Sociology Index

Social Control

Social control ranges from gossip and ridicule to imprisonment and execution. Society has several mechanisms for building us and our personality. The first mechanism is socialization. The second mechanism society has for building us is social control, which is used to re-build deviants or at least keep them from interfering with the normal operation of society. Social Control Theory tries to explain why most people are law-abiding? Social control is considered the central fact and the central problem of every society.

Through stratification society categorizes people and distributes valued resources to them based on the categories. Among the most important categories are class, race and gender. We participate in socializing others, carrying out social control, reproducing the stratification system, and promoting ideologies.

What is social control?

Social control is the oldest concept in sociology. Social control has remained alive in sociology and criminology, though with different meanings. Social control refers to those mechanisms that are put into operation in response to crime or deviant behavior from socially prescribed norms. Society is best conceived as the product of social interaction between component individuals which are controlled by a body of traditions and norms that arise in the process of interaction. 

By defining what behavior is good, society also defines what is deviant behavior. Our class, race and gender affect how we are socialized, what type of social control we face, what opportunities we receive and what obstacles weface. Sociologists use the term the social construction of reality to describe how people build the social world.

Social Control Articles

The Invisibilities of Social Control: Uncovering Gary Marx's Discovery of Undercover. Crime, Law and Social Change. - Deflem, Mathieu. 1992.

Social Control and the Theory of Communicative Action. International Journal of the Sociology of Law 22(4):355-373. -Deflem, Mathieu. 1994.  

Technology and Social Control: The Search for the Illusive Silver Bullet. In the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, 2001 - Gary T. Marx, Professor Emeritus, MIT.

The Poverty of Social Control: explaining power in the historical sociology of the welfare state, Robert van Krieken, University of Sydney
Published in: Sociological Review 38(1) 1991.

Social Control of Health Behaviors: A Comparison of Young, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults, Joan S. Tucker, David J. Klein and Marc N. Elliott.

Narrative and Social Control - Critical Perspectives
Edited by: Dennis K. Mumby University of North Carolina.

Bad conversation? Gender and social control in a Kentish borough, KAREN JONES and MICHAEL ZELL. Humanities School, University of Greenwich.

A Behavioral Analysis of a Social Control Agency: Synanon
Robert L. Karen, Roland C. Bower.

Misconduct and Social Control in Science: Issues, Problems, Solutions - Mary Frank Fox, John M. Braxton.

Books On Social Control

Deviance and Social Control: A Sociological Perspectivs - Michelle Inderbitzin, Kristin A Bates and Randy R Gainey (2012)

Social Control and Political Order : European Perspectives. Roberto Bergalli, Colin S Sumner

The Social Control of Cities?: A Comparative Perspective (Studies in Urban and Social Change) Book by Sophie Body-Gendrot.

On Social Organization and Social Control (Heritage of Sociology Series)
Morris Janowitz, James Burk (Book Editor)

Mass Media, Social Control, and Social Change: A Macrosocial Perspective  - Book by David Pearce Demers, K Viswanath, (Book Editor).

Social Control in Slave Plantation Societies: A Comparison of St. Domingue and Cuba
Book by Gwendolyn Midlo Hall.

Catholicism, social control, and modernization in Latin America (Modernization of traditional societies series) Book by Ivan Vallier.

Obscenity: Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages (Cultures, Beliefs, and Traditions, Vol 4) Book by Jan M. Ziolkowski (Editor).

"Licentious Liberty" in a Brazilian Gold-Mining Region: Slavery, Gender, and Social Control in Eighteenth-Century Sabara, Minas Gerais Book by Kathleen J. Higgins.

Serfdom and Social Control in Russia: Petrovskoe, a Village in Tambov Book by Steven Hoch.

Social Control In Europe: 1800-2000 (The History of Crime and Criminal Justice)
Book by Clive Emsley, Eric Johnson, Pieter Spierenburg (Editors).

Punishment and Social Control: Essays in Honor of Sheldon L. Messinger (New Lines in Criminology) Book by T. G. Blomberg (Editor), Stanley Cohen (Editor), Thomas G. Blomberg (Editor), S. Cohen (Editor).

Visions of Social Control: Crime, Punishment, and Classification Stanley Cohen Book
Excellent and Inspiring.

Corporate Crime, Law, and Social Control (Cambridge Studies in Criminology)
Book by Sally S. Simpson, Alfred Blumstein, David Farrington (Series Editor).

The Culture of Surveillance: Discipline and Social Control in the United States (Contemporary Social Issues (New York, N.Y.).) Book by William G. Staples.

Policing, Surveillance and Social Control: Cctv and Police Monitoring of Suspects Book by Tim Newburn, Stephanie Hayman.

Social Threat and Social Control (Suny Series in Deviance and Social Control) Book by Allen E. Liska (Editor).

Abstracts On Social Control

Ironies of Social Control: Authorities as Contributors to Deviance Through Escalation, Nonenforcement and Covert Facilitation - Gary T. Marx. Abstract: Current theoretical approaches to the study of deviance and social control tend to neglect a crucial level of analysis: the specific situation within which rule breaking occurs. I analyze the nature and sources of three types of interdependence between rule enforcers, and rule breakers: escalation, nonenforcement and covert facilitation. Each involves the possibility of Amplification of Deviance and illustrates, from the labeling theory perspective the ironic insight that authorities often contribute to the deviance they set out to control. I argue that social control must be seen as a cause of primary deviance as well as secondary deviance.

Social Control and Political Order - European Perspectives at the End of the Century - Roberto Bergalli, Colin S Sumner.
Assessment of issues surrounding the concept of social control, and indicates its significance for the new political orders developing in contemporary Europe. The contributors debate the issues relating to the future of social control from a range of perspectives.

Women and the Social Control of Their Bodies - Reading, Berkshire.
The institutions of marriage and family were threatened by the new methods of birth control which became available in the late 19th century. The first organization in England dedicated to advocating the practice of birth control was the Malthusian League.

Narrative and Social Control - Critical Perspectives - Edited by: Dennis K. Mumby.
What is the relationship between narrative, society, and the forms of control that function in society? This critical analysis examines the role of narrative in the creation of various social realities in a variety of communication contexts. The central theme of Narrative and Social Control is that narrative is a pervasive form of human communication that is integral to the production and shaping of social order.

A Behavioral Analysis of a Social Control Agency: Synanon - Robert L. Karen, Roland C. Bower.
The function of the therapeutic agency is essentially no more than the control of social behavior, and agents of the therapeutic agency use techniques based on a particular theory of behavior causation and control. In the behavioral analysis, emphasis is placed on past and present environmental conditions and their effects on current behavior. The agent or therapist thus manipulates the person's environment to produce changes in behavior through social interaction.

Misconduct and Social Control in Science: Issues, Problems, Solutions - Mary Frank Fox, John M. Braxton.
Abstract: This article analyzes the roles of segments of the trans-scientific community in exercising social control of misconduct, the limitations on control, and implications for policy on misconduct and its control.

Appalachian Women - Violence and Social Control - Patricia L. Gagne. The findings from case study research conducted in a small, rural central Appalachian community during the winter of 1987-1988 suggest that standard definitions of wife abuse obscure the elements of social control inherent in violent activities, while obviating the relationship between violence and other forms of social control. The context-specific approach is used to demonstrate that social control is dependent on a culture and social structure which condone men's domination of women and that without cultural acceptance of and structural support for men's authority over women, violence would be less effective as a means of social control.

What are deviant behavior and social control? In chapter 1 of Deviant Behavior Erich Goode begins by debunking what he considers false conceptions of deviance. His "Five Misleading Definitions of Deviance" correspond to the misconceptions of many laypersons and several scholars as well.