Svend Ranulf's characterization of criminal law as a ‘disinterested tendency to inflict punishment’ challenges the conventional view that whereas crime may express emotion, emotion is extinguished in the operations of law. This is because Ranulf argues that criminal law arises through middle-class moral indignation. Thus an emotion, moral indignation, links social structure—in the form of class configuration, and social action—to the formation of criminal law. In the discussion to follow, Ranulf's thesis is situated in the development of the sociology of criminal law, critically evaluated, and reformulated. The continuing relevance of Ranulf's framework is also indicated.