English, Department of


Date of this Version



Published in Law and Human Behavior 7: 2/3 (1983), pp. 291–299.


Copyright © 1983 Plenum Publishing Corporation; published by American Psychological Association. Used by permission.


Social theorists in earlier periods have looked at credentialing from the perspective of its service to the economic or social system as opposed to its “protection of the public interest.” Adam Smith regarded the long education and the performance tests that the guilds required as monopolistic constraints on production; Karl Marx saw the same guild system as controlled by the propertied classes and uselessly exclusionary; and Emile Durkheim, unlike both Smith and Marx, regarded the occupational group with its entrance requirements as central to the stability of modern society. The application of the principles of Smith, Marx, and Durkheim, in past and present systems, tells us that the present credentialing system is not sacrosanct. It may have little basis in research, in the prevention of anomie, or in the protection of the public interest.