Learning Objectives 101

Perspectives on Lawmaking 102

The Rationalistic Model 102

The Functionalist View 102

The Conflict Perspective 103

Moral Entrepreneur Theory 103

A Final Word on Theories of Lawmaking 104

Legislation 105

Legislation and Social Issues 105

Pre-lawmaking Activities 106

Administrative Lawmaking 107

Administrative Rulemaking 107

Administrative Adjudication 108

Judicial Lawmaking 109

Lawmaking by Precedents 110

Lawmaking by Interpretation of Statutes 110

The Interpretation of Constitutions 111

Influences on Lawmaking 112

Interest Groups 112

Public Opinion 114

Lawmaking and Social Sciences 117

Sources of Impetus for Law 118

Detached Scholarly Diagnosis 118

Nonacademic Writing 120

Protest Activities and Social Movements 121

Public-Interest Groups 122

The Mass Media 124

Summary 126

Key Terms 126

Suggested Readings 127

References 127


  • Summarize the moral entrepreneur theory of lawmaking
  • List the differences between legislative lawmaking and judicial lawmaking
  • Explain the differences between administrative rulemaking and administrative adjudication
  • Describe the three types of judicial lawmaking
  • Summarize any two sources of impetus for law

Legislative, administrative, and judicial bodies grind out tens of thousands of new laws annually at the local, state, and federal levels. Each law is unique. Each law has a distinct set of precipitating factors, special history, and raison d’etre. Still, some generalizations are possible about how laws are formed, the sociological factors that play a role in lawmaking, and the social forces that provide an impetus for making or altering laws. This chapter focuses on the more important sociological theories of lawmaking; the ways in which legislatures, administrative agencies, and courts make laws; the roles of vested interests, public opinion, and social science in the decision-making process; and the sources of impetus for laws.

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