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How do the social movements discussed in this module influence our understanding of the statement 'we are free through the rule of law'? The rule of law does not have a precise definition, and its meaning can vary between different nations and legal traditions. However, it can generally be understood as a legal-political regime under which the law restrains the government by promoting certain liberties and creating order and predictability regarding how a country functions. In the most basic sense, the rule of law is a system that attempts to protect the rights of citizens from arbitrary and abusive use of government power. With reference to two chosen social movements discussed in the module this essay will aim to show the understanding of 'we are free through the rule of law'. Wilson defines social movements
"A social movement is a conscious, collective, organised attempt to bring about or resist large-scale change in the social order by noninstitutionalised means. By means of this definition social movements can be distinguished from related phenomena". (Wilson, p8 1973)
The first social movement that will be discussed is The War on Drugs: Race and Prison System, reading from Jonathan Neale Whats Wrong with America.
The 'War on Drugs' came after the civil rights movements in the 1960s of African Americans, it was a reply by the ruling class created by the Regan administration from the early 1980s. In this movement saw the mass imprisonment of adult males in America, which to American media and mainstream politicians saw these events as the norm. No other country other than America had seen this new level of imprisonment and maintained it for so long. The aim of the Regan administration and the ruling class was too cut out the idea of equality for the black people in America. Law and order was used as a so called 'cover up' to implement this new attack on African Americans, which had long been used as a code for racism. African Americans were now being persecuted for standing up for equality and their civil rights from the movements of 1960s. The administration and ruling class were now abusing their powers and using the legal system against people, which the rule of law was there to prevent.
However, not only was the 'War on Drugs' a product of the black movement but also the white movements on the same times which were associated with drug use, particularly marijuana. A moral panic was ever present through the 'War on Drugs' with a fight against 'violent crime' occurring at the same time, in which the majority of the crimes broadcasted on by the media would always link black people and violence, together. The American media were constantly striking fear into the public and it made them fear black people most even though the majority of crimes were committed by white people. The media had portrayed a young black male as a threat to an everyday Americans way of life. Not only were black people being made out to be the cause of all horrible crimes but new drug bills passed with putting a minimum sentence of 5 years for possession of five grams of crack cocaine, which was seen as a black persons drug. Cocaine which was seen as an affluent white person's drug was normally just given a fine with the same amount in possession as crack cocaine. Increasingly it was apparent that the Administration and ruling class of America at that time were hell bent on riding civil rights of African Americans showing no mercy and trying everything in their power to institutionalise as many as possible.
African Americans were being abused by the law system in which the rule of law is there to prevent; were their natural rights should have been protected they were being abused. The Supreme Court had banned capital punishment, arguing that the constitution forbade cruel and unusual punishment. However, when the backlash had begun in 1976 the Supreme Court had reversed itself and legalised the death penalty once again. After Clinton had come into office a sharp rise in executions was seen, what was once just seen in the Southern states was now happening all over America.
The black civil rights movements had not won black people equality, it had only won them a place at the bottom end of society. Black people had been given jobs but were at the bottom on the table.
America was built on liberty, equality and democracy. The rule of law is there to stop what the American government had been doing for years. The black movements for equality in American had brought a backlash by the American government. It had sought to rid equality for black people and with this their aim was to basically put as many in prison as possible and use black people as a scapegoat for the country's problems in society. The only freedom that was trying to be guarded was that of the ruling class. African Americans were certainly not free through the rule of law but the complete opposite. However, if crimes are committed against themselves then the law is there to protect them as well which is rather ironic.
The second social movement discussed is The Rise and Fall of Police Legitimacy, reading from: Robert Reiner The Politics of the Police.
Legitimacy is the right to govern and the recognition by the governed of that right. In order to develop, operate and reproduce themselves effectively, social and political arrangements and institutions must have some form of legitimacy. Those who are subject to these arrangements must see them as right and proper. A necessary condition of justifiable use of state power is the legitimacy of the police force. Legitimacy is the very foundation of police authority. A legitimate police force demonstrates to citizens why its access to and exercise of power is rightful, and why those subject to its power have a corresponding duty to obey. Legitimacy may be key in securing such public feelings of obligation and responsibility towards the law. People who believe the police are legitimate are probably more likely to cooperate with them and obey laws.
The police force has seen them go from an assortment of part timers consisting of thieves and amateur volunteers, to a full-time force of dedicated professionals. Following police strikes in London and Liverpool in the 1920s, only then was training taken seriously after reports on the police by a committee which introduced a much stronger central direction.
Adhering to the rule of law was much needed in the police force it was to be accepted by the public. The commissioners made sure that an image of subjection to the rule of law was used to combat objections of the force. The police force cautiously exercised their powers and made sure what they did was well in the framework of legal protection of civil liberties. Firearms were kept to a minimum by the use of police and were only issued to certain officers if deemed necessary. The police forces were trying not to seem like an army at all and the strategy that the Home Office employed were a police force essentially civil, unarmed and acting without assistance from the military after the 1850s.
The social acceptance and what facilitated the legitimisation of the police force was the social, economic and political context. The working class who had now been incorporated into the political institutions of British society were now more condoning of the police force rather than being their biggest opposition. They did not see the police as a hated and feared institution anymore but seen them as enforcing the law on behalf of the broad mass of society constrained by tight legal of due process.
After the 1950s the police came into disarray yet again through various scandals, controversy and corruption. Once again police legitimacy was being undermined due to the image of efficient and disciplined police force quickly disappearing. Due to the antics of the police force at the time, a new commissioner was drafted in to reform the entire force and rid all of the wrong doings. What had traditionally been the policy of 'winning by appearing to lose' seemed to be reversing with a view of harder-ling policing of political and industrial conflict. The police seemed to failing at being seen as a legitimate institution once again, something they had tried very hard to obtain once before.
Policing which once were there to be seen as an ordinary person of society exercising laws on behalf of broad mass of society has now turned to been seen as an overt political issue between many. The concerns with police are more than the political issues but a failure to deliver public protection from crime in equitable and efficient way rather than the allegations of heavy -handed policing that had dominated earlier times.
From both readings it is clear that even with the rule of law people are not free. Class structure does not allow certain classes of society to be free. Like in America the black movements of the 1960s were based on equality for Africa Americans, this was achieved by it brought around a backlash by the American Government which did not consider equality or civil rights of the 'poor class' of people mainly black and Hispanic population of America.
Policing in Britain has seen it change from a 'public friendly' policy to a hard-line no nonsense not friendly policing. What was once a golden rule of policing to follow the rule of law now seems to be forgotten. The police who never were politically associated with now seem to be used by political powers as a tool. People in Britain could not stand up for what they believed in and spoke out against the political powers without being met by heavy handed police tactics. This is basically the message that is found in both readings.
All people have the right to be treated equally and fairly, with dignity and respect.
Recognises that protecting and promoting every individual's rights and freedoms is vital to ensuring that every person has the opportunity to realise their potential and to participate in a democratic society. We are not all free through the rule of law, only the ruling classes and mainstream people in society are free through law. The poor people of this world are unequal and are discriminated by the ruling class it is only their rule of law that is guarded.