason for this type of punishment is because of the strong collective morality that is offended by a crime.  Organic solidarity is a modern type of society where it is comprised of several independent systems that all work together in cohesion.  With this society comes a new type of ‘restitutive’ punishment (e.g. civil, administrative).  This involves “a complex division of labour that generates disputes around individual property rights, commercial transactions, torts, administrative regulations…” (Pavlich, 2011, p. 77).

He would explain prohibition laws as performing collective functions for the benefit of society.  In general, he argues that crimes would inform individuals of what not to do and act as a deterrence.  Crime is an inevitable part of our society, so naturally we would need laws based on social norms to prevent it.  However, there would need to be a shared value among individuals that illegal substances are against the norm which Durkheim calls ‘social facts’.  It is best to look at this issue with a functionalist perspective as Durkheim would do.  In this perspective, laws would be analyzed to gauge their social impact in two ways.  Laws can either perform restitutive affects or reinforce the norms of a society.  What prohibition laws could do with this perspective is force offenders to make some sort of amends for their crime(s).  Also, if this were a regulatory society (i.e. organic solidarity), we would be able to reduce the occurrence of illegal substance use due to increased sanctions that could possibly make obtaining these substances more difficult.  Another method that drug prohibition laws could change society is by reinforcing the collective norms against that illegal behaviour.  More specifically, it could strengthen the bond between individuals to reaffirm their social norms.

On the other hand was Karl Marx, who believed that law is a product of society and not the other way around like Durkheim suggested.  One major difference between Marx and Durkheim was that Marx focused more on the economy and politics in his ideas about society.  In particular, he focused on ‘materialism’ or the production of our needs society.  He viewed this economic system as a constant struggle between the capitalists, who own the land and employ the workers, and the working class.  The legal system comes into play to uphold the capitalists’ means of production.  In particular, criminal law exists to keep the capitalist class stable against any sort of organized revolution against them.

Crime, in a Marxist approach, occurs as the result of the conflict between the opposing classes.  Marx would explain prohibition laws as being based on the social conditions during the time they are enacted.  He would suggest that these laws came into place in an effort to control the working class.  By the capitalists imposing social control over the working class, they would be able to continue their means of production.  In essence, law and the State are one and they reflect the current economic state.  Moreover, Marx would also suggest that the legal substances today that used to be illegal, such as alcohol, are accepted because of the financial gains the capitalists make from it.  To them, alcohol is a profitable business, which is why it is in their best interests to keep it legal.

References:

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

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Racial Profiling: Critical Race Theory and Michel Foucault

Alternative Food For Thought:
You may write a post that outlines three sections of your term paper – the description of your topic and the two analytical sections that explain the topic using your chosen approaches.
This gives you an opportunity to receive some additional feedback regarding key ideas from your term paper.

Instead of addressing the original blog, I chose to do the alternative food for thought question because I felt that this opportunity should not be missed. By doing this topic, I feel that Mike gets a glimpse of our papers and could provide us with his opinions and constructive criticism which will help us better our assignment before the due date.
My term paper will address the very debatable and controversial topic of racial profiling in the Canadian society (and a few comparisons to United States), with a particular focus towards law enforcement. Racial profiling has been prevalent in Canadian history and in modern day since many citizens observe this as an ongoing issue. Racial profiling is the act of a police officers singling out individuals from visible minorities and giving them the title of being criminal. I am narrowing down the victims of racial profiling by focusing mainly on two groups have been constantly targeted solely based on their appearance, Muslims post 9/11 and African-Canadians. There are few members of law enforcement that successfully acknowledge racial profiling to be a concerning and continuous issue, where a large number of them disregard the issue as whole. The society needs to come together to eliminate racial profiling in order to live peacefully without the fear of being victimized by those in whom we bestow trust and power.
The first theory I chose to use to address and analyze my topic is critical race theory. In my opinion, the critical race theory goes hand in hand with my topic after the class lecture on critical legal studies and the presentation on “Stop and Frisk Program” implemented by the New York Police Department. What is critical race theory, critical race theory examines the relationship between power, race, and law. Critical race theory is about race and confronting racism which seem to be deeply rooted in many aspects of Canadian and American society (Pavlich, 2011). According to the UCLA School of Public Affairs: “ Critical race theory recognizes that racism is engrained in… [North American] society. The power structures are based on white privilege and white supremacy, which perpetuates the marginalization of people of color”. In regards to race, theorists of critical race would suggest that racial profiling is responsible for reproducing unequal race relations (Pavlich, 2011).
The second theorist I will draw upon is Michel Foucault. Some concepts in Michel Foucault’s theory of power-knowledge which I want to and will apply are the notions of governmentality, power, and discipline in the context of the racial profiling of Africans and Arabs. From my understanding of Foucault’s work, would likely argue that “racial profiling is an expression of power” (Morrison, 2007). For Foucault, power is that which represses a class or individuals. Morrison states that “Racism is, for Foucault, necessary to the State: only with racism can state killing be justified, and only with racism can the State exercise its sovereign power” (2007). From this view racial profiling instead of criminal profiling is a demonstration of racism used by members of law enforcement to achieve a kind of “control” if you will, over society.

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Deconstruction & Justice? Two Different Approaches

This week’s food for though touches on the deconstructivist approaches to law and society which view law, society and justice not necessarily as fixed and discrete categories, but also as concepts that are “always becoming”.

Derrida claims “Deconstruction is Justice”. Derrida claims “unpredictable and without warning in the silenced, supplemental, marginal excluded, and degraded elements of text (P.171, Pavlich). I believe what he means by this is that deconstruction consists in any attempt to try re-conceive the difference that divides our self- reflection or self-consciousness but also the re-conception of difference and more importantly, that deconstruction works towards preventing the worst violence. It attempts to render justice. He also explains how communication is misunderstood. What one person may be saying, another person understands differently. With that being said he explains that language and communication are key factors in law, and if there is no understanding there may be different interpretations and meanings to what is actually being conveyed.

In terms of my opinion in regards to Derrida’s statement I would have to disagree with the statement that “deconstruction is justice”, the reason being is because in my opinion they both have the same very concepts but they also have different approaches. Justice is the concept of being fair and just, while deconstruction is the thought of differences between words rather than their reference to the things they stand for. Like previously said, different meanings are discovered by taking apart the structure of language used and putting assumptions and different meanings to what is being said.

I agree with Derrida’s view on deconstruction is justice. Both deconstruction and justice are both based on looking forward. For example, a lawyer may be interrogating and accused person, he questions and undermines the accused. If we were to put the concept “deconstruction is just”, Derrida would proceed to believe that this procedure of our justice system is either just or unjust.

Both justice and deconstruction present good key concepts, but I believe that to put the two concepts together cannot be done as they may have some sort of the same meaning but both end up at two different approaches.

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Camps and KIHC : How They Differ.

How does the theorization of KIHC presented by Larsen and Piché in their Canadian Journal of Law and Society article differ from Agamben’s theorization of the camp?

Agamben’s theorization of the camp is that shows as a model that helps understand the extremely sad and degrading life form that some where exposed too. It is an example of sovereign ban over bare life excluding it from the protection of law. It focused mainly on a generalization of normalized states of exception. State of exception is the suspension of law and legal norms. A concentration camp and a detainee at Guantanamo Bay, are examples of people who have ‘bare life’, but they are not recognized as having ethically significant life. They are individuals that can be objected to torture and killed with out questioning.

In the KIHC case it was more of specific circumstances of how things were run and the and the institutionalized policies. KIHC and security certificates are examples of Canada’s national security measures that were taken post September 11th, these were states of exception. For the case of KIHC the concept of counter law brought forward by Richard Ericson, describes the use of laws against law. The institution was able to run within a state of exceptions that would detain these individuals indefinitely.

When looking at Agamben’s state of exception and it being normalized by using the example of camps to hold as a physical space that allows the power to displace the rule of law in order to solve certain problems and comparing it to Larsen and Piche’s state of exception that focuses on institutionalized, I believe that the help of Agamben’s work, and expanding on it with Larsen and Piche’s ideas we tend to explain more about the matter of state of exception. “Organizations are distorted (concentration camps or KIHC) by states of exception carried out under the politics of insecurity.” Larsen and Piché, 2009.

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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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Deconstruction is Justice

Jacques Derrida, famous for his idea of deconstruction, stats that deconstruction is justice. First, we must look at the idea behind deconstruction, which defined in the book, states “Deconstruction is precisely a way to think about what is involved when ordinary flows of language are disrupted (and subsequent images of being reframed)” (Pavlich, 2011). Essential, language is and always has been based upon grammatology, which is to say that there has always been a recognized pattern of how words and signs will relate to each other, creating conceptions that would be quite solid in foundation. Now, if we were to look at a statement, and then ‘deconstruct’ it to see what alternate meanings could come of it, we would understand where the idea of deconstruction comes from. It is to provide alternative meanings to statements that have already been made. This brings about the idea that words will mean something to every person, and sometimes one person can interpret a phrase in a way that was unintended by the creator.
In the eyes of Derrida, Law is absolute, in that it is a precise calculation. Justice on the other hand is not calculable, as there is no precise calculation of what justice is. Therefore, Derrida argues that deconstruction is justice, as justice is attained when one will take something known, and try to manipulate it to provide justice. I would agree with Derrida in that deconstruction is justice, as we are always in a constant struggle to find justice, and the way to find justice is application of law, and interpretation of those laws as they are written. For example, when a judge is overseeing a case, it is not always a cut and dry application of the law. The law has to be applied specifically to the case, and thus interpretations of the law are in the eye of the beholder, which in this case, would be the judge. Derrida’s third paradox, in which he states that you can never find justice in the present, it is something that one is reaching for, means that justice is not always clear and can be provided in an instant. It is something that we strive for and something that can sometimes take time. Interpreting, and therefore, ‘deconstructing’ laws so that they apply to cases to provide justice is a daily struggle, and we can see from creation of new laws or modification to current laws, that deconstruction is apparent and is happening today.

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

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