Is Law an Instrument for the Ruling Class Essay
Traditional Marxists would argue that law making and law enforcement only serves the interests of the ruling class - Is Law an Instrument for the Ruling Class Essay introduction. Chambliss argued that laws to protect private property are the cornerstone of capitalist society. His argument was in regards to a case studied in Britain’s east African colonies. The British introduced a cash tax that if unpaid was a criminal offence, knowing that the Africans economy was not based on money; they had no choice but to work on the plantation and pay the tax.
The evidence clearly shows us how the bourgeoisie who owned the plantation exploited the working class, since the only way the Africans could make money was to work on the plantation the owners were acquiring free labour and tax from them. Thus clearly portraying how law is indeed an instrument of the ruling class. Likewise, Mankoff argued that the vast majority of the population have no power or say in the creation of laws and punishment, thus further illustrating how law is an instrument of the ruling class.
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It has also been argued that law is not enforced equally in society, thus ensuring that those amongst rich who break the law are less likely to be punished and prosecuted for their offending. Snider argues that petty crime such as theft receives a great deal of coverage from the media and it is utilitarian crimes like these that are labelled as ‘real crime’, in opposition to this corporate crime receives little or no media condemnation.
This suggests that the media ‘amplifies’ blue collar crime such as theft, the amplification of these crimes creates a’ moral panic’ amongst the general public, the anxiety of becoming a criminal keeps corporate crime to go unnoticed, thus leading to more lenient punishment for the bourgeoisie. Similarly, Gordon argues that the link between selective enforcement of the law and the selective reporting of the media ensures that the majority of criminals are from the working class. Functionalists see the law as reflecting the value consensus and representing the interests of society as a whole.
Lemert argued that it is the law that helps victims of domestic violence, sexual abuse and child abuse regardless of the class or background of the victim, the majority of cases that are reported with similar offences are usually from the working class. The evidence implies that the law is an instrument that enforces the protection of both the proletariat and the bourgeoisie, moreover its suggests to us that the law is more often than not in the favour of the working class by providing solicitors free of charge for those with financial problems i. e. single parents.
Nevertheless, feminist would criticise this statement by pointing out the criminal justice system is ‘gender blind’ and patriarchal as they prefer to serve the interests of men over women because they see women as inferior to men. Laws such as health and safety in the workplace are passed to be seen as benefiting the working class but they are indeed of the interests of the ruling class. Pearce argues that by keeping workers ‘fit for work’ it gives capitalism a ‘caring’ face. Dependency theorists argue that official aid and the international debt crisis that has stemmed from borrowing money from western governments and multilateral.
By giving this image of capitalism it convinces workers that they are being well looked after by their employers and creates a false consciousness. This then leads to the employer exploiting their workers as they keep them in work and continue to acquire their low waged labour, thus showing us how law is an instrument of the ruling class. The evidence given by Pearce can be criticised by arguing that if the health and safety laws were not put into place and the motives were to be disregarded, then the situation can be seen as being very dangerous for the workers of the company.