Roscoe Pound

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Pound, Roscoe,

1870–1964, American jurist, b. Lincoln, Nebr. He studied (1889–90) at Harvard law school, but never received a law degree. Pound was a prominent botanist as well as a jurist, and spent his early years in Nebraska practicing and teaching law, simultaneously serving as director of the state botanical survey (1892–1903). Pound was then professor of law at Harvard (1910–37) and dean of the law school (1916–36), where he introduced many reforms. He advanced the "theory of social interests" in law, asserting that law must recognize the needs of humanity, and take contemporary social conditions into account. Some theorists believe that his work may have inspired Franklin Delano Roosevelt's New Deal program in the 1930s. A prolific writer, his books on jurisprudence include Introduction to the Philosophy of Law (1922, repr. 1959), Criminal Justice in America (1930, repr. 1975), Contemporary Juristic Theory (1940, repr. 1981), and Social Control through Law (1942).


See study by D. Wigdor (1974).

Pound, Roscoe


Born Oct. 27, 1870, in Lincoln, Neb.; died July 1, 1964, in Cambridge, Mass. American jurist. Head of the sociological, or Harvard, school of jurisprudence.

Pound began his academic career in 1899, teaching at a number of American universities. He was dean of Harvard Law School (hence the name of his school of thought) from 1916 to 1936 and was then made an honorary dean. From 1935 to 1937 he was president of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences, and from 1950 to 1956 president of the International Academy of Comparative Law.

The author of works on the general theory of law and on various branches of the law, Pound summarized the main principles of his works in Jurisprudence (vols. 1–5, 1959). His doctrine was an attempt at an interpretation, using American material, of ideas borrowed from the European schools of “living law” (E. Ehrlich), the theory of law as a legally protected interest (R. Thering), and law as an element of culture (J. Kohler). Pound was influenced greatly by the philosophy of pragmatism and E. Ross’ concept of social control.

Pound’s intellectual framework, like capitalist sociological jurisprudence as a whole, took shape in a period when many legal institutions of the age of industrial capitalism no longer corresponded to the economic and political needs of monopoly capitalism. This was the source of Pound’s demand that the view of law as a collection of postulates be replaced by a pragmatic, instrumentalist approach and led to his sharp distinction between law in books and law in action. Pound declared that an expansion of judiciary and civil-service discretion was the principal way to bring law into line with the social dynamic. He believed that law constituted not only binding rules of behavior (norms) but also legal procedure and decisions of the court, which are not based on norms but arise from the need to protect interests. He proposed the idea of justice without law, that is, free judicial activity not bound to existing law. His outlines of interests subject to legal protection reveal that he identified personal interests chiefly with the interests of the owner of private property. Pound was an outspoken opponent of the Marxist interpretation of law. His views were developed further in the doctrines of the realistic school in American jurisprudence.


Ivanenko, O. F. Pravovaia ideologiia amerikanskoi burzhuazii. [Kazan] 1966. Pages 32–50.
Tumanov, V. A. Burzhuaznaia pravovaia ideologiia: K kritike uchenii o prave. Moscow, 1971. Pages 284–300.

Pound, Roscoe

(1870–1964) legal scholar, botanist; born in Lincoln, Nebr. Considered one of the nation's leading jurists outside the Supreme Court, he taught for many years at the University of Nebraska (1892–1903), at Northwestern (1907–09), at the University of Chicago (1909–10), and then at Harvard Law School (1910–47). During his early career as a botanist, he discovered a rare lichen thereafter named "Roscopoundia." He advanced the idea of sociological jurisprudence and his "theory of social interests" influenced several New Deal programs. The theory took actual societal conditions into account rather than maintaining strict adherence to legal codes. However, he later felt that many New Deal programs were grossly mismanaged and thus promoted a welfare or "service state." He set forth these misgivings in Justice According to Law (1951). Gifted with boundless energy and an encyclopedic memory, he authored many books including Readings on the History and System of the Common Law (1904), Law and Morals (1924), and Jurisprudence (5 vols. 1959).