Document Type



For Harold Lasswell: Some Reflections on Human Dignity, Entrapment, Informed Consent, and the Plea Bargain, 84 Yale Law Journal 683 (1975)


Whether they know it or not, students, practitioners and teachers of law have been and continue to be influenced in their work by the work of Harold D. Lasswell. Like a lawyer's lawyer, he has for more than three decades been the legal scholar's scholar. He has jarred the cakes of custom in legal education and given us an agenda for study designed to clarify the goals and alternatives implicit in the process and substance of decisionmaking in law. He has made the law-trained person conscious of what now seems obvious, i.e., that law (including its administration) forms an integral part of the social system; that it is a decision process for formulating and implementing policy concerned with the regulation of coercive force to accord with preferred values; that it encompasses a complex continuum of decisions between and within levels of authority for local, state, regional, national and international communities; and that the study and appraisal of law require identifying and clarifying both the multiple functions of each decisionmaker and the values and consequences at issue in each decision.

Emphasizing a contextual and policy-oriented approach to the study of the decision process, Lasswell sought something more discriminating in terms of function than the traditional "legislative., executive and judicial." With regard to decisions in each of these divisions, he asked seven questions which refer to what now may be perceived as seven traditional functions: "How is the information [intelligence] which comes to the attention of decision makers gathered and processed? How are recommendations made and promoted? How are general rules prescribed? How are general rules provisionally invoked in reference to conduct? How are general rules applied? How is the working of prescriptions appraised? How are the prescriptions and arrangements entered into within the framework of such rules brought to termination?"

Date of Authorship for this Version


Included in

Law Commons