The Problem Of Classicism In Capitalistic Societies.

3129 words - 13 pages

Law is much more than legislation, or "law in the books." Law is also defined in practice. However, in a capitalist society, it is the wealthy upper class that defines law in practice. In a free market based system, the wealthy class usually consists of business owners and heads of local and multi-national corporations. Because of the enormous amount of money and capital that corporations generate, pressures, in terms of restrictive laws, are diminished in order to preserve the economic structure. In America, laws such as protecting the environment, or utilizing a cleaner, cheaper automotive fuel are seen as threats to long established and highly profitable corporations such as the oil industry, for example. These corporations donate large amounts of money to political campaigns and employ thousands of people. Any threat to them by enforcing stricter standards of operations could result in higher prices, lost jobs, and lost campaigns. This then creates a schism in society where an upper class, a middle class, and a working class must coexist under the same law. But whose law? In addition, different cultural backgrounds and religious ideologies are taken into account when defining law. As a result of a capitalistic system of law that is governed by a free market economy, and dominated by a wealthy, upper class, the cultural, social, and political values of that class are embedded in the law.This essay will begin by exploring Karl Marx's connection between law and the ruling class. Marx defines law essentially as a product of the class that rules the means of production (Marx 1970). Under capitalism, he argues, the economic structure of a free market drives the law. Because the law is created by one class of people and applied to another, both participation and the means to participate in the political process are dominated by the upper class. Marx's claim of a legal dominance by a ruling class is supported by political scientist Frances Zemans's study on the socioeconomic breakdown of voting habits by class. He finds that because the wealthy participate more, laws are set in place that protect their interests; chiefly business and corporate interests (Zemans 1983). This creates a situation where the working class views the law in terms of protecting them from the wealthy business class by use of their "rights." Sally Engle Merry calls this rights oriented mode of participation in the legal system working-class legal consciousness. Rather than negotiate settlements, Americans would rather win a case by having the court system reinforce their rights (Merry 1999). Laura Nader's film Little Injustices... describes an alternative to adjudication by showing how a close-knit community in Mexico uses mediation to solve problems. Mediation is very informal, much less costly and, in close-knit communities, just as effective. Her film details working class American citizens as they struggle to find customer service for their broken items in a loose-knit,...

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