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Political Economy’s Influence on Judicial Punishments

In western nations predominantly, judicial policies have recently attracted interest from several quarters, including social, economic, and political forces that seek to have a bearing on the penal instruments. Since the economic downturn in the 1970s that led to unstable employment forms, increasing unemployment rates, and recession, much of the population’s fiscal standing has been disrupted. Most communities grew a rising wave of criminal acts motivated by the biting economic situation at hand. In the process, criminal justice policies became politicized with punishments modified to suit the political economy’s dictates. The wave of influences was necessitated by the interconnection of the people, their administration, public policy, and the economic factors of trade and production. Although utilitarianism and retributive justice are vital tenets of judicial punishments, insights from the literature on political economy and historical criminal doctrines bear truths on the novel objectives and application of penal sanctions.

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The driving factor for penal sanctions has since shifted from crime control incentives to moral persuasions. Society has advanced in knowledge, and more people are aware of the legal provisions that govern criminal acts. Accordingly, the persistence in illegal activity is not a result of ignorance of the law but rather an attempt to circumvent the projected legal order. Criminals are more organized presently than before and make deliberate efforts to avoid being caught and outsmart law enforcement agencies. Often, robbers have masks on to avoid being identified by the surveillance cameras. Several cases have been aided by insider dealings where a particular organization’s workers divulge secret information to criminal formations. Therefore, the continued felonious actions are motivated by moral decay rather than simplistic illegal deeds. The penal provisions have to conform to the shifts as opposed to what has been the customary intentions.

Penitentiaries have historically been used to keep away social misfits who engaged in delinquent activities. The present dispensation looks at punishment as an intricate social entity influenced by historical aspects and goes beyond the accused persons (Garland 115). The sways on judicial determinations tend to examine several elements of concern in the modern decisions of who is regarded as a social misfit. Scrutiny of most criminal offenses reveals that either they deny a person or relative an opportunity to enjoy some economic gain, destroy some asset, or rescind the communal economic structures. For instance, arson from this viewpoint represents the destruction of financial property. Even murder is the alleviation of the nation’s economic asset in terms of tax remittance, contribution through occupation’s pursuit, and probable dependents who rely on the victim for their financial wellbeing.

The state has taken it upon itself to be at the forefront in affirming the social morality and collective solidarity of a republic’s members to shun criminal tendencies. As Durkheim points out, illegal activity upsets communal harmony restored by collectively castigating the delinquent (Lazzarotto 76). Similarly, the political economy’s guidance of judicial pronouncements is informed by the politicization of the need to alleviate crime. Nations globally are increasingly investing in court processes to speed up trials and increase the exercise’s efficiencies. Often, public outrage causes investigations to be hastened to heed the civic pressure. Moreover, nations have come together to form the international criminal court to express universal anger to the crimes against humanity committed anywhere.

Inferences have been made that the workings of political economy have caused the state agencies to conform court sentences to ideological and class duels and political aspirations. Particularly, Marxist publications contend that such chastisements are conditioned to serve at the behest of the economically powerful (De Giorgi 6). For instance, the doctrine on the separation of powers as advocated by Plato and Aristotle hoped for autonomy among the three government arms. Presently, the appointment of judges is made by the executive’s head with the legislature’s permission in some instances. In the United States, it is no secret that presidents appoint judges that are agreeable to their ideologies. The judiciary is the only government arm that does little to dictate terms to the other components of government. Besides, with the reality of the allegations of state capture, it is predictable that when the stakes are high, the judicial officers can be strong-armed to appease the interests of the political and economic powers.

The normative evaluation of penal policies reflects multi-dimensional trajectories of court sentences. The influences are suggested to be based on social forces, purposes, and forms that aim at realizing better and more comprehensive frameworks in shaping society (Garland 120). Remarkably, Norbert Elias mentions the cultural susceptibilities that inform penal legislation (Lever and Powell 4). Profound amendments and additions have since been made to the corrective instruments to regulate the economically innovative space that the world has since revolutionized into. Cases like cybercrime laws illustrate the focus on economic affairs in the legal realms, given that a substantial chunk of trade occurs in cyberspace. Moreover, Foucault suggested a separation of judicial pronouncements from the established legal processes to serving political actors due to the operation of power-knowledge intricacies that are integrated with wider pursuits of rules and restraints (Best 375). The insights went on to shape neoliberalism and humanitarianism.

Criminal law’s historical philosophies have always associated criminal acts with the mental predisposition and actualizing the offense dubbed men’s rea and actus reus. Alan Norrie deconstructs these foundations and, in their place, suggests that the motives have since been influenced by diminished responsibility, duress, necessity, and insanity (Norrie and Jamie 98). While the classical criminal cases still occur, most criminal acts are externally influenced by greater economic and political interests. The prevalence of espionage and agencies that ought to prevent criminal tendencies sometimes have to undertake illegitimate actions in pursuit of practical objectives in their line of work. In most cases, these consequentialism model-based pursuits are done at the bidding of influential economic players or as necessitated by deep-seated political persuasions. For these reasons, such officials are subjected to a different set of trial procedures modified to consider the manifold interests in the martial courts.

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Likewise, the realms of criminal law have traditionally been rooted in individual justice, where criminal liability is apportioned to a person and not to a group or community. Consequently, Justice Hart opined that one ought not to continue being subjected to a custodial sentence (Norrie 13). The hand of the political economy manifests in the power to pardon offenders that the executive exercises. Such force is sometimes applied to satiate calculative political gains or other influences beyond the purposes for which the leniency provisions were established. It is possible that a president could choose to pardon persons who actively pursued their illegitimate interests or of the class that he is behooved to serve their interests. For example, when a sitting president actively campaigning for reelection deliberately pardons selected individuals to amass the political dividend from the exercise. Such use of authority is a clear indication of abuse of an otherwise noble legal philosophy.

Finally, the concepts of rationality and legality have provided a window for perpetuating the bearing of political economy openly in judicial hearings. The implication of the philosophies has led to the exposure of judicial interpretation to the bench’s considerations and biases (Norrie 10). Moreover, the administration of criminal law in some cases has ceased being in tandem with positivist consideration of the law where a judge’s hands are tied in some matters. Instead, judicial activism and interpretations have exposed the law’s methods to factors foreign to the written law. Given that the word of the written law is no longer compulsory to adhere to, the approach to issuing sentences and the severity of such penalties is an item for constructive interpretation. The judges may not be illegally compromised but ideologically persuaded to rescind the statutory dictates.

In conclusion, several theorists have advanced their postulations about the external influences that have made inroads into the administration of justice, particularly the sentencing of criminal acts. However, the law is meant to serve the interests of society at large. Such a community is driven by political actors that override every other social mechanism. Moreover, economic factors are vital to the subsistence of society, and the application of the law would follow suit in conformance to such biddings. In the end, the strong bonds of the priorities of the population and their pressure on the government manifest in public policy formulation through the political economy concept. Therefore, it is not surprising that economic interests have substantially impacted the procedures, objectives, and intensity of judicial pronouncements in penal trials.

Works Cited

Best, Jacqueline. “Security, Economy, Population: The Political Economic Logic of Liberal Exceptionalism.” Security Dialogue, vol. 48, no. 5, 2017, pp. 375-392.

De Giorgi, Alessandro. “Punishment, Marxism, and Political Economy.” Oxford Research Encyclopedia of Criminology and Criminal Justice, 2018. Web.

Garland, David. “Sociological Perspectives on Punishment.” Crime and Justice, vol. 14, 1991, pp. 115–165. JSTOR, Web.

Lazzarotto, Anna-Maria. “The Application of Durkheimian Theories in the 21st Century.” Contemporary Challenges: The Global Crime, Justice and Security Journal, 2020, 76-90.

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Lever, John, and Ryan Powell. “‘Problems of Involvement and Detachment’: Norbert Elias and the Investigation of Contemporary Social Processes.” Human Figurations, vol. 6, no. 2, 2017, pp. 1-16.

Norrie, Alan, and Jamie Morgan. “Realism, Dialectic, Justice and Law: An Interview with Alan Norrie.” Journal of Critical Realism, vol. 20, no.1, 2021, pp. 98-122.

Norrie, Alan. Crime, Reason and History. Cambridge UP, 2014.

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