Useful notes on the Meaning of Social Control!
When we use the term ‘control’ the idea which generally comes to our mind is one of policemen, law courts, prison and laws; of force and coercion. While these elements have a relevance in control, the term social control is used by sociologists in a broad sense. Social control has been defined by MacIver as “the way in which entire social order coheres and maintains itself—how it operates as a whole, as a changing equilibrium.” Mannheim defines social control as “the sum of those methods by which a society tries to influence human behaviour to maintain a given order.”
To Ogburn and Nimkoff “the patterns of pressure which a society exerts to maintain order and established rules” is social control. E. A. Ross, who was the first American sociologist to deal at length with social control in his book under the same name meant by it the “system of devices whereby society brings its members into conformity with the accepted standards of behaviour.”
Landis defines social control “as a social process by which the individual is made group-responsive, and by which social organisation is built and maintained.” Lumley speaks of social control “as the practice of putting forth directive stimuli or wish patterns, their accurate transmission to and adoption by, others whether voluntarily or involuntarily.
In short, it is effective will-transference.” Luther L. Bernard defined social control as “a process by which stimuli are brought to bear effectively upon some person or group of persons, thus producing responses that function in adjustment.” According to Lapiere, social control is a corrective for inadequate socialization. Roucek has used the term ‘social control’ for “those processes and agencies, planned or unplanned, by which individuals are taught, persuaded, or compelled to conform to the usages and life values of groups.” It takes place when a person is induced or forced to act according to the wishes of others, whether or not in accordance with his own individual interests.
According to Gillin and Gillin, “Social control is that system of measures, suggestions, persuasion, restraint and coercion by whatever means including physical force by which a society brings into conformity to the approved pattern of behaviour or sub-group or by which a group moulds into conformity its members.” G.A. Lundberg and others have defined social control as designating “those social behaviours which influence individuals or groups toward conformity to established or desired norms.” Kimball Young defines social control as “the use of coercion, force, restraint, suggestion, or persuasion of one group over another or of a group over its members or of persons over others to enforce the prescribed rules of the game.
These rules may be set down by the members themselves, as in a professional code of ethics, or they may be those laid down by a larger, more inclusive group for the regulation of other smaller groups. In fact, social control may be defined as any influence which the society exerts upon its members for the purpose of providing the welfare of the group as a whole. It is the way in which our social order coheres and maintains itself.
It is that mechanism by which a community, or group operates as a whole and maintains a changing equilibrium. It has to do with the guiding or directing of human behaviour into socially desired or desirable channels to the end that individual and collective role expectations and fulfillments may promote social continuity and stability. It operates on three levels—group over group, the group over its members, and individuals over their fellows.
In the definition of social control the following three things are to be noted:
Firstly, social control is an influence. The influence may be exerted through public opinion, coercion, social suggestion, religion, appeal to reason, or any other method.
Secondly, the influence is exercised by society. It means that group is better able to exercise influence over the individual than a single individual. This group may be the family, the church, the State, the club, the school, the trade union etc. The effectiveness of influence, however, depends upon variable factors.
Sometimes the family may exercise more effective influence than the state or sometimes it may be vice versa. Similarly, the influence of the club may be more effective than that of the church. There are innumerable agencies of social control and the effectiveness of each agency depends largely upon the circumstances.
Thirdly, the influence is exercised for promoting the welfare of the group as a whole. The person is influenced to act in the interest of others rather than in accordance with his own individual interests. Social control is exercised for some specific end in view. It is not aimless.
The aim is always the welfare of the whole. The individual is made conscious of others’ existence, their interests. He is made to adhere to the appropriate social ways. Due to inadequate socialization he behaves in typical ways, he is bound to conformity with the typical by the pressures of social control. In a word, he is made social.