How Social Class Impacts Law in America


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Get Rich or Die Trying

Every student in DePaul has or will receive an email with the fantastic news that their billing statement is now available. All of these students are from all walks of life, some even from other parts of the world. They have different tastes, religious beliefs, majors, schedules, responsibilities and most importantly, different ethnic backgrounds. So how is it then, that they all managed to make it to the same university, despite all of these differences? That is because they are connected by one specific factor, money. Whether it be scholarships, financial aid, parents’ pockets, or full time jobs, these students are paying to be a part of the DePaul community, as many other students around the world pay to be a part of the university they attend. This is just one of the many examples that prove how much money really does run the world. Money is the only object that doesn’t discriminate against the color of ones’ skin. Financial stability has been an important factor that determined one comfortability, protection with law, and even decreased ones’ probability of committing crime.

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Karl Marx, who was a 19th century philosopher who believed that even though humans were responsible for creating their own history, they didn’t do it as they chose to. That is, he believed that “the history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggles,” (Messerschmidt, 2014). Marx believed that social classes were crucial in ones’ everyday life, and therefore was what determined people’s lives and eventually history. He believed that the higher in class position one was the easier it would be to gain access to things that would provide one’s daily comfort, such as education, leisure patterns, consciousness and incarceration. One of the key factors in class position was that of the social relationships. One example could be that of capitalist and workers’ relationship, while one fights to maximize its profit by giving workers low wages and little to no benefits, the working class fights to maximize its wages, by shorting the days’ work, demanding higher wages, and wanting health insurance. (Messerschmidt, 2014). In this example, its noticeable that only one side can win, and they would win at the expense of the losing side. The importance of this is that the winner, usually the capitalist in this example, determines how things get run. Social classes don’t just determine their economic position, they also determine the influence the laws and make them so they are beneficial to the dominant party.

Marx noted that law tends to promote the interest of the dominant class in private property, which it does by not just promoting the purchase of, but protecting the private property. By doing so, the law is ignoring the fact that most of the private property is owned by a small percentage of the population (Messerschmidt, 2014). Because law and social relationships are so close together, it is impossible to accept the idea that law is equal and unbiased, saying this would only be affective in brainwashing society to think the law is not doing exactly what it is, and has been doing for years. An example of this would be how even though years pass, for the most part, those who have generations of middle or lower class status remain within that class. The laws were unfortunately made to benefit the capitalists, not the majority of the population. Because of this, the rich just seem to get richer and the poor seem to get even poorer, it is no surprise that many low income families stay this way for many generations, because they aren’t getting the best education, the best help, and especially not the safest neighborhoods to live in. On top of this, the system takes away any type of help that these low income families have. When people live under these circumstances, it is no wonder that most of the criminal activity is in these poorer areas.

Being at the bottom of the economic ladder means being poor, at least when compared to others in your society (Currie 2015). Being at the bottom of the ladder also means barely, if able to, making ends meet. Scholars have argued that poverty is in fact the more important stimulus to crime (Pridemore, 2011; Trent and Pridemore, 2012). Now, this isn’t justifying crime in lower income homes, nor is it excusing such behavior. However, what it does say is that if those who aren’t able to get money to provide for their families, they will do whatever they have to do. This is also important when we look at crimes that are committed by teenagers, who will usually commit crime due to relative poverty. Relative poverty is not a measure of whether you have enough money to obtain the basics of life, but whether your income allows you to have a standard of living that is at least reasonably close to what others around you enjoy, (Currie, 2015). That is, if a teenager sees someone who is better off with what they have, they will be more inclined to get those items too, even if it means selling drugs or committing a robbery. Again, this isn’t saying it is okay for them to commit such crimes, but it is understanding that low income neighborhoods didn’t just decide to become criminals. In some parts of the United States, large numbers of people simply do not have enough legitimate income to live on, and may need to supplement their legitimate income with illegitimate ones in order to survive at a minimal level (Currie, 2015). It’s honestly ridiculous to see how much the system failed those who had no money and still expect them to live a life with a clean record. If those who have money still commit crimes, those who don’t have money shouldn’t receive such harsh treatment for doing the same.

To say that our system is incredibly greedy and flawed would be a compliment. In truth, it was a system made for by the rich, for the rich. A system that not only made it impossible for anyone else to make it up the ladder, but punishes those who survived by any means necessary. It truly did start with social classes. When the highest of the lasses decided they needed a system to make sure that they would be on top regardless of any situation, they made sure to make a system that would be unfair to not just minorities, but to anyone who wasn’t already part of the 1%. Which made crime inevitable, and it turn that crime became responsible for other laws made to keep the middle and especially lower class in line. It is a rat race, in which the rest of the 99% is put inside a maze to see who is able to make it out, competing to be the best rat. The desire to be in the 1% makes them forget that win or lose, they are still just rats. So maybe when students who can relate to such circumstances are paying their tuition bill, they will make sure to not only be present in all their classes, but excel in them. Since it seems that in this world, the majority are not paying for an education, but paying for a chance to compete for the very limited amount of spots on top of the economic ladder, because everyone wants to be the best rat.

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