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).
References in classic literature ?
On the police interfering, the young woman threw back the shawl, and all recognized Millionaire Todd's daughter, who had just come from the Slum Freak Dinner at the Pond, where all the choicest guests were in a similar deshabille.
An honest and natural slum dialect is more tolerable than the attempt of a phonetically untaught person to imitate the vulgar dialect of the golf club; and I am sorry to say that in spite of the efforts of our Academy of Dramatic Art, there is still too much sham golfing English on our stage, and too little of the noble English of Forbes Robertson.
area of ground that the removal of slums in Whitechapel had rendered available.
To hang about a stable, and collect a gang of the most disreputable dogs to be found in the town, and lead them out to march round the slums to fight other disreputable dogs, is Montmorency's idea of "life;" and so, as I before observed, he gave to the suggestion of inns, and pubs.
But with Ralph, if he broke away, she knew that it would be only to put himself under harsher constraint; she figured him toiling through sandy deserts under a tropical sun to find the source of some river or the haunt of some fly; she figured him living by the labor of his hands in some city slum, the victim of one of those terrible theories of right and wrong which were current at the time; she figured him prisoner for life in the house of a woman who had seduced him by her misfortunes.
His mind seemed to turn, on the instant, into a vast camera obscura, and he saw arrayed around his consciousness endless pictures from his life, of stoke-holes and forecastles, camps and beaches, jails and boozing-kens, fever-hospitals and slum streets, wherein the thread of association was the fashion in which he had been addressed in those various situations.
Without arguing this matter of my general reputation, accepting it at its current face value, let me add that I have indeed lived life in a very rough school and have seen more than the average man's share of inhumanity and cruelty, from the forecastle and the prison, the slum and the desert, the execution-chamber and the lazar-house, to the battlefield and the military hospital.
South of the Slot were the factories, slums, laundries, machine-shops, boiler works, and the abodes of the working class.
I remember, when spending several months in the East End of London, during which time I wrote a book and adventured much amongst the worst of the slum classes, that I got drunk several times and was mightily wroth with myself because it interfered with my writing.
I was in touch with great souls who exalted flesh and spirit over dollars and cents, and to whom the thin wail of the starved slum child meant more than all the pomp and circumstance of commercial expansion and world empire.
Among the twenty-seven to his credit occurred titles such as, "If Christ Came to New Orleans," " The Worked-out Worker," "Tenement Reform in Berlin," "The Rural Slums of England," "The people of the East Side," "Reform Versus Revolution," "The University Settlement as a Hot Bed of Radicalism' and "The Cave Man of Civilization.
His complexion was robust, his hair had receded but not thinned, the thick moustache and the eyes that Helen had compared to brandy-balls had an agreeable menace in them, whether they were turned towards the slums or towards the stars.