Social control

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Social control refers generally to societal and political mechanisms or processes that regulate individual and group behavior, leading to conformity and compliance to the rules of a given society, state, or social group. Many mechanisms of social control are cross-cultural, if only in the control mechanisms used to prevent the establishment of chaos or anomie.[clarification needed] Some theorists, such as Émile Durkheim, refer to this form of control as regulation. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social controls

Social control theory began to be studied as a separate field in the early 20th century. The means to enforce social control can be either formal or informal.[2] Sociologist Edward A. Ross argued that belief systems exert a greater control on human behavior than laws imposed by government, no matter what form the beliefs take.


Informal social control

The social values that are present in individuals are products of informal social control. It is exercised by a society without explicitly stating these rules and is expressed through customs, norms, and mores. Individuals are socialized whether consciously or subconsciously. During informal sanctions, ridicule or ostracism can cause a straying towards norms. The person internalizes these mores and norms. Traditional society uses mostly informal social control embedded in its customary culture relying on the socialization of its members to establish social order. Religion is thought of by some as a common and historically established form of informal social control. More rigidly-structured societies may place increased reliance on formal mechanisms.

Informal sanctions may include shame, ridicule, sarcasm, criticism and disapproval. In extreme cases sanctions may include social discrimination and exclusion. This implied social control usually has more effect on individuals because they become internalized and thus an aspect of personality. Informal sanctions check 'deviant' behavior. An example of a negative sanction comes from a scene in the Pink Floyd film 'The Wall,' whereby the young protagonist is ridiculed and verbally abused by a high school teacher for writing poetry in a mathematics class. The scene illustrates how education is all about control and conformity, and not about creativity and individuality.

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