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Social Engineering

As the relationship between the person, society, and the state has evolved, new theories have occasionally been put forth. In the beginning, social norms that had solely social validity dominated society. Then the priests began to rule supreme. The secular state then appeared and took control of all the institutions. In response, thinkers and philosophers emphasized the value of the individual. Political transformations and revolutions occurred.

The necessity of striking a balance between a person's well-being and that of society was recognized. Human life and society are always intertwined. [1]Every human being believes that their desires will be satisfied from birth until old age, which leads to conflicts between those desires or claims, which are referred to as "interests." It is impossible to satiate every human being's desire.

American legal scholar Roscoe Pound published a large amount of work on the subjects of law, sociology, and social engineering. Roscoe Pound's term "social engineering" was developed in order to satisfy the needs of the greatest number of people for the benefit of society.

The foundation of social engineering is the idea that rules are made to mold society and control people's behavior. It is an effort to use the law to govern how people behave. Pound claimed that the law should not be a static set of regulations but rather a dynamic system of social engineering that is sensitive to the shifting requirements of society in his introduction to Social Engineering.

Additionally, he thought that the legal system ought to be developed to meet the requirements of the populace and that it ought to be utilized to advance social justice. Conflicting the personal interests of people is the driving factor for the development of social engineering. Social engineering deals with interests, more specifically competing interests.

The foundation of social engineering is the idea that laws are utilized to influence society and control behavior. Pound asserts that law is social engineering, or "a balance between the opposing interests in society," where applied science is employed to address both personal and societal issues.

Theory Of Social Engineering

"Law is social engineering which means a balance between the competing interests in the society"- Dean Roscoe Pound (1870-1964)

[1]Roscoe Pound, the founder of Modern American Sociological Jurisprudence and a sociological, liberal, utilitarian, pluralist philosopher, made significant contributions to the subject of legal jurisprudence. The sociological school of thought posited that law, unlike a self-justifying decree from the sovereign, arises through historical and cultural processes. It resulted from the prior analytical strategy for using a more practical and functional interpretation of the law as a method of accomplishing social objectives.

Instead, then focusing on what the legislation should be, they were more concerned with how it would really operate. In order to produce a social environment for the common good and full benefit for all as a tool of social control, the sociological method literally centered around the social facts, norms, and challenges that the legislation seeks to solve. In order to promote social stability, fairness, and balance in society, the law is a real instrument that rules in accordance with societal concerns rather than being idealistic or dogmatic.

This is true because the core and purpose of a law that works rest in the social interactions it seeks to control. Roscoe Pound's "Theory of Social Engineering," which is based on societal behavior, patterns, cultures, attitudes, etc., is the most notable and original contribution to this understanding of law.

According to social needs
The terms "social" and "engineering" allude to the way an engineer uses a system or instrument based on ongoing trials and practices to create a certain end product. The term "social" refers to the group of individuals who make up a society. Similarly to this, the fundamental idea behind social engineering is to use a rule based on social circumstances to achieve social goals. As a result, the foundation of law is the society it strives to regulate. It is a tool for social control that is demand-driven, goal-oriented, and purposeful in character, with society at the core of both its development and implementation.

Harmonizing competing interests
"I venture to think, would represent the social order as an organized human endeavor to satisfy a maximum of human wants with a minimum of sacrifice of other wants. It would represent the legal order as that part of the whole process which is or may be achieved by the force of politically organized society.

It would picture elimination of friction and waste, economizing of social effort, conservation of social assets, and adjustment of the struggle of individual human beings to satisfy their overlapping individual claims in life in civilized society, so that if each may not get all that he demands, he may at least obtain all that is reasonably practicable in a wise social engineering."[2]

Here, Roscoe Pound clearly ventures the harmonizing of interests while maximizing interest and minimizing sacrifice. Clearly, social engineering can be understood as formulating a structure of society that requires the satisfaction of the maximum of wants with the minimum friction or waste or sacrifice. By this means, one must get what is reasonable which can be affected by harmonizing or balancing the conflicting or competing interests, desires, claims, and wants.[3]

In order to obtain the greatest possible satisfaction of each person's greatest desire, he advocated that the study of law be balanced by social considerations. This would help society resolve its conflicts of interest. Spencer and Bentham extended the law to persons as members of society, either directly or indirectly.

Law goal/purpose oriented
The premise that law is a type of social control that can only be managed when specific goals are stated underpins the necessity for a meaningful definition of law. Pound was also a product of his time, which was marked by the industrial revolution, rising commercial, and technological regimes, and unequal income distribution. In order to address a societal issue like the unequal distribution of income, Pound, therefore, proposed a concept of law. While he saw the law as an abstract concept devoid of any objectives or purposes.

Just like an engineer working on his product, in order to devise successful rules, a jurist must analyze, examine, experiment, study the factual aspects, and enlist the intent and means. In this regard he postulates the following points of consideration for harmonizing the competing interests.

Therefore, we can conclude that laws are not merely rules or formulas in Pound's understanding, but experience, doctrines, reasoning, presumptions, and perceptions that influence the task of balancing interests.

The institution of laws can be classified into five categories as follow:
  1. Laws as rules- laying down the standard of conduct and decision
  2. Laws as principles- Authoritative points
  3. Laws as conceptions- Defining the classes and situation of application
  4. Laws as doctrines- A union of rules principles and conceptions
  5. Laws as standards- Notions prescribing the permissible limits of conduct
Pound adds that a jurist will always have to deal with challenging situations that must be overcome, and friction or waste stands for the sacrifice made in order to arrive at a fair resolution by deliberate effort. The engineering comparison sticks out as being both vivid and relevant.[4]

Functional School of Thought
Pound's idea is also seen as belonging to the functional school of thinking since it describes the role of legislation in social engineering. According to Pound, the purpose of law is to promote the common good by resolving the divergent or rival interests of people in a community. Consequently, the rules are realistic, target-driven, purposeful, and practical in order to maintain a balance in the social order. The goal of the law is to elevate 'interest' to the status of the primary legal issue, in addition to defending those interests.

Whether balance between Individual and Social Interests can be achieved or not?
Pound defined the balancing of opposing interests as maximum pleasure with little friction and waste. It refers to balancing and modifying personal and social interests. But it is impossible to balance two interests in reality. Additionally, it is discovered that Pound did not pay close attention to how one conflicting interest should be contrasted to another. Only when two things can be compared can balance be achieved.

There is a provision that, in accordance with Pound's thesis, relates to the conservation of the natural environment falling within societal interest. Every civilization, without a doubt, desires a clean environment, and the factories that produce annoyances and pollutants must be shut down. The closure of the plant and achieving the highest level of employee satisfaction is in the best interests of the general public.

However, the factory's owner suffers greatly due to Individual Interest. Although the greatest number of people's interests are served in this situation with the least amount of the owner's own interest sacrificed, a balance between individual and social interests has not been attained since one must lose while the other must gain.

When a husband and wife are having marital problems and the wife obtains a divorce decree against the husband, the wife's interests take precedence over the husband's, and there is no balance between the two individual interests because the husband must provide support for the wife and children, which causes him great suffering.

A mutually agreeable divorce is an exception, in which both the husband and wife are content with the divorce judgment and their particular needs are met. By looking at the debate above, it is suggested that reconciling competing interests can resolve them. The terms "adjustment" and "balancing" are not suitable for describing conflicts of interest.

We can deduce that Roscoe Pound's understanding of the law is a reflection of societal wants and that the goal of law enforcement is to satisfy societal demands to the greatest possible extent. This is accomplished by resolving society's competing interests in a way that causes the least amount of unhappiness possible. Interests, especially competing ones, are regarding social engineering. The foundation of social engineering is the notion that rules may be utilized to shape society and control human behavior. It is an endeavor to control human conduct, with the aid of law and stable social order.

The balance of interests is challenged in a pluralistic society like India, where decisions are not always made with just little waste, friction, or sacrifice to one group. But since India gained its independence, social engineering has been widely practiced in the country through a number of constitutional clauses, state-created legislation, and frequently through judicial rulings.

Law is essential in solving and balancing conflicts of interest. Individual and social interests are balanced out by one another. Both interests are given priority. The idea of social engineering was introduced to American society by Roscoe Pound, but other nations use it to settle disagreements. India established a welfare society using this very same principle.

  1. Prabhat Kumar and Nidhi Jain , Law as an Instrument of Social Engineering: The Indian Perspective, 5 (2) IJLMH Page 814 - 827 (2022), DOI:
  2. Pound Roscoe. "The Theory of Judicial Decision. III. A Theory of Judicial Decision for Today." Harvard Law Review, vol. 36, no. 8, 1923, pp. 940�959. JSTOR,
  3. Pound, Roscoe, "The Spirit of the Common Law", Transaction Publishers, 1999, At P.196, Interests", "desires", "claims", "wants" - for the most part the words are used interchangeably in Pound's writings, although "interests" sometimes serves as the inclusive term.
  4. Douglas, Some Functional Aspects of Bankruptcy (1932) 41 YALE L. J. 329, 331.
  5. Gochhayat, Sai. (2010). 'Social Engineering by Roscoe Pound': Issues in Legal and Political Philosophy. SSRN Electronic Journal. 10.2139/ssrn.1742165

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