Managing Disobedience as Crime: Legal and Extra-Legal Discourse in Military Court Verdicts of Unauthorized Absentees and Conscientious Objectors

Hadar Aviram, University of California - Berkeley

The paper, part of a larger project, attempts to "enter the mind" of the legal system in order to uncover the way it shapes its perceptions of, and solutions to, social problems. By looking for sources of knowledge, strategies, subterfuges and stereotypes in the verdicts, the paper presents an image of the Israeli military court's constructions of two military offenses: desertion, often due to economic difficulties and cultural problems, and conscientious objection, ideologically motivated and strongly linked to the academic intelligentsia. Through verdicts in both cases, the paper illustrates the shortcomings of the doctrinal legal approach as a social problem solving technique: the law's "colonizing" effect on other disciplines leads to poor, one-dimensional, flattened images of the problems, selectively borrowing concepts from extra-legal disciplines and reinventing them to fit Weberian, ideal-type based classifications and distinctions. Offenders are then classified through the reinvented disciplinary paradigms and treated accordingly in the verdict rhetoric. While this problem-solving technique is deficient for all social problems, routine offenses and marginalized offenders are those who suffer the most from it, while more resourceful offenders occasionally succeed to introduce a broader discussion framework into the legal scene.

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Updated 05/20/2006