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Long Firm

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Jake Arnott’s The Long Firm includes may discussion about crime and punishment, law and order and justice and in justice. Do you regard novels as useful sources of legal theory or merely irrelevant distraction?
It has been argued by recent legal theorists that novels are useful sources of legal theory. In Ian Ward’s book Law and literature: possibilities and perspectives , he argues that by studying literature, students are able to better understand law. He suggests, for example, that it is worth in the examination of ‘... the psychology of English property law ... [to look]... at the pictures in the Tale of Peter Rabbit Arguably, novels which have law as a central theme are a mirror by which lawyers or legal researchers can examine contemporary attitudes to the law and professionals working within it. Current participants in the debate as to the usefulness of literature and law have examined works such as Kafka’s The Trial or Dickens novels as sources of legal theory for these same reasons.
Professor R.M. Dworkin argued that law is similar to literature in that we seek to find meaning in the same by process of interpretation. He argued that this process is adopted by judges in that they interpret the law. He attacked legal positivists, who simply examine the law in isolation from society, who find only the meaning of the law and not its substance. The debate as to the usefulness of novels sees the creation of the distinction between ‘law in literature’ and ‘law as literature’ .
The former thesis examines the worth of literature which tells a legal story. For example, it can be argued that the novel to kill a Mockingbird is a useful source of information about the American legal system at the time the novel is set. Just as The Long Firm is a useful source of information about criminals, their associates and how they operated in 1960’s London. The latter thesis examines the value of legal texts as works of literature, for example written judgements. It is the former that is of interest here.
The Long Firm is a useful examination of crime, punishment, law and order and justice. It is constructed as a series of 5 stories, with each character adopting the role of storyteller as lives become entwined with or separated from that of the main character – Harry Starks (‘Harry’). It is inappropriate to critique this work on the basis of its historic merit as it is a novel – a fiction - ‘... and whatever ... [real]... law is to be found ... is purely ancillary.’ Its merit comes not from its fact, but its fiction.
The novel is set within the world of criminals and those on the edge of society. It is set at a time of great change after the Second World War, where music, drugs, social mobility and issues of equality challenged the then status quo. The novel depicts some of those seeking to operate within this changing cultural landscape and how they adapt to the same, or not.
The main character, Harry, is a complex violent criminal, who enforces his system of rules with extreme cruelty. Jack the Hat describes Harry as having ‘...dead eyes ... He can hurt without feeling.’ Harry is cruel but not out of control, he operates within the rules of the criminal fraternity. He buys his suits from traditional Savile Row tailors just like other businessmen. He has a club called Stardust, where minor stars mixed drinking and drug taking with gangsters and corrupt police officers. But it was the gangsters who were ‘... the real stars at Stardust’ just like 1960’s London, which was dominated by the Kray brothers and their gang of celebrity criminals.
Harry seeks acceptance by association with members of the establishment, with who people like he would not have previously mixed. Lord Thursby (‘Thursby’), a ‘... none playing captain...’ has recently been elevated from the Commons. Thursby shares the base homosexual practices that Harry offers at his famous sex parties. Thursby chooses his club for their first business meeting for it had a ‘... touch of aristocratic raffishness ... that I ... knew Harry would be drawn to.’ Thursby becomes a member of the board for Harry’s company - that will operate the Long Firm crime. As their association deepens, Thursby assists Harry with his brief imperial adventure in Nigeria. Harry needs Thursby to gain the acceptability he desires personally and for his criminal enterprise to work. Thursby needs money and to satisfy his hungry desire for sex. Thursby is a selfish hypocrite, his greatest fear being discovery and fall from grace. Harry has no fear of falling.
Radical changes experienced by society during the 1960’s underpin the relationships, activities and challenges faced by the characters and their dealings with Harry. The resting actress – Ruby Ryder – for example, sees her career progress from bankrupt wife (of jailed husband) to live in lover (of a slum landlord) to finally running Harry ’s new club (an up market strip joint). She progresses further, acting as intermediary between Harry and the corrupt police. She embraces and benefits from social change in terms of permissive attitudes towards pornography, sex and accepted roles of women. These changes give her a new life – earning her a position of trust, some authority and financial independence. ‘A couple of years of this, I figured, and I could look after myself.’
The novel is also an examination the world of homosexuality, before and after the change in the law liberalising homosexual sexual activity between men in private. Harry is open about his preferences and defends his homosexuality to his peers saying ‘... hanging around with women made you soft’. Harry’s own preference is for rent boys where, at his famous parties ‘... boys were served up like canapés...’ Harry also embraces homosexual culture, for example, when he mourns the death of Judy Garland . He sees her death, as many homosexuals did, as ‘...a bad omen’. He is right and is arrested and jailed shortly after.
The police were players in the novel, just like other firms of criminals. Detective Sergeant Mooney (‘Mooney’), the corrupt police officer, approaches Harry to suggest a mutually beneficial arrangement as the permissive society allowed crime and criminal enterprise to move into pornography and sex. The police wanted things under control and for them ‘It would be a lot easier ... if ... [they]... only had to deal with one firm.’ Mooney explained his rationale to Ruby Ryder ‘All around me is filth and degradation...My job is to contain it.’
Harry knew he also had to manage the police and so chose Ruby as his go between because ‘Being a villain’s wife ... [Mooney is] ... bound to be drawn to that.’ The charge for police protection Mooney describes as ‘Licensing, we like to call it’ and explains the reason for it was ‘...as laws become more liberal they have to become more tightly regulated. The whole point of permissiveness is permission ... it’s up to the police to decide what’s permitted.’
Lenny, a radical academic, teaches a course for in mates at a high security prison so he can study ‘... an elite group of criminals.’ These include Harry who in the final section of the book has been sent to prison for 20 years. In giving Harry access to education, to acceptability through study he gives Harry hope. Lenny studies Harry through deviance theory. Lenny sees the mimicking of legitimate business – the clothes, the cars, the charity work etc – as part of the contradictions of society at the time. ‘...the very deviance of the gangster allows capitalism to exorcise itself and reassert its moral normality.’
Lenny is fascinated by Harry, ‘Extreme seductiveness is at the boundary of horror.’ For Lenny, there is ‘... something tantalising, about the ambiguity of Harry’s criminality.’ Harry does not believe he is the thing that Lenny studies, he says ‘I wasn’t a gangster, I was a businessman.’ For Harry, ‘... crime... was just business with the gloves off.’
Harry moves prisons and obtains his Open University degree. In correspondence with and visits from Lenny, he critiques the legal theory that studies him, saying ‘... our problem isn’t that we’re outsiders, Lenny, it’s that we’re insiders.’ They discuss Foucault and the changes in the UK penal system whereby the punishment became less brutal physically but then hidden in the process and more crippling to the soul.
After early release is denied, despite his rehabilitation (by re-education), Harry escapes. He explains his rationale in an open letter to The Times. He explains his criminal behaviour in terms of his background – the context in which crime is committed is in a ‘... subculture in which conflicts were resolved without recourse to authoritative norms or judicial agencies.’ He justifies the system in which he operated by explaining that he transgressed only against those who were involved in and shared the same value system.
He hides his location in code within the letter to entice Lenny to help him. Harry escapes to Spain where, free of the risk of extradition, he is discovered and framed by the now retired Moody. Harry emerges free from this encounter, leaving Lenny with Mooney’s blood on his hands and his theories of criminology in tatters as Lenny becomes ‘... the type of criminal that ... [is never studied]... The ones that get away with it.’
Is this novel a useful source of legal theory? Richard Posner in Law and literature: a misunderstood relation would argue that to make this assertion would be like ‘... reading Animal Farm as a tract on farm management.’ . Richard Weisberg on the other hand, would argue that even if the novel were a complete fiction, it can ‘...still educate lawyers about the human condition.’ It is the human condition of the characters that drives the reader on. The critical examination from the insider’s position into that briefly fashionable but brutal criminal world is of interest, as for the most part, the law of the land does not touch or concern the characters. They operate outside lawful society yet inside lawful society, in terms of where they carry out their crimes. In the final analysis, it is a credible examination of the criminal world of 1960’s London and offers a useful alternative analysis that a factual or legal text would not.

1745 words (excluding footnotes and bibliography)

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[ 1 ]. Ian Ward is a professor of law at Newcastle University Law School. He is also on the editorial board for Studies in Law and Literature. Ward believes that students in both fields, law and literature, can benefit from studying rhetoric along side with law. His research lies in legal theory and public law among others. Ward has published numerous works dealing with law and literature and legal theory.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Law_and_literature#Significant_Contributions_to_the_Movement
[ 2 ]. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995
[ 3 ]. Ibid IX
[ 4 ]. The American jurist, succeeded H.L.A. Hart as the Professor of Jurisprudence at Oxford University in 1969
[ 5 ]. Especially Ch2 of Law’s Empire London: Hart Publishing, 1998
[ 6 ]. Such as H.L.A. Hart
[ 7 ]. Ian Ward Law and literature: possibilities and perspectives p3
[ 8 ]. To Kill a Mockingbird HarperCollins, 1960 is a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by Harper Lee. It was instantly successful and has become a classic of modern American literature.
[ 9 ]. Jake Arnott The Long Firm London: Sceptre, 1999
[ 10 ]. See further in Richard Posner’s work in Law and literature: a misunderstood relation Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 1988
[ 11 ]. Ian Ward Law and literature: possibilities and perspectives p13
[ 12 ]. Jake Arnott The Long Firm p126
[ 13 ]. Ibid p 14
[ 14 ]. Ibid p 10
[ 15 ]. Ibid p 176, meaning a closet homosexual
[ 16 ]. Ibid p 59
[ 17 ]. Ibid p 240
[ 18 ]. Ibid p 14
[ 19 ]. Ibid p 15
[ 20 ]. The Wizard of Oz has been identified as being of great importance to LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) fans. One reason for this is Judy Garland's starring role; Garland would go on to be a gay icon and later in her career acknowledged the gay fans of her rendition of "Somewhere over the Rainbow" from the film.[32]
Queer theorists highlight a feeling of kinship felt by LGBT people for the misfit heroes (and villains) of the film,[32] and attribute the feeling of identification to the hidden or double lives of the characters, drawing parallels to the problems faced by LGBT people in real life: "It's emotionally confused and oppressed teenage heroine longs for a world in which her inner desires can be expressed freely and fully. Dorothy finds this world in a technicolor land 'over the rainbow' inhabited by a sissy lion, an artificial man who cannot stop crying and a butch-femme couple of witches."[33]
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wizard_of_Oz_(1939_film)#LGBT_culture
[ 21 ]. Ibid p 246
[ 22 ]. Ibid p 165
[ 23 ]. Ibid p 202
[ 24 ]. Ibid p 235
[ 25 ]. Ibid p 238
[ 26 ]. Ibid p 237
[ 27 ]. Ibid p 280
[ 28 ]. Deviance in a sociological context describes actions or behaviour that violates cultural norms including formally-enacted rules (e.g., crime) as well as informal violations of social norms (e.g., folkways). It is the remit of sociologists, psychologists and criminologists to study how these norms are created how they change over time and how they are enforced.
Source: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deviance_(sociology)
[ 29 ]. Jake Arnott The Long Firm p 300
[ 30 ]. Ibid p 300
[ 31 ]. Ibid p 299
[ 32 ]. Ibid p 299
[ 33 ]. Ibid p 311
[ 34 ]. Ibid p 312
[ 35 ]. Micheal Foucault, the French philosopher (1926 – 84) in his book Discipline and Punishment, trans. A Sheridan. London: Penguin, 1977
[ 36 ]. Jake Arnott The Long Firm p 314
[ 37 ]. Ibid p 275
[ 38 ]. Ibid 342
[ 39 ]. Cambridge Mass: Harvard University Press, 1990 Richard A. Posner is Circuit Judge, the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit, and a senior lecturer at the University of Chicago Law School
[ 40 ]. Ian Ward Law and literature: possibilities and perspectives p 12
[ 41 ]. Professor of constitutional law at Cardoso School of Law, New York and who specialises in law and literature and has published Poethics, And Other Strategies of Law and Literature Washington: Columbia
University Press: 1992.
[ 42 ]. Ian Ward Law and literature: possibilities and perspectives p 14

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...One of these actions is pollution. As we discussed in the last chapter, many U.S. companies reduce costs by trucking their waste to Mexico where it is legal to dump it in the Rio Grande. The dumping pollutes the river from the Mexican side, and the effects are increasingly being felt on the U.S. side, too. Rules for Ethical Decision Making When a stakeholder perspective is taken, questions of business ethics abound. What is the appropriate way to manage the claims of all stakeholders? Business decisions that favor one group of stakeholders, for example, are likely to harm the interests of others. High prices to customers might lead to high returns for shareholders and high salaries for managers in the short run. But if in the long run, customers turn to companies that offer lower-cost products, the result could be declining sales, laid-off employees, and the decline of the communities that support the high-priced company’s business activity. When companies act ethically, their stakeholders support them. For example, banks are willing to supply them with new capital, the companies attract highly qualified job applicants, and new customers are drawn to their products. Thus, ethical companies grow and expand over time, and all of their stakeholders benefit as a result. By contrast, unethical behavior will eventually result in the loss of a company’s reputation and, ultimately, its resources—its shareholders, who will sell their shares, its managers and......

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