Definition, types & examples of Social Control

Definition and Necessity of social control

In any human society, there are deviations from the accepted norms of a society or group. This movement away from the accepted social standards is called social deviance. Each society or group expects and attempts to ensure conformity of its members to its norms. Those members of a society or a group who abide by the rules and norms of the society (or the group) are called conformists, while those who don’t are called non-conformists. A society or a group applies some formal and informal mechanisms to achieve conformity. Individuals may not act according to the defined values and norms of the group. Therefore violation of values and norms and deviating from the standard values and norms are often common.

Social control is thus simply defined as all the mechanisms and processes employed by a society to ensure conformity. In other words, social control is any cultural or social means by which restraints are imposed upon individual behavior and by which people are initiated to follow the traditions and patterns of behavior accepted by society. It is, simply, a means by which conformists are rewarded and non-conformists are punished.

Types of Social Control

There are two major types of social control mechanisms.

These are: negative and positive social control mechanisms.

Negative Social Control:

This involves punishment or regulating behavior of deviants. A deviant is a person whose views and actions are different in moral or social standards from what is considered normal or acceptable in the context of a certain social group. This social control may be at micro/ informal level and macro/ formal levels. Micro/ informal level social control occurs at the level of small groups such as peer groups, family, and interpersonal relationships.

Examples of negative social control at micro levels include: simple gossip or backbiting, a simple frowning, reprimanding, pinching, beating, ridiculing, scolding, ostracizing, etc. The punishments can be in the psychological, social or physical/ material forms. Punishments at macro or formal level include: fining, firing, demotion, imprisonment, banishment or excommunication, capital punishment and so on.

Positive Social Control:

These mechanisms involve rewarding and encouraging those who abide by the norms. It involves rewarding the model behavior. The informal psychosocial reward mechanisms include simple smiles, saying encouraging word, shaking hands, thanking, showing appreciation, etc. Formal positive social control mechanism may include giving awards, promoting to a higher level of status, etc.

Social control is thus simply defined as all the mechanisms and processes employed by a society to ensure conformity. In other words, social control is any cultural or social means by which restraints are imposed upon individual behavior and by which people are initiated to follow the traditions and patterns of behavior accepted by society. It is, simply, a means by which conformists are rewarded and non-conformists are punished.

 Why do you think social control is necessary