Justice as Order through Structured Social Inequality
The study proposes that we live in a world of social inequality where social status determines our behavior in the observer’s perception.
Depending on the relative social position of the actor and the observer, “saintly behavior” of the high-status actor may be phenomenologically identical to “deviant behavior” of the social miscreant but carries rewards for the “saint” and sanctions for the “deviant”.
Such a view of social texture is sobering. Is Justice “Order through Structured Social Inequality”? The study develops a model of the processes leading to the differential distribution of immunity in society. These processes are a sequence of status degradation ceremonies. In a social psychological model based on game-theoretical conceptualizations, the status degradation ceremonies play a series of games where the grand prize is criminal status.
The study illustrates that the processes leading to criminal status parallel everyday life if we understand social life as a sequence of encounters, as games for social status. Given this understanding, the study of criminology attains a new meaning. It is no longer the study of some marginal, exotic, and esoteric group, be it criminals or criminologists, but as a part of social science, the study of social differentiation in general. Whatever we learn about the dynamics of obtaining criminal status clarifies the criminalization process and holds the properties for a novel understanding of the processes of reality construction in everyday life – of becoming prominent, an outsider, or simply of being a plain man.
For criminological research, the model of games for criminal status conceptualizes the labeling approach and the principle of marginality (i.e., the phenomenon of ubiquity, scarcity, and relativity of marginal positions in social groupings). Based on this model, we can reach a new understanding of justice and, especially, of criminal justice, which would allow us to develop the labeling approach into a theory from which we derive hypotheses whose validity is open to empirical investigation and validation.
The author, a sociologist, uses symbolic interactionist modeling and simulations from game theory. His publications deal with the interdependence of behavior and status. In essence, he observes that marginal positions are ubiquitous, rare, and relative in any social structure. A chilling aspect of the model is that removing someone from a marginal position pushes someone else into the margins of society. Even more chilling is that these processes could be socially engineered and misused.
He previously published “Straßenverkehrsdelinquenz und Marginalität” (Lang: 1978), a study on the possibilities and limitations of regulating social behavior through law and law enforcement.
Dr. Günther Grewe – New York – München – www.WP-RA-usa.com
Grewe, Günther – Games for Criminal Status: Justice as Order through Structured Social Inequality – Frankfurt am Main, Bern, Las Vegas: Lang, 1979 – (European University Papers: Series 2, Law; Bd. 210) ISBN 3-8204-6480-8
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