Immaterial Justice?

story © Michael Betancourt, April 4, 2011 all rights reserved.


In William Greider's article for Nation he makes the immaterial bias of the contemporary capitalist system explicitly clear:

Professor Kent Greenfield of Boston College, author of The Failure of Corporate Law, views all this as an ominous trend. “It has become the increasing normalization of law-breaking by corporations,” he says. When epic crimes go unpunished by the legal system, the wrongful behavior seems less shocking when it is repeated in the future, tolerated by discouraged citizens or regarded as an acceptable option by corporate managers.

“Crime is defined as price rather than punishment,” Greenfield notes. In the new normal, “corporations can say, ‘Well, is the crime worth the price, discounted by the probability of getting caught?’ Because you can’t make a corporation go to prison. They have no morality, no human personality or sense of morals, other than the morality of the market that reduces everything to money. If the only way to punish companies is with money, then the fine sets the price for crime.”

By enabling the legal fiction that is the 'corporation' to serve as a barrier between the actual agency of those people who manage it and their actions as managers, there is a shift from the physical to reification of the immaterial; at the same time, there is also a shift away from being concerned with actual, tangible harm resulting from real actions to fears about potential harms resulting from punishment: that the corporation might be destroyed by the criminal actions.

That a corporation might be destroyed by criminal actions is what would be called justice or deterence if, instead of corporations, we were speaking of actions be actual people. Once the corporation is placed beyond the reach of the law, the law becomes meaningless.

Copyright © Michael Betancourt  April 4, 2011  all rights reserved.

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