Article

Social Control

Jason Carmichael

in Sociology

ISBN: 9780199756384
Published online June 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0048
Social Control

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Social control is the study of the mechanisms, in the form of patterns of pressure, through which society maintains social order and cohesion. These mechanisms establish and enforce a standard of behavior for members of a society and include a variety of components, such as shame, coercion, force, restraint, and persuasion. Social control is exercised through individuals and institutions, ranging from the family, to peers, and to organizations such as the state, religious organizations, schools, and the workplace. Regardless of its source, the goal of social control is to maintain conformity to established norms and rules. Social control is typically employed by group members in response to anyone it considers deviant, problematic, threatening, or undesirable, with the goal of ensuring conformity. It is a broad subfield of sociology that involves criminologists, political sociologists, and those interested in the sociology of law and punishment, as well as scholars from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, political science, economics, and law. The subfield includes both macro and micro components. Those concerned with macro forces of social control have focused primarily on the goals and effectiveness of the formal mechanisms, such as the police, law, and punishment, employed to maintain order. Scholars interested in the macro aspects tend to examine questions related to the role that elites, the state, and other political and religious institutions have on establishing the norms and rules that people are governed by. Researchers focusing on the micro, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on the role that socialization and peer influence have on placing limits on human action. The origins of the discussions of social control can be traced back to the writings of such social philosophers as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as classic social theorists such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, among others. Today, social-control researchers continue to design and refine our understanding of social order and how it is maintained as well as the conditions under which it fails to do so.

Article.  7983 words. 

Subjects: Sociology ; Comparative and Historical Sociology ; Economic Sociology ; Gender and Sexuality ; Health, Illness, and Medicine ; Population and Demography ; Race and Ethnicity ; Social Movements and Social Change ; Social Stratification, Inequality, and Mobility ; Social Theory

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