Roscoe Pound

Roscoe Pound – Social Engineering

According to Pound, sociological jurisprudence should ensure that the making, interpretation and application of laws take account of social facts.  Pound linked the task of the lawyer to engineering.  The aim of social engineering is to build a scientific structure of society as possible, which requires the satisfaction of the maximum of wants and with the minimum of friction and waste.  It is the task of the jurist to assist the country by identifying and classifying the interests to be protected by law.


Roscoe Pound’s social engineering theory is the American correlative to the German jurisprudence of interests.  Roscoe Pound described the task of modern law as social engineering.  By social engineering he meant the balancing of competing interests in society.  He observed: “Law is the body of knowledge and experience with the aid of which a large part of social engineering is carried on.  It is more than body of rules.  It has conceptions and standards for conduct and for decision, but it has also doctrines and modes of professional thought and professional rules of art by which the precepts for conduct and decision are applied and given effect.  Like an engineer’s formulae, they represent experience, scientific formulations of experience and logical development of the formulations, but also inventive skill in conceiving new devices and formulating their requirements by means of a developed technique.”

Jurisprudence thus becomes a science of social engineering which means a balance between the competing interests in a society.  Pound entrusts the jurist with a commission.  He lays down a method which a jurist shall follow for social engineering.  He should study the actual social effects of legal institution and legal doctrines, study the means of making legal rules effective, sociological study in preparation for law making, study of juridical method, a sociological legal history.

Pound’s theory is that the interests are the main subject matter of law and the task of the law is the satisfaction of human wants and desires.  It is the function of law to make a ‘valuation of interests’, in other words to make a selection of socially more valuable interests and to secure them.  This all is nothing more than an experiment.  That is why Prof.C.K.Allen describes Pound’s approach as ‘Experimental Jurisprudence’.