Sociology Index

Social Control

Social Control Theory

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 ranges from gossip and ridicule to imprisonment and execution. 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.

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. Social control is "the central fact and the central problem of society" - Park

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 sociological imagination to describe the ability to see the impact of these processes on our private lives, we are a consequence of society. People are also the cause of society, we build it. Many important changes happen because of social movements, which consist of many people organized to promote social change. We participate in socializing others, carrying out social control, reproducing the stratification system, and promoting ideologies. Sociologists use the term the social construction of reality to describe how people build the social world. - David Schweingruber.

Social control is defined as any effort to ensure conformity to laws, rules, or norms. It is the flip side of deviant behavior. One often causes the other. When people find behaviors or attributes offensive, they create laws, rules, or norms that prohibit those deviances. Then they will attempt to ensure conformity by enforcing sanctions.

Although it is created to deter deviant behavior, social control may also cause deviant behavior. Gary Marx's article, Ironies of Social Control, describes three ways in which social control can result in deviant behavior. Note the three concepts in Marx's title: escalation, nonenforcement, and covert facilitation.

Social Control and Political Order - European Perspectives at the End of the Century
Edited by: Roberto Bergalli University of Barcelona, Spain
Colin S Sumner University of Salford, UK
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: Research Publications for the British Library of Political and Economic Science, 1988
COVERAGE 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.

Social Control - Abstracts

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 but at a level not previously considered, the ironic insight that authorities often contribute to the deviance they set out to control. I also consider current trends and the implications of this perspective for future theory and research, arguing that social control must be seen as a cause of primary deviance as well as secondary deviance.

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 - Abstract: One aspect of modernization is the use of science-based technology in rule enforcement. In the “engineered society” an ethos of rationalization is seen in the application of means to ends, whether this involves manufacturing, agriculture or efforts to control human behavior. Six social control strategies are discussed and illustrated: target removal, target devaluation, target insulation, offender incapacitation, offender exclusion and identification of offenses and offenders. In complex settings in a democratic society, relying primarily on technology to control human behavior has clear social and ethical limitations.

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: 1-25 - Abstract: The concept 'social control' has been criticised from a variety of quarters in recent years, particularly by historians and historical sociologists. However, it remains in common usage in sociological studies of welfare, deviance and social control. This paper shows, first, how this reliance on the concept of social control is rooted in a wider-ranging argument in social and political theory concerning the liberal-democratic fusion between the state and civil society, and that the lack of resolution of this argument is the foundation of the persistence of the concept social control in other areas of social inquiry, despite its repeated 'falsification'. Second, the paper highlights the main arguments against the use of 'social control' in explaining social order, in particular the misunderstanding of class, culture and power which its use encourages.

Social Control of Health Behaviors: A Comparison of Young, Middle-Aged, and Older Adults - Joan S. Tucker, David J. Klein and Marc N. Elliott -RAND Corp
Social control can positively influence health behaviors, but changes in social networks over time may cause older adults to experience less health-related social control. The size and composition of social control networks, and receipt of health-related social control, were examined in a probability sample of 509 household residents (aged 25–80 years) in Los Angeles County who completed a telephone survey. Compared with younger and middle-aged adults, older adults identified fewer people who attempted to influence their health behaviors and fewer health behaviors that others urged them to change. Older adults also reported less frequent social control attempts aimed at modifying their health behaviors, even after health status, health habits, and social network characteristics were controlled for.

Narrative and Social Control - Critical Perspectives
Edited by: Dennis K. Mumby University of North Carolina
Series: SAGE Series in Communication Research
Description: "Readers will find Dennis K. Mumby's collection most useful for the connections it establishes between narrative analysis, in social setting and postmodern light. . . .What is important about this book is the range of projects presented using narrative to examine issues of power and control." - Discourse and Society. 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.

Bad conversation? Gender and social control in a Kentish borough, c. 1450–c. 1570. KAREN JONES and MICHAEL ZELL.
Humanities School, University of Greenwich, London.
Abstract: The image of the nagging woman being ducked as a scold is firmly ensconced among popular images of women in the past, but the historical phenomenon of prosecutions for scolding, though it has been briefly touched on in many studies, has been the subject of only two substantial contributions, those of David Underdown and Martin Ingram. Underdown has maintained that from the 1560s there was increasing concern with scolds, which he links with the rise in witchcraft prosecutions and growing anxiety about domineering and unfaithful wives. Accepting the notion of a ‘crisis of order’ in the decades around 1600, he postulates as an aspect of this a ‘crisis in gender relations’ which he attributes to a decline in neighbourliness and social harmony resulting from the spread of capitalism.

A Behavioral Analysis of a Social Control Agency: Synanon
Robert L. Karen, San Diego College Ph.D., (Psychology), 1965, Arizona State University
Roland C. Bower, San Diego State College M.A. (Sociology), 1961, University of California, Los Angeles
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 manipu lates 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
The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 65, No. 3, Special Issue: Perspectives on Research Misconduct (May - Jun., 1994)
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. - jstor.org

APPALACHIAN WOMEN - Violence and Social Control
PATRICIA L. GAGNE
Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, Vol. 20, No. 4, 387-415. 1992 SAGE Publications
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. Three categories of control are developed. The first, normative control, refers to socially accepted ways in which women's lives are constrained by norms and ideology. The second, persuasive control, refers to nonviolent means of social control, including repeated verbal requests, withholding transportation, forced parenthood, and the use of stereotypes and ideologies to isolate women. The third, violence, refers to the threat and use of physical assault and the use of weapons to instill fear. 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.

Social Control - Journal 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
RAND Corporation, Santa Monica, California.

Narrative and Social Control - Critical Perspectives
Edited by: Dennis K. Mumby University of North Carolina
Series: SAGE Series in Communication Research.

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, San Diego College Ph.D., (Psychology), 1965, Arizona State University
Roland C. Bower, San Diego State College M.A. (Sociology), 1961, University of California.

Misconduct and Social Control in Science: Issues, Problems, Solutions - Mary Frank Fox, John M. Braxton - The Journal of Higher Education, Vol. 65, No. 3, Special Issue: Perspectives on Research Misconduct (May - Jun., 1994), pp. 373-383.

Books On Social Control

Social Control: An Introduction - KINDLE EDITION - EBOOK - James J. Chriss

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

Social Control: An Introduction - HARDCOVER - James J. Chriss

Understanding Social Control Martin Innes Book

Women, Law, and Social Control Book by Alida V. Merlo, Joycelyn M. Pollock

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

Colonizing Sex: Sexology and Social Control in Modern Japan by Sabine Fruhstuck

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)

Test Card F : Television, Mythinformation and Social Control by Anonymous, Various

Religion, Deviance and Social Control Book by Rodney Stark, William Sims Bainbridge

Deviance and Social Control: A Reader Book by Ronald Weitzer

Images of Deviance and Social Control Book by Stephen J Pfohl

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

Power and Persuasion: Fiestas and Social Control in Rural Mexico by Stanley Brandes

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

'Of Good and Ill Repute': Gender and Social Control in Medieval England Barbara Hanawalt Book

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

Slaves and Masters in the Roman Empire: A Study in Social Control by K. R. Bradley

Punishment in America : Social Control and the Ironies of Imprisonment Michael Welch

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

Where the Law Ends: The Social Control of Corporate Behavior by Christopher D. Stone

German Catholics and Hitler's Wars: A Study in Social Control Book by Gordon C. Zahn

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

Social Control : Views from the Social Sciences (SAGE Focus Editions) by Jack P. Gibbs

Social Control - Bibliography

Harriet Zuckerman "Deviant Behavior and Social Control in Science (pp. 87-138 in Deviance and Social Change , Sage Publications, Beverly Hills, Calif., 1977).

Bianchi Herman, Simondi Mario, Taylor Ian (a cura di), 1975, Deviance and Control in Europe - Papers from the European Group for the Study of Deviance and Social Control, John Wiley & Sons.

Cohen Stanley, 1985a, Visions of social control - Crime, punishment and classification, Polity Press, Cambridge.

Ericson Richard V., Baranek Patricia M., Chan Janet B.L., 1989, Negotiating Control: a Study of News Sources, University of Toronto Press, Toronto.

Ferrell Jeff, 1995, Style Matters: Criminal Identity and Social Control, in Ferrell Jeff, Sanders Clinton R. (a cura di).

Garland David, 2001, The Culture of Control - Crime and Social Order in Contemporaru Society, The University of Chicago Press, Chicago.

Horsfield Peter, 1997, Moral panic or moral action? The appropriation of moral panics in the excercise of social control, in “Media International Australia”, 85.

Melossi Dario, 1994a, The “Economy” of Illegalities: Normal Crimes, Elites and Social Control in Comparative Analysis, in Nelken (a cura di).

Miller Jody A., 1995, Struggles Over the Symbolic: Gang Style and the Meanings of Social Control, in Ferrell Jeff, Sanders Clinton R. (a cura di).

Pfohl Stephen J. , 1985, Images of deviance and social control - A sociological history, McGraw-Hill Book Company, N.Y.

Scull Andrew, 1972, Social Control and the Amplification of Deviance, in Scott Robert A., Douglas Jack D. (a cura di).

Stark Rodney, Sims Bainbridge William, 1996, Religion, deviance and social control, Routledge, NY

Weitzer Ronald, (a cura di), 2002, Deviance and social control - A reader<, McGraw-Hill, N.Y.

Welch Michael, 1999, Punishment in America - Social Control and the Ironies of Imprisonment, SAGE, London.

Social Control Across Borders
The Boundaries of International Cooperation: Problems and Prospects of U.S.-Mexican Policing, by Mathieu Deflem. Chapter in Corruption, Police, Security & Democracy, edited by Menachem Amir & Stanley Einstein. Chicago: Office on International Criminal Justice, in press.

Chunn, Dorothy E. and Shelley A.M. Gavigan, "Social Control: Analytical Tool or Analytical Quagmire?," Contemporary Crises 1988 (12: 1), 107-124.

Cohen, Stanley, "Prisons and the Future of Control Systems: From Concentration to Dispersal in M. Fitzgerald et al. (eds), Welfare in Action (London: Routledge & Kegan Paul, 1977), 217-228.

Cohen, Stanley, "The Punitive City: Notes on the Dispersal of Social Control," Contemporary Crises 1979 (3),339-363.

Cohen, Stanley, Visions of Social Control (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1985).

Cohen, Stanley, "The Critical Discourse on "Social Control": Notes on the Concept as a Hammer," ‘International Journal of the Sociology of Law 1989 (17: 3), 347-357.

Cohen, Stanley and Andrew T Scull (eds), Social Control and the State: Historical and Comparative Essays (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985).

Higgins, Joan, "Social Control Theories of Social Policy," Journal of Social Policy 1980 (9: 1), 1-23.

Janowitz, Morris, "Sociological Theory and Social Control," American Journal of Sociology 1975 (81: 1), 82-108.

Martindale, Don, "The Theory of Social Control," in Joseph S. Roucek (ed), Social Control for the 1980s: A Handbook for Order in a Democratic Society (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978),46-58.

Marx, Gary T., "Civil Disorder and the Agents of Social Control," Journal of Social Issues 1970 (26: 1), 19-57.

Marx, Gary T., "Social Control and Victimization," Victimology 1983 (8: 3/4), 80-90.

Marx, Gary T., "The Engineering of Social Control: The search for the Silver Bullet," In J. Hagan (ed), volume on crime and inequality, (1991b, forthcoming).

Meier, Robert F., "Perspectives on the Concept of Social Control," Annual Review of Sociology 1982 (8), 35-55.

Melossi, Dario, "A Politics Without a State: The Concepts of "State" and "Social Control" from European to American Social Science," Research in Law, Deviance and Social Control 1983 (5), 205-222.

Melossi, Dario, The State of Social Control: A Sociological Study of Concepts of State and Social Control in the Making of Democracy (Cambridge: Polity Press, 1990).

Rothman, David J., Social Control: The Uses and Abuses of the Concept in the History of Incarceration, in S. Cohen and A.T. Scull (eds), Social Control and the State: Historical and Comparative Essays (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985), 106-117.

Roucek, Joseph S., The Concept of Social Control in American Sociology, in J.S. Roucek (ed), Social Control for the 1980s: A Handbook for Order in a Democratic Society (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1978), 3-19.

Scull, Andrew T., Deviance and Social Control," in N.J. Smelser led), Handbook of Sociology (Newbury Park, CA: Sage, 1988), 667-693.

Shearing, Clifford D. and Philip C. Stenning, Private Security: Implications for Social Control," Social Problems 1983 (30: 5), 493-50.

Spitzer, Steven and Andrew T. Scull, Social Control in Historical Perspective: From Private to Public Responses to Crime, in D.F. Greenberg (ed), Corrections and Punishment (Beverly Hills, CA: Sage, 1977).