The article I will be critically summarizing is “Conflict as Property”. It is an influential article written by the criminologist Nils Christie in the late 1970s. Throughout the entire article Christie argues “criminology to some extent has amplified a process where conflicts have been taken away from the parties directly involved and thereby have either disappeared or become other peoples property”1 This statement is what I have found to be Christies thesis in which all of his points refer back to.
Throughout the article Christie reflects on why he believes the conflict between two parties, the victim and defendant has been “stolen” by the authorities, the state, and by professionals. Christie said that not only does the victim loose his or her say in the proceedings but is relatively thrown out of the case in which it becomes between one party and the state. He found this unsatisfying and argued that it should be given back to the initial parties involved, the victim, the defendant and the neighborhood. He says when a conflict is created that we are less capable to take on the situation and are more likely to hand it off to some one else. This is where there is a lineup of professionals willing to take the conflict from us and we are just as willing to give it away. Christie explains his notion of “conflict as property” as not referring to material compensation but rather to the ownership of the conflict itself. He then recognizes the effects of victim losing the “property” initially and puts forth a method as a remedy for this process. He proposes a new court model for dealing with conflicts in which the court is victim centered and lay-oriented.
For most of the part I agree with what Christie has to say. I believe that throughout a proceeding it should be of most importance that the victim’s situation is to be heard whether it is relevant to the law or not. Instead of letting the state or professionals take over and say what they think has the most relevance to a case the court should hear the entire story from the victims point of view. This would show the courts to what affect this act by the offender has caused in the victims life. Also they should hear out what the victim seems fit as a fair punishment or payment in forms of restitution whether it is labour or monetary to go along with the judges sentence. I think that by having the initial parties involved instead of being pushed to the side, society will be more concerned to make sure that everyone is given a fair, equal, and consistent resolution to a conflict. It would ensure that the neighborhood and state have the same set of shared values and goals that they are working towards to support social order.
Most offenders after committing crimes do not want to see the victims or their families that they affected. It is an emotional encounter in the courtroom where the offender can show his remorse and the victim(s) can show pity I think that the two types of segmentation that are observed in our highly industrialized societies are the most important factors in why we don’t have the ability to deal with conflict. The segmentation in space is how we go through our daily lives and not recognizing any of the people we see as who they are but by what they do. Secondly we segregate people based on their physical attributes such as race, gender, and sex.
This segregation has many consequences on society as a whole. The most influential consequence that we experience is depersonalization as Christie said. Not having this person-to-person relationship is detrimental, especially when conflicts arise seeing as how we can’t deal with them between the parties involved. We need professionals to step in and take the roles from us, which results in us being cast aside.
“Except for execution, castration or incarceration for life, no measure has a proven minimum of efficiency compared to any other measures”2 instead of continuing with the traditional way of a legal proceeding we need to change things. People need to be able to interact face to face and have a more personal interaction. Conflicts must be given back to the initial parties and not “stolen” by these other powers. Is it not what somebody deserves? To have a case in which they are heard.
Nils Christie, “Conflict as Property” (1977) 17:4 The British Journal of Criminology Pg. 1-15