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Equality for All: Intersectionality

The concept of intersectionality is the intersection of the minority groups, also known as the middle point between minority groups. Intersectionality is a feminist sociological theory first highlighted by Kimberlé Crenshaw (1989). Intersectionality is a methodology of studying “the relationships among multiple dimensions and modalities of social relationships and subject formations” (McCall, 2005). Crenshaw expressed this concept to highlight the race and gender oppression amongst the Black women. For instance a woman belonging to a minority group is likely to face more difficulties then a White woman. For example a Black woman may face disadvantages when seeking a job in comparison to White woman. Regardless of the discrimination that happens in society, the courts and police have refused to recognize the discrimination.
The Critical Legal Study is largely a U.S. movement, and was influenced by European philosophers, such as nineteenth-century German social theorists Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Max Weber; Max Horkheimer and Herbert Marcuse of the Frankfurt school of German social philosophy; the Italian marxist Antonio Gramsci; and Michel Foucault and Jacques Derrida (Legal Information Institute, 2013). Critical Legal Study scholars took ideas from diverse fields like social theory, political philosophy, economics, and literary theory. Over time Critical Legal Study has become quite popular and influential along with changing the aspect of legal theory. The upper class used law as a mechanism for oppression and to maintain their hierarchy status. With the Critical Legal Study, the movement tried to overturn the domination carried by the wealthy (Legal Information Institute, 2013). The fundamental idea surrounding Critical Legal Study is that the law is politics not neutral or value free (Legal Information Institute, 2013). With the Critical Legal Study the laws have changed for the better and have benefited individuals in all aspects of life but with that being said it is also evident that discrimination has not been completely eliminated. Minority groups still face discrimination in the workplace; it is not as apparent and harsh as it was years ago. Intersectionality can relate to critical legal studies because both theories are trying to better society but yet flaws still exist. Intersectionality and Critical Legal studies both recognize the existence of complex and intersecting forms of hierarchy, status, and identity.

In 1980, Crenshaw recognized that US law was failing to protect Black women in the workplace, she concluded “the law distinguished between two kinds of discrimination: gendered discrimination and radicalized discrimination. That is, US law distinguished between discrimination against women (on the basis of their gender) and discrimination against Black, Latino, Asian, and Indigenous people (on the basis of their race)” (Carastathis, 2008, par 2). In Crenshaw’s study, she expressed how Black women were being victimized on basis of gender and race in the workplace. For instance, when a Black woman was seeking a job, she would likely be the last in the group hired while a White woman and Black man would have priority in work places. At these workplaces, employers would decide to lay off individuals, where as the Black women were fired, the reason being their seniority in the company. Since the Black women were the last from the group to be hired they did not have seniority over the other individuals hence were the first to be fired in the company. The process of hiring and firing played a major role in Black women having trouble seeking employment. Due to them being hired last, it only complicated things down the road because they would likely be fired. The group of women, who were discriminated in this company, took this to court but the judge said, “there’s no gender discrimination here because White women weren’t fired. And there’s no race discrimination here because Black men weren’t fired” (Carastathis, 2008, par 2). According to Crenshaw, this case is a prime example of how Black women were discriminated in the workplace and their claims were overlooked by the courts. Regardless of the laws implanted to better society and provide fairness to all individuals, there still seems to be minor issues of discrimination that exists in society.
Bibliography
Carastathis, A. (2008, February 15). Kick Action. Retrieved from http://www.kickaction.ca/en/node/1499
Legal Information Institue. (2013, November 17). Retrieved from Cornell University of Law: http://www.law.cornell.edu/wex/critical_legal_theory

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by | November 21, 2013 · 7:03 am

Every normal society has crime deeply rooted in its DNA.

I agree with Emile Durkheim that crime is a normal part of any society. Durkheim stated, “without crime…there can be no sense of what is normal and what is not” (Pavlich 2011, 80). Any given society has some sort of crime and will continue to have for as long as that society exists. What constitutes crime differs from one society to another. For example, possession of marijuana might be considered a crime in some countries, but it is completely normal in other countries. Also, like Durkheim said, without crime we would not be able to differentiate right from wrong or what is normal and what is abnormal. In other words, there would be no difference between right and wrong which is the absolute necessary part for any society to function. The way how a person might view a crime seem to be closely related to how the society in general views it. Like I mentioned in the class, the society shapes its members and their perceptions in general. Personally, if I was still living back home,  I would have never thought of bullying as wrong because no one talks about it and no one educates people about it.

Durkheim stated that, “ A differentiated division of labour in fact strengthens society because socially produced individuals depend on the specialized tasks performed by others to survive. There is, as such, greater functional interdependence between individuals in complex modern society”( Pavlich 2011, 76). Crime creates job opportunities in any given society( think police, fire fighters, ambulance)  and it also brings communities together through programs and initiatives like community policing. Because of crime, the members of society come together and depend on each other in providing safety. The Norman conquest of England in 1066 gave rise to an obligatory form of avocational citizen policing (Klockars, 1985). The “watch and ward” and “ hue and cry” ideas were codified in 1285 in the Statutes of Winchester (Klockars, 1985). This clearly show that crime was always part of any society and it created certain sense of interdependence in communities.

Bibliography

Klockars, C.B.(1985). The Idea of Police. Beverly Hills, CA: Sage

Pavlich, G. (2011). Law & Society Redefined. Toronto: Oxford University Press.

 

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by | October 22, 2012 · 5:48 am

Durkheim is Right: Crime is Inevitable

Durkheim’s claim that “crime is a normal part of society, and that it is necessary and indispensable” means that crime acts as a type of moral check and balance in society. Crime exists as a by-product of societies striving to create a moral order and organized structure that is free of chaos and confusion. In most cases where people break the law, they are choosing to defect from the larger collective morals of society. In cases where laws may not always be just and in the best interest of the people they command, there will always be individuals that exist who will break those laws in an attempt to adjust the moral order to benefit the collective consciousness. As Durkheim states,

“…we should not say that an act offends the common consciousness because it is criminal, but that it is criminal because it offends that consciousness. We do not condemn it because it is a crime, but it is a crime because we condemn it” (Pavlich 2011, p. 79).

This statement explains that the inherent morals of society serve as the true definition of justice. Crime will always exist because not everyone’s morals are in sync with the majority of society’s or because society’s laws are not in sync with the collective morals of the people.

I believe Durkheim to be correct in his analysis of the sociology of law. Crime is always going to exist all over the world for various reasons, no matter how hard one attempts to eradicate it. When something is deemed outlawed, many times there will exist individuals who will discover new opportunities to profit from breaking the law. Additionally, depending on the crime, those individuals may even have limited to no competition when conducting these lucrative illegal business ventures. Examples of this can include cases of human smuggling, where a facilitator contravenes Immigration laws by smuggling people into a country as a way to make immense amounts of money quickly for themselves. A case that I had firsthand experience with was the Mikael Prone file, in which Prone smuggled two individuals into Canada by means of utilizing fraudulent passports, which he later then attempted to hide. The official CBSA News Release can be found at this link: http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/media/prosecutions-poursuites/pac/2012-07-06-eng.html

In other cases such as laws that were found to be just at one time but are now considered absurd, society has voiced its collective consciousness to the ruling government body when the time came to change the law. An example of this is when, at one point, it was considered completely legal for a man to sexually assault his wife. As the times changed, women eventually gained stronger voices and were able to successfully have a law enacted that would make this act illegal. Changing moral values enabled this transition to take place and redefined what was considered “normal.” As mentioned in the textbook, Durkheim believed that “without crime…there can be no sense of what is normal and what is not” (Pavlich 2011, 80).

References:

Government of Canada. “Canada Border Services Agency charges lead to sentencing in human smuggling case in Vancouver .” Canada Border Services Agency. July 06, 2012. http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/media/prosecutions-poursuites/pac/2012-07-06-eng.html (accessed October 21, 2012).

Pavlich, George. “Chapter 5.” Law & Society Redefined. Don Mills: Oxford UP, 2011. 72-86. Print.

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by | October 22, 2012 · 12:44 am

Law and Ideology

“Law’s repressive coercive (material) functions are obscured by its ideological (symbolic) functions that portray it as equal, universal, and just”.

Karl Marx was a pioneer in bringing forward the notion of law being a tool, which serves the ruling class. This train of thought had previously been understudied in the criminological enterprise and often omitted from crime statistics. Prior to the Marxist approach most studies regarding crime and deviant behavior revolved around the lower and middle class, and focused mainly on street level crime. These theories did not highlight elite deviance and corporate crime. The Marxist approach argued that law is simply a tool used to control the lower and middle class. This Marxist approach further supports the notion that law repressive functions obscure the ideological functions of equality and universality.

This approach is very radical in terms of the unique perspective it provides, however I believe that there is some truth behind these radical words. As society progresses there is an ever-present tie between the government and large corporations. These close links allow the wealthy to have a significant influence over politicians as well as government policies. Since the government is the main source of law in most countries these ties between governments and corporations have a tremendous effect over all societal classes. Although laws are made in a manner that is supposed to be equal and applicable to all people in society, it is often the lower classes that are scrutinized for the crimes they commit. This is due to the fact that the lower and middle classes are often in situations, both economically and socially that put them in a position in which they don’t have the means to conform to the laws.  For example every member of society is required to pay taxes, and the amount of taxes you pay often increases with your salary and expenses. For the wealthy paying taxes is not difficult as they have the means to do so. However for someone who is working minimum wage paying taxes may be very difficult, as they don’t have much money to begin with. This economic factor drastically changes how equal and fair the law is applied to everyone in society. Although this law is just and applies to all members of society, extra-social factors effect how all individuals are able to conform to the laws. These social factors can put certain groups in an unwanted situation where they don’t have the means to follow the laws.

Furthermore the ruling class is also at an advantage in avoiding criminal sanctioning due to laws that work in their favor. For example laws regarding confidentiality of business deals, is put into place to serve only a portion of society. Although these laws are available to everyone the main group of people it protects is the rich. For example, Oprah was famously sued by a company for discussing the negative aspects of their product on her show. Laws like this prevent ordinary people from voicing their opinions, as they place limits on what you can and cannot say. The oppressive nature of these laws prevents them from being applied equally to the entire population.

To conclude, although laws are created equally and fairly to be applied to all there are some areas in which laws prevent certain groups of people from having the same privileges than others. This may not completely be due to the law making itself, but through societal application this phenomenon is very visible.

1 Comment

by | October 20, 2012 · 4:58 am