The Criminalisation of Political Dissent

The Criminalisation of Political Dissent: Huckstering the Law | Critical Legal Thinking.


“Of course it would be just if the State were to stop crim­in­al­ising polit­ical protest­ors, and this is neces­sary, at a min­imum. But polit­ical trans­form­a­tion lies in chal­len­ging the nature of private own­er­ship that per­vades the very form that law takes. In the Eco­nomic and Philo­sophic Manu­scripts of 1844, Marx writes that the “huck­ster­ing with landed prop­erty, the trans­form­a­tion of landed prop­erty into a com­mod­ity, con­sti­tutes the final over­throw of the old and the final estab­lish­ment of the money aris­to­cracy.” Huck­ster­ing, Marx tells us, is what defines the very essence of own­er­ship (whether it’s feudal or cap­it­al­ist, of land or money).

“Per­haps huck­ster­ing is also an apt and ana­log­ous term for the use of law to crim­in­al­ise polit­ical dis­sent. What we are being offered here (what is being peddled) is a ver­sion of the law that deems it crim­in­ally improper to dis­rupt the enti­tle­ment of the wealthy to enjoy sport, to assert a noisy, vis­ible pres­ence in pub­lic space, to chal­lenge the increas­ingly private own­er­ship of our uni­ver­sit­ies. Per­haps one place to begin in recon­cep­tu­al­ising a law of pub­lic harm is to ima­gine laws that are not tied to the pro­tec­tion of prop­erty in all of its glor­i­ous diversity, but con­ceives of pub­lic harm as that which dam­ages the life chances of that major­ity liv­ing on the mar­gins of socio-​economic privilege.”

Brenna Bhandar is Lec­turer in Law, Queen Mary, Uni­ver­sity of London.

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