Social Control

Social control is a concept within the disciplines of the social sciences. Social control is described as a certain set of rules and standards in society that keep individuals bound to conventional standards as well as to the use of formalized mechanisms. The Disciplinary model was the forerunner to the control model.

While the concept of social control has been around since the formation of organized sociology, the meaning has been altered over time. Originally, the concept simply referred to society’s ability to regulate itself. However, in the 1930s, the term took on its more modern meaning of an individual’s conversion to conformity. Academics began to study Social control theory as a separate field in the early 20th century.

The concept of social control is related to the notion of social order, which is identified as existing in the following areas of society:

The term social control has also been linked to the term delinquency, defined as deviancy, which is the violation of established mores, social norms, and laws. More serious acts of delinquency are defined as consensus crimes and conflict crimes that are determined by society and the law to inhibit unwanted or negative behavior as a form of social control.


Social values

Social values are result of an individual internalizing certain norms and values. Social values present in individuals are products of informal social control, exercised implicitly by a society through particular customsnorms, and mores. Individuals internalize the values of their society, whether conscious or not of the indoctrination. Traditional society relies mostly on informal social control embedded in its customary culture to socialize its members. The internalization of these values and norms is known as a process called socialization.


Informal sanctions may include shameridiculesarcasmcriticism, and disapproval, which can cause an individual to stray towards the social norms of the society. In extreme cases sanctions may include social discrimination and exclusion. Informal social control usually has more effect on individuals because the social values become internalized, thus becoming an aspect of the individual’s personality.

Informal sanctions check “deviant” behavior. An example of a negative sanction comes from a scene in the film Pink Floyd – The Wall, whereby the young protagonist is ridiculed and verbally abused by a high school teacher for writing poetry in a mathematics class. Another example from the movie About a Boy, when a young boy hesitates to jump from a high springboard and is ridiculed for his fear. Though he eventually jumps, his behavior is controlled by shame.

Reward and punishment

See also: Mesolimbic pathway and Reward system

Informal controls reward or punish acceptable or unacceptable behavior (i.e., deviance) and are varied from individual to individual, group to group, and society to society. For example, at a Women’s Institute meeting, a disapproving look might convey the message that it is inappropriate to flirt with the minister. In a criminal gang, on the other hand, a stronger sanction applies in the case of someone threatening to inform to the police of illegal activity.

Social control by use of reward is known as positive reinforcement. In society and the laws and regulations implemented by the government tend to focus on punishment or the enforcing negative sanctions to act as a deterrent as means of social control.

Theoretical bias within the modern media

Theorists such as Noam Chomsky have argued that systemic bias exists in the modern media. The marketingadvertising, and public relations industries have thus been said to utilize mass communications to aid the interests of certain political and business elites. Powerful ideological, economic and religious lobbyists have often used school systems and centralized electronic communications to influence public opinion.



Formal sanctions are usually imposed by the government and organizations in the form of laws to reward or punish behavior. Some formal sanctions include fines and incarceration in order to deter negative behavior. Other forms of formal social control can include other sanctions that are more severe depending on the behavior seen as negative such as censorship, expulsion, and limits on political freedom.

Examples of this can be seen in law. If a person breaks a law set forth by the government and is caught, they will have to go to court and depending on the severity, will have to pay fines or face harsher consequences.

According to a study done on crime in cities, in cities that have a higher incarceration rate and those that police make more arrests for public offenses, tend to have lower crime rates and incarceration rates.

Read more here: Social control – Wikipedia

Pathological Altruism

Soft bigotry of low expectations

Preferential Treatment

Affirmative Action


Victim Olympics / Oppression Olympics

Tragedy of the commons

Ivory Tower

Both Environment and Genetic Makeup Influence Behavior

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