Meaning of Social Control:
If life were static and its values remained harmonized by the absence of any element of change in them, the condition would speak of such a state of solidarity in society that no concept of social control would be required for any consideration. But truth, human life is marked by dynamism and, certain dominant values in social life are liable to change and rethinking be made upon them.
For the present, the element of change is entertained and, in view of that element becomes necessary to consider whether or not certain basic values of society, which we call the socially dominant values that require preservation. Life is liable to change, but these values must remain static and unchanged in order that social equilibrium is maintained.
The social dominant values are not divorced from society itself; they have grown out of society and are very much connected with it. When I that is the case human society as such is not likely to suffer from any hindrance, even in matters of progress, if these values were to remain unaltered.
Since human thinking is such that one man’s ideas may differ from those of others, and since, from time to time, a craze catches on for a reshuffling of values, harmony in society can well be maintained if some dominant values remain basic and elemental to society so that the different elements in society remain under effective control.
Individual disregard for social values may not always take a very severe look as different norms and standards are of varying degrees and the sanctions attached to them are also of unequal severity.
There are some values which do not call for any distinct chastisement for their violation. Lapses in this regard are not taken into any consideration by the society, as when persons are not particularly careful about their attire or their food habits. But certain values are regarded as so dominant in nature, that at any cost they are sought to be preserved from any violations.
These principles of ethics that decide upon the rights and the obligations of the members of society cannot be violated without destabilizing society itself; and hence the very suggestion of any lapse in observing any of these is seriously objected to. This very idea makes us think of social control so that individuals in society may be attuned to the basic social norms, without threatening the very fabric upon which their social intercourse rests.
Whether or not force should be applied against the delinquent in order to restrain him from any destructive adventurism is, of course, a matter for the dominant social groups to consider, but not all methods of social control rest upon the application of physical force.
McIver and Page observe that social regulations are aimed at establishing a relation between social order and every individual that belongs to such order. It is necessary that an individual conforms to the order built up in the society and regulations of a normative kind are imposed upon him. To take into consideration any Utopian society in which all the individuals will be idealistic and will not engage in any violation of any social norm is perhaps more wasteful than analyzing a dream.
Social codes and regulations become necessary and, in order that they may be regarded as such, sanctions must be prescribed for their violations. What causes the tendency in the individual to violate social norms and regulations may be a matter of great debate, but the fact remains that violations of social codes are so frequent that social groups, associations and institutions must devise ways and means of protecting the values as well as themselves from total confusion.
It is said that the very process of socialization of an individual is responsible for shaping his ideas and the attitudes in his childhood days, and hence the family in which he grows up will be a very important social group to give a direction to social control upon him. The family, again, cannot be taken as an isolated phenomenon in social life; its workings are intertwined with the workings of other institutions and associations in the midst of which it is placed.
The dominant values as are preached and upheld by the political, economic and religious institutions of a society will condition the workings of the family and, for example, the head of a family may be as rigid or as liberal as the nature of political or religious authority that is exercised in the society; families in democratic countries will cherish thoughts and principles that are different from those that are upheld by any social group in totalitarian surroundings.
The analysis made by McIver and Page of the nature and extent of social control will show that social codes and regulations must possess certain features.
Features of Social Control:
These features may be summarized as follows:
(1) Social Regulations are Normative in Nature:
They are standards which individuals are required to attain and any failure to reach such standards may be regarded as a lapse. Every individual, for example, must speak the truth and lies, when detected, are looked down upon as acts that fall short of social dignity.
(2) Social Regulations are Relative as well as Partial:
Regulations are regarded as relative since, as the authors observe, they primarily make secure the interests of dominant sections of the society. Such sections may be religious or politically dominant and, in modern times, economic power is a strong determinant of interests that have to be preserved. Codes and regulations are partial in the sense that no one category of them is effective enough to fully control human thoughts and actions; different agencies of social control complement the work of each other.
(3) The Codes and Regulations that Affect Social Control can Emanate from Different Agencies:
For example, there may be rules and regulations of voluntary ‘associations’ like the club or the church. Each set of rules has sanctions for violations and they vary in degree and intensity. A club or a professional organization may have certain agreed rules that work as its code and the sanctions take the nature of reprimand, suspension or expulsion. Similarly, ‘communal’ codes may regulate important customs as are observed in a community and the penalty for their disregard or violation may be ridicule or ostracism respectively.
McIver and Page maintain that at the very basis of ‘religious’ and ‘normal’ codes are certain ‘super-asocial’ sanctions along with minor social ones; and an ‘irreligious’ or ‘immoral’ person shall have primarily the fear of being punished by God while, on the material level, he may be excommunicated or placed under penance.
‘Legal’ codes and regulations may be formulated and devised by the State or even by ecclesiastical courts, as in the mediaeval times, and the sanctions applied for their violation may include the payment of fines or damages and, of course, imprisonment, death being the extreme penalty.
(4) No Regulatory Code is Effective if it is not Backed by Sanctions that may be Imposed in Concrete Terms:
For example, the moral and the religious codes now-a-days are less effective than they had been before, since the concepts of sin and sufferings in hell appear more as superstitious than as logical thoughts to modern men; but the intentions of the state are felt in very clear terms when its civil or criminal laws are violated.
Psychologists do not admit that a fear complex in the individual makes him obey the codes. In fact, the motivations of the individual even in respect of obedience to law may be taken as similar to those that condition his socialization process. Suggestions and imitation are a very common process in building up a social being and, with the habituation to certain ideas on his part, the stage of indoctrination naturally arrives.
Such indoctrintion may take place even in his family and he may willingly and readily respond to certain codes. The individual grows in himself a sense of loyalty towards principles that are taught to him, and he does not wish to question their propriety. An average Indian does not think that young person’s should have pre-marital sex experiences and a good majority among young person’s too almost instinctively adhere to the view.
The following Table will give us an idea about attitudes to sex among young persons in certain countries:
The table decisively shows that moral standards are more rigid in India than in quite a few Asian and Western countries. However, if spontaneous conformity is not obtainable, and it is never obtainable in the fullest terms, the authority holding high office, whether an individual leader or the administration, may compel observance through fear or compulsion. Direct enforcement of the code by pressure or physical coercion is aimed at preventing or controlling action.
There may be a debate as to whether force has a curing effect or a preventive effect, but the exercise of force is very common in the complex society. The State distinctly follows the coercive method in enforcing its laws, and the police and the judiciary together combine in this regard to compel the individual to obedience. The church exercises coercion by threatening to inflict ‘super-asocial’ penalties upon the disobedient member of the religion; and similarly, the employer and the labour forces engage in their respective ways in exercising direct pressure upon the opponent in order to vindicate certain principles or rights.
The scope of use of force was therefore, far less in primitive societies than it is in the modern complex ones and, with the rise of the feudalistic structure in societies, the idea of using force in settling issues gained considerable favour. Today, while some balance is sought to be struck between compulsion and persuasion in democratic societies, the totalitarian ones rest their foundation on coercive methods.
Psychologists maintain that the use of force is distinctly harmful as regards matters in which the individual likes to have his own say; and past examples of persecution of religious sects and inquisitions go a long way to show that individuals with conviction can be ready to expose the limitations of force as against principles like the freedom of conscience and, once so exposed, force itself loses its sway.
Carlyle asserts in his Heroes and Hero-Worship that man can suffer encroachment upon his liberty to the extent of matters of material importance; but he will vehemently oppose and resist any designs of trampling upon his liberty of the conscience. English liberty, Carlyle says, did not quite get vindicated when people refused to be taxed without representation; it found its fullest expression in Cromwell’s demand for freedom of conscience and religious faith. In India, too, we have established the truth that force is of limited efficiency.
The Mahatma’s Civil Disobedience Movement with Satyagraha shook the very roots of foreign rule in India and, in recounting Indian history; one may say that that has been the traditional mode of Indian behaviour. Whenever any foreign and imperialistic power tried to pull down by the roots the very culture of the Indians, the propel of the country at all times reacted with their weapon of non-co-operation and the very negative character of the resistance offered confounded the positive efforts at encroachment upon, liberty of thought and conscience.
McIver further observes that the use of force cannot build up the ‘give and take’ relations between the custodians of law and the people of a country and, as a result, healthy and harmonious social relationships cannot be developed. It is felt that whenever the accent is on the use of force, the element of co-operation between the ruler and the ruled disappears or, at least, diminished; and the sociologist would not applaud any society in which such conditions exist, whether or not one believes in the social contract theory.
The fact, therefore, that force is being used in almost all the complex societies can not detract from the argument that it is a limited device in social control because of the inadequate social relationship that it tends to generate.
It is very true that the use of force rests on the assumption that there would be a proneness in some individuals to violate the law. The mental make-up of some may be of such a nature that they may naturally and spontaneously like to commit aggression upon the rights of others; and the same statement is as true of some nations as it is of individuals.
The ones that may then be victimized, including women, children and the more docile or the law-abiding men, must be made secure against inroads on the civil liberties and the ‘peace’ they must enjoy as citizens. The aggressor can best be met with aggression, for no aggressor becomes such with reasoning and exercises of rationality.
The use of force must then be a necessary phenomenon in society but, in order not to contradict what has been said earlier, one must state that force alone is not the remedy for social problems. The laws of a state are more readily obeyed than the laws of voluntary associations because the former carry harsher sanctions than the latter do and, with some individuals, fear can be stronger determinant of behavioural patterns than any other factor.
Some hold the military preparedness by important countries, with the cruelest and the mc destructive of arms ensures peace in the world and brings stability to man’s social! Institutions; but it is also equally true that the mad race for nuclear arms and the consequent emphasis upon force have totally destabilized human society and human mentality itself?
(5) It will be noticed that the society requires no control to be exercised over such urges and actions that are beneficent to it; it must rather regulate undesirable and anti-social activities that may become harmful to social equilibrium itself. Social control is, therefore, directed at the achievements of not only negative and preventive effects but also of ‘positive’ effects.
For example, the different agencies of control help the process of socialization of the child and make him acquainted with social norms, values and standards; and, at the same time, these agencies teach him not to violate these norms and standards. He learns both the positive and the negative aspects of the demands of his society.
He feels proud when he knows that he has become, for example, religious according to standards approved by the society, and he feels despised when the society brands him guilty of violation of standards. Through processes of suggestions and imitations, the different agencies of social control must teach the individual, with the help of social pressure, how to harmonize his attitudes with those of the society.
Brearly, the British political thinker, states that the different agencies of social control teach the individual spontaneously or under compulsion to imitate and follow their procedures for the protection of social values, which itself becomes his social obligation.
Types of Social Control:
Karl Mannheim maintains that social control may be ‘direct’ or ‘indirect’. Certain primary relationships in society, like family and neighbourly relations and the company of playmates, can bring the individual into such proximity with others that he must necessarily feel their attitudes towards him. He will know when he is appreciated and when he is frowned upon, as he will directly appreciate their ideas and ideology.
These factors together will operate as ‘direct’ social control upon him. ‘Indirect’ social control is exercised by such agencies and institutions as affect his life in an impersonal manner. All institutions and associations of his society, customs, usages, practices and religious norms and standards indirectly control him in the sense that neither these agencies hold him in personal and individual cognition, nor is he the closest object of their control.
Indirect social control regulates the behaviour of groups and associations, and not of particular individuals. Yet, whatever the nature of control is, on the positive side it seeks to inspire the individual with conformity to social standards, norms and values; and on the negative side it restrains the desire in the individual to flout or to revolt against such norms and standards.
According to the nature and the form of the specific type of social control, such control has been classified as ‘Formal’ and ‘Informal’. Formal control stands for all such codes and regulations as are made deliberately and in the compulsive form, such as the Government, the law, the police and the armed forces. If these codes are spontaneously and somewhat instinctively accepted by the members of the society, and they are not consciously devised for the purpose of effecting control, they will be known as informal modes of control.
For example, usages and customary principles, including folkways and mores, have existed because they are regarded as essential to harmonious existence of all elements in society, and not because they have been imposed upon them. Again, according to the nature of the sanctions that are imposed in different cases, controls may be taken as either ‘verbal’ or ‘physical’ ones.
The verbal sanctions are milder, and they take the shape of criticism, rebuke, reprimand or contempt. The physical control of elements in society is manifested in penalties like imprisonment or payment of fines and, in fact, in any instance of the use of force. Finally, the type of society may determine the type of control to be imposed; the feudalistic society and all societies that raise for themselves the hierarchical structure follow a type of ‘paternal’ or ‘patriarchal’ control, and if the principles of democracy have been ingrained in the minds of social beings, the mode of control will also be ‘democratic’.
When the head of the state believes more in commands than in persuasion, when the religious authority extracts obedience with the show of naked force, and when the family patriarch thrusts his view down the throats of family members, control is paternal.
Democratic control is, on the other hand, exercised through the free play of the different media and the different institutions that shape individual thought, like the opposition set against the administration, the press, the mass media and the educational institutions. McIver and Page observe that whatever may be the efficiency of force in controlling the delinquent in society, freedom builds up a bond that is lasting and more consequential that any order that rests upon brute authority.