Sociology 2260A/B Lecture Notes - Lyle And Erik Menendez, Pure Sociology, Anomie

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WEEK 3 Wednesday, January 23, 13
2260- Sociology of Law
Donald Black’s The Behaviour of Law (1)
“Laws are like cobwebs, which may catch small flies, but let wasps and hornets break through”
the way laws are designed/described; people come into contact with these laws
based on their social status (ie: people with more power can “break through”)
Pure Sociology & Donald Black
Law is a measurable phenomenon
The Measure of Law applies to social distance or space
- the law weighs more heavily when it comes to the powerless
Law: Donald Black’s Definition
“Governmental Social Control”
Law is a mechanism for social control that the state must use
The Behaviour of law from the perspective of Pure Sociology
Characteristics of “Pure Sociology”:
1. The application of scientific method in theorizing
2. Theorizing located in social space in the absence of individuals
3. Explains behavior according to its location and direction in social space without
regard to value implications
4. No moral or practical goals, no political agenda
The Behaviour of Law (1976)
Law meets or is meted out to the individual in different quantities depending on where the
individual is located in the social spaces
Other Dimensions:
Horizontal (Morphology) from Durkheim and Simmel
Corporate (Organization) from Weber
Cultural (Symbolic) from Parsons and Sorokin
Normative (Social Control) from Ross and Sumner
What is Stratification?
Social stratification refers to a system by which a society ranks categories of people
in a hierarchy, or into socioeconomic layers or strata. Therefore, stratification refers to any
system of ranking used in society
WEEK 3 Wednesday, January 23, 13
Stratification is the vertical aspect of social life. However, stratification itself has
several variables.
It is the degree of inequality in a social setting…
Stratification explains the quantity of law as well as its style. For example, it is
generally acknowledged that wealthier people have an advantage with law.
Thus the more stratification a society has, the more law it has. There is less law
where people are more equal
“Law is greater at high levels of wealth, power and prestige than at lower levels”
- They have the resources to access it
The law is more likely to weigh more heavily on downward statuses. Those at the
bottom of the status hierarchy are more likely to be affected by law………
Black’s theory helps to explain why there is a greater likelihood of poor people
receiving punishment when they commit crimes, than wealthy people
Blacks theory helps to explain why there is a greater likelihood of poor people
receiving punishment when they commit crimes, than wealthy people
But it also explains why wealthy people are more likely to have their grievances and
disputes argued by the courts than poor people
Law increases with the stratification of the relationship between those involved as
well. For example, if a poor man commits a crime against another poor man he receives less
punishment than is a poor man commits a crime against a wealthy man
As Horwitz Puts it:
“Why, for example, are poor, homeless people the more likely to be arrested, plead guilty and
enter jails and prisons? The answer does not lie in their behavior, but in the marginal,
disreputable, and resource-less social locations they occupy”
Chappell and Maggard use Black’s Version of Stratification
Wealth is an advantage for an offender
Law is more likely to be used against those of lower status, such as the poor and the young.
Their crimes are considered to be more serious, and they are punished more severely
They Quote Black…
In some legal settings, in facts, a wealthier offender may directly by an advantage for himself
in one way or another… a lawyer who represents a wealthier client is more likely to win
Even whent ehy are prosecuted the sentence disparity is evident
Ex: Wynona Ryder case Shoplifting
WEEK 3 Wednesday, January 23, 13
The Case of Demico Boothe..
Morphology- Dictionary Definitions
The Branch of biology that deals with the form and structure of organisms
Other Uses:
Structure of how words are formed (grammar)
It varies across settings and historical time
It does help to explain patterns of social life “differentiation” (under stratification)
It also explains the quantity and style of law
Black sees the relationship between law and relational distance as Curvilinear
This means that, all else is equal, the quantity of law (is: the likelihood of an arrest or
conviction, the probability of a successful lawsuit, the length of a prison sentence) is at its
lowest levels when people are intimates or from different social worlds altogether…
...The quantity of law… is at its highest levels when people share a social world (ie: are
citizens of the same country) but are strangers
What is differentiation?
“Differentiation is a specialization of function across the parts of a whole”—Black
In an organization differentiation occurs through bureaucracy
In a society it may occur through stratification
In a family it may occur through role-taking
‘Sociological Justice’
In a book with the above name, Black explains how differentiation determines social justice
Social differentiation= Discrimination
The law may be bias free but according to Black, there will always be social
differentials (discrimination) in how cases are handled
However, the social status of the individual alone usually does not determine the cases
outcome. Much depends on each adversary’s status in relation to///
Relational Distance