Sociological Theorists and Vagrancy Statutes

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Sociological Theorists and Vagrancy Statutes Paper Assignment 1 Throughout history theorists and scholars alike have studied the implications of law and punishment on society, and the effects of society on law and punishment. Uncovered in the works of Emile Durkheim, Karl Marx, Michel Foucault and Norbert Elias, are historical explanations of political and social determinants to legal change and their effects on economics, values and morality, and an overall well-being of ‘civilized’ nations. “Vagrancy,” being one of the malleable laws, ranging from ‘unemployed workers,’ ‘shiftless beggars,’ to ‘gamblers’ (players at dice), changes drastically within the structure of power and law. It will be my attempt throughout this paper to delineate and compare the works of social theorists and their regards for vagrancy statutes. Unlike many social theorists, Emile Durkheim saw punishment as the central mechanism in the enforcement of ‘social and moral solidarity,’ which were “fundamental conditions of collective life and social cohesion,” forming what Durkheim calls the ‘collective conscience’ (23). This ‘collective conscience’ of shared beliefs and moral attitudes functioned as the unifying force within society, operating the foundations of penal sanctioning, and punishment. Durkheim argues that “crimes are those acts which seriously violate a society’s collective conscience,” essentially “ fundamental moral codes which society holds sacred, and they provoke punishment for this reason” (29). In this nature, the act of punishing the accused becomes a re-established collective expression ofsocial values . In relation to vagrancy law, there are two main idea’s which could be enforced in respect to Durkheimian theory; Society and Law could define vagrants as those who rightfully defy the collective conscience or, sanction and define vagrants under unconditional terms,
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