Law: Influenced by a Select Few or the Consensual Belief of Society as a Whole?

Chris Hale, Sam Houston State University

Even as the year 2000 comes to an end, theoretical debates concerning the origins of law are alive and well. Depates concerning the criminal law formation process traditionally and continue to involve two competing theoretical paradigms. These paradigms include the functional/consensus and conflict paradigms. Briefly, functional theories of criminal law development suggest that laws result from consensual societal beliefs that are codified into law, whereas conflict theories suggest that laws result from codification of ruling-class interests. Beginning with a conventional definition of law provided by Sutherland and Cressey (1978), this paper intends to address, through the systematic investigation of the major theories, empirical evidence, and criticisms associated with each paradigm, whether law is influenced by a select few or the consensual belief of society as a whole?

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Updated 05/20/2006