Date of Award
Bachelor of Arts
Within the annals of American academia, much time and effort has been expended in the attempt to answer the crucial question of who wields power within the community and more specifically inside the realm of governmental policy-making. This pursuit has taken many forms and focuses throughout the years, as the spotlight of community power inquiries have shifted from one group of societal actors to another. Such focuses however have quite frequently neglected to give proper consideration to the immensely important roles played in the community and governmental power structure by those individuals who collectively form the legal profession. Of all the multitude of actors who are vitally involved in the decision-making processes of American society, perhaps no one collectively wields and executes more power and influence within the domestic arena than do the barristers of their nation. As a private grouping within the society, American lawyers tend to be influential and powerful not only in many of the non-governmental areas of the community, playing important roles in the maintenance and functioning of business, commerce, and civic life in general, but in the governmental realm as well, where they often dominate the political processes. The legal profession does in this connection perform many crucial tasks in a modern society. Lawyers often act as a catalyst, providing what has been termed "the grease" of a society, in their functioning as negotiators and settlers of private disputes. They also serve as an important bridge between the private and public realms of society, and in addition provide the most frequently tapped pool of political actors on all three levels of American government. Indeed, over one hundred years ago the noted French social philosopher and student of American democracy, Alexis de Tocqueville, saw the lawyer as the aristocracy of this country. While this maybe somewhat of an overstatement, the undeniable fact remains that attorneys do form a large portion of the upper classes of American society and government. Therefore, it is quite evident that lawyers are very important and strategic people in our American society, and are an excellent grouping at which to look when attempting to determine who wields power and influence in a community.
St. John, Stephen C., "Power, elitism, and lawyers: an examination of the Richmond legal establishment and its impact on the making of social and economic policy-making within the commonwealth of Virginia." (1974). Honors Theses. 727.