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Critical Psychology

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Autor:   •  May 18, 2017  •  Research Paper  •  2,436 Words (10 Pages)  •  196 Views

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Discuss the following question: “how does law ensure the maintenance of societal inequality and power imbalances?” (Fox, 1999, p.10). Consider with reference to false consciousness.

University of Malta

        The field of critical psychology focuses on highlighting mainstream psychology in relation to its unjust practices. It goes against the values, assumptions and objectives of more traditional psychology, which, it claims, portrays harmful ideologies and approaches. Critical psychologists believe that these many hider well-being and social justice, leaving harmful effects on individuals as well as on society at large. This field of psychology allows us to become more aware of things that are normally taken for granted, and to identify the potential consequences that may exist because of this. They also believe that mainstream psychology and its overemphasis on the individual can lead to marginalisation of minority groups due to failure to attain mutuality amongst communities. This therefore strengthens unjust practices, unjust movements, and ultimately promotes inequality and oppression. As a social science, it fails to encourage emancipation and empowerment, and can be used by those who have the most power to control and instill fear in others who are less advantaged (Fox, Prilleltensky & Austin, 2009).

        Law is a specifically important institution in societies depicting themselves as controlled by law rather than by the notions of officials or the direct decisions of societal members. Legal organisations globally, settle disagreements among individuals, maintain order, and enforce governmental decisions (Fox, 1997). False consciousness is the ”inability to identify and act in one’s own interest” (Young & Arrigo, 1999) because of adherence to prevailing ideology and understanding.

        The domain of psychology and law started with a declared focal point on social justice. In the last two decades, that focus has been averted. With justice being defined more narrowly than before, psycho-legal analysis has played a part in contributing to false consciousness about the level to which law decreases lack of fairness and promotes societal change. Primary constituents of false consciousness about law include the opinion that procedural justice is more crucial than substantive or distributive justice, the tolerance of judicial beliefs that assist corporate capitalism and the view that the stern regulation of law is constitutionally superior to individualised justice and common sense equity.

        Psychologists consistently favour law as the warrantor of human rights and justice, trusting that regardless of its flaws, "law is a good thing" (Melton, 1990). Contrary to scholars in some other fields, psychologists pay insignificant attention to law's probable downside even as they explore optional elements in legal decision making and present comparatively minor reforms to settle the workings of legal institutions. They seldom raise more important questions that go to the heart of law's intrinsically political and often biased nature: How might law actually make life unsatisfactory for people? How does law make certain that the conservation of social inequality and power imbalances? When does law supply the appearance of fairness without the reality? To what degree does reliance on law divert attention from other solutions to societal problems? Most often, psychologists put first less controversial subjects that cease to test the legal status quo instead. Crucially, the role of false consciousness in maintaining system legitimacy is not given enough attention by psychologists (Jost, 1995).

        The frequent belief that those with power use equitable procedures intensifies system lawfulness even when that belief is not true (Fox, 1993b, 1997a). "Legitimacy-the feeling of obligation to follow the decisions of group authorities and group rules--works to the benefit of group authorities" (Tyler et al., 1997, pp. 196-197). Legitimacy comes from a disparity of "fetishising" procedures (McBride, 1974), including that the law is "separate from--and ‘above'- politics, economics, culture, and the values or preferences of judges or any person" (Kairys, 1998, p. 1). The chances that techniques are dishonest or insufficient receives periodic public recognition. The media reveal unrefined failure of justice-judges who welcome bribes or sleep throughout a witness's testimony, lawyers who lie, police who attack suspects, government officials who force those inferior to them to arrive at pre-decided results. But the well-liked belief that the system can be made better by setting apart a few bad people is in itself a showing acts of false consciousness as it unsuccessfully manages to realise structural limitation on individual action. Also, it totally disregards the integrated preference that clearly permits legal authorities to pick and choose among available options without violating procedural rules.

        Beneath questions of injustice and inequality is definitely the query of power. Because people often see power in a negative light or view, it is a topic that can be somewhat awkward and so, many people are unwilling to investigate. Power can be defined as the degree of power over material, human, intellectual and financial resources used by various divisions of society. The power of these resources becomes a source of individual and social power. Power is forceful and relative, rather than absolute- it is applied in the economic. social and political relations between individuals and groups. It is also unfairly dispensed- some individuals and groups having significantly more jurisdiction over the sources of power and others having little to no control at all. The degree of control of an individual or group is related to how many different kinds of resources they can access, take the opportunity to use and control. Different degrees of power are sustained and preserved through various social divisions such as gender, age, class, ethnicity, race; the list goes on, and through institutions such as the family, religion, education and also our focal point in this essay, law. Our knowledge of power would not be accomplished lest we understand ideology. This is defined as a multiplex structure of beliefs, values, attitudes and ways of perceiving and analysing social reality. Ideologies are extensively disperse and implemented through social, economic, political and religious institutions and structures. While ideology does a very good job of supporting an unequal power structure than rough, unconcealed enforcement and domination, we should not forget that it is always being strengthened by the threat of force. However, neither power, ideology, nor the state are static or monolithic. There is an ongoing process of resistance and challenge by the less powerful, or so-called minority groups and depreciated sections of society, resulting in various degrees of change in the structure of power. When these challenged become strong and extensive enough, they can result in the complete modification of a power structure” (VeneKlasen, Lisa, Miller; 2002).


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