Vanderbilt Law Review


Philip Selznick

First Page



When the architects of this program asked me to discuss non-legal social controls, I assume they had in mind the need for greater humility within the legal profession. So proud an occasion as this calls for sober reflection on the limits of the distinctively legal-on the contingent, derivative, and partial place of formal adjudication and control within the larger ordering of human society. I have no objection to communicating such a perspective, there by adding an appropriate note of piety to these proceedings. Nevertheless, I think it may be more important for us to consider some of the great social changes that are occurring in modem society, how they affect the balance between legal and non-legal controls, and what problems this changing balance poses for the legal order. The humility we ask of lawyers may be all too welcome to them. The real message may be a summons to responsibility and joint effort, not a suggestion that lawyers retreat to what they know best. My assigned topic covers a very large part of what sociology (or more broadly, behavioral science) is about. For we are interested in all the ways social order is created and sustained. We study control in small groups and large ones; we study gross mechanisms of control and subtle ones; we see in every human setting the forces that encourage and enforce responsible conduct. Of course, we also give much attention to the breakdown of social control and to the emergence of what is, from the standpoint of the group or situation, irresponsible or "deviant" behavior.