‘The law is an instrument of the ruling class.’
To what extent do sociological arguments and evidence support this view? (21 marks – 30mins)
Traditional Marxists would argue that law making and law enforcement only serves the interests of the ruling class. 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.
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...
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