Getting away with murder (Justice as commodity)
bandt at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
Wed Oct 4 03:35:46 MDT 1995
A whole bunch of issues are being confused here. That there are
differential abilities of lawyers which is reflected in the cost of their
services is of course undisputable. Similarly it is easy to show that
extraordinary wealth allows you to do and get away with things that
others couldn't. As I said, compare Mumia with OJ.
However, since when has 'justice' (by which Jerry supposedly means the
decision recahed in the trial) ever been able to be stood against an
equivalent commodity (in this case money) with mutually satisfying
excahnge taking place? To be sure, there are plenty of instances of
bribery, pulling rank etc whereby the fiction of justice is shown to be
firmly embedded in materially unequal social relations. But this is the
point: it shows that legality under capitalism is firmly embedded in an
exploitative society, but this in itself does not make it a commodity any
more than the ruling class' ability to direct an army makes force a
To explain away (capitalist) justice on the basis of commodification is
to ignore the very real ways in which notions of legality and justice
support and reproduce capitalist relations. Through formal equality, the
abstraction from material conditions, the continual reproduction of
exchange, the continual policing of property relations: all these things
are not there merely because someone 'bought' them. The relationship of
law to capitalism goes much deeper.
Indeed, if justice is a commodity to be 'bought', then why is it that
what must be a similar amount of money pumped into this case by the state
did also not place in their hands the object they were seeking? Do you
reckon that they could sue the court under the Fair Trading Act for
misleading advertising or receiving a defective product?
I reiterate: none of this is to deny that without money you will get
nowhere in the 'justice system'.
It just seems to me that if we are going to characterise a complex set of
institutional material practices on teh basis that they are a
'commodity', then the Marxist concepts of commodification need to be
rigorously applied. My suggestion is that we are better off _not_ getting
hung up on abstract notions like 'Justice' and instead looking at the
ways -from the blindingly obvious to the more subtle - that law relates to
and is embedded in capitalist social relations.
Capitalist justice is not a commodity. It is rather the stuff which
greases the wheels of commodity production and perpetuates bourgeois
categries of political economy and moral responsibility.
Email: bandt at cleo.murdoch.edu.au
Phone: 09 360 6038
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