Law & Social Control - Essay Example

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These are – escalation, nonenforcement and covert facilitation. Marx (1981) tries to show the ironic point of view of some rules…
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Law & Social Control
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In his article Marx (1981) analyzes three kinds of interdependent forces that influence both the people exercising the rules and the rule breakers. These are – escalation, nonenforcement and covert facilitation. Marx (1981) tries to show the ironic point of view of some rules which contribute themselves to the deviance that they try to control. It is remarked that in this perspective social control can be regarded as the primary cause for deviance. Reiss (1951) and Hirschi (1969) argue that the absence of social control can help us explain the deviation in behavior and Marx (1981) observes in his article that the presence of social control can do the same.
Further in the article Marx (1981) outlines the theories connected with the role of authorities in establishing the deviance which he calls “ironies”. Marx (1981) describes situations in which social control generates rule-breaking behavior and divides them into escalation, nonenforcement and covert facilitation. In discussing these types of social control, Marx (1981) uses mainly examples from criminal justice to make his point. In escalation, authorities unintentionally trigger rule-breaking by taking enforcement actions. The best example to depict the escalation type of situation is police involvement in family conflict. Police interference in interpersonal conflicts seems to lead to further violence, acting as “a breeding ground” for aggressive and provocative response. In nonenforcement, authorities contribute to deviance in more indirect way than in escalation. Here institutions prefer not to take enforcement actions and by this they intentionally permit rule breaking. Marx (1981) says that nonenforcement is the most difficult to identify, because this strategy is illegal and authorities often try to hide it. An example is given by the informant system, which is a major source of nonenforcement, though it plays crucial role to many kinds of law enforcement. Called a form of institutionalized blackmail, the informant system helps informants to avoid prison, or to receive reduced sentences. However, the informant source assists the police in arresting criminals which will not be caught with other means.
Covert facilitation represents taking deceptive enforcement actions through which authorities intentionally aid rule breaking. Marx (1981) calls this passive nonenforcement. Social control agents may infiltrate into certain structures and buy or sell illegal goods, victimize others or seek prostitutes in a tourist disguise. Covert facilitation attempts to solve the social problems through entering the criminal group and actively displaying deception.
I agree with the author that there are situations in the described social control activities that stimulate individuals to break the rules. We have to take into account that societal structures are becoming more complex, especially with the introduction of technology and authorities have to take all possible actions in assuring the smooth operation of laws. The dynamics of society allow the use of such types of behavior which aid rule breaking, but also try to reach criminal branches which otherwise will be intangible. Marx’s (1981) article presents interesting perspective into the ironies of social control which it their attempts to set up control contribute to more aggressive actions. The diversified examples clearly illustrate the points made by Marx and in addition help the reader to better grasp the ideas. The irony here, I believe is directed rather to the institutional levels and pattern of social control, rather than to the inefficient measures applied by the law.
Hirschi, T., (1969), Causes of Delinquency. Berkeley: University of California Press
Marx, G., (1981), Ironies of Social Control: Authorities as Contributors to Deviance through escalation, nonenforcement and covert facilitation, MIT.
Reiss, A., (1951) Delinquency as the failure of personal and social control. American Sociological Review 16 (April): 196-207 Read More
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