In every society, with no exception, it exists a what we could call a ”behavior diagram of the collective life”. Every individual in it knows how to behave in certain situations and knows what reactions he should expect from others based on his actions. When unexpected actions of a deviant behavior occur, which do not belong in the accepted patterns of moral behavior, and threatens the health of society, they get sanctioned. Sanction and punishment represents one of the elements of social control. In its general meaning, social control represents the means and mechanisms that regulates, orientates and modifies or influence the individual behavior in societies in order to obtain a compliance to the system of values and maintaining the equilibrium of society.
The concept of social control was first introduced in sociology at the beginning of the 20th century by the American school of ”Sociological jurisprudence” to determine the main ways that society assures its functionality and stability through different methods. In E.A. Ross’s view, the social order is never spontaneous or instinctual, being determined by both the direct psychological pressure of the actions or suggestions of stimulation by different social forces and by institutions that have the role of controlling and adjusting behavior. In his opinion, low represents the most specialized the most perfect mechanism of control in society, and considered it to be the core of social order. The representatives of the ”Sociological jurisprudence” included in the social control not only the means of sanction of the undesirable behavior but the means and method to promote the desirable conduit that suits society such as education, art, ethics and so on. This fact has determined J.Carbonnier that this is a more subtle form of social constrain. In the context Szczepanski was pointing out the fact that every group, collectivity or society develop a series of measures, suggestions, means of persuasion, systems of pressure, interdictions, constrains, sanctions going as far as the physical constrains, systems and forms of manifesting gratitude, according prizes and distinctions which leads the individuals and groups to an accepted model of behaviour and values which ultimately leads to the conformity of members(in society). We could call this system the system of social control. The polish sociologist took notice that not all behaviours and actions of individuals are subdued to the same measures of social control. Every human being has the right to a certain ”private zone” that limits the social control, that can be larger or smaller depending on the following aspects:
1.type of society- authoritarian or democratic, traditionalist or modern etc
2.group unity-the greater the unity is, the greater the control
3.institutions in which individuals belong-for example, in paramilitary institutions the social control is extreme.
4.position of individuals in the group hierarchy-for example, a politician is exposed to a larger social control than a normal individual.
Actions that are indispensable to the development of collective life, are much more controlled than actions that have an individual importance. Thus, for example, society has more interest in how a school principle runs the educative activities a school rather than what he does in his free time. The more an action refers to the life of a group, and influences that group, having a greater impact on it, the more it can be considered as a threat and could be sanctioned in accordance. The whole purpose of social control is to influence the members of a society to act and behave so that they can maintain and conserve the well being of their society. J. Cazeneuve includes in the system of social control the whole processes of socialization and the pressure that individuals exert on others.
From the perspective of other sociologists such as W.G. Sumner, regulating conduct of members of society takes place largely through so called ”folkways”. The main condition of the social life is the adapting human at the environment, which gives birth to different groups of solidarity kept together by beliefs, opinions, and customs. Folkways contribute to the social solidarity, they have an imperative function to the behaviour. They represent for social groups what habituation represents for an individual. W.E Brugess and E.R. Park distinguished in the book ”Introduction to the Science of Sociology”(1921) the existence of three main forms of exerting social control in society:
-spontaneous forms, elementary to social control(spontaneous adaptation of the individual to the behaviour of a group, under its pressure)
-public opinion(which is the not institutionalized social authority)
-institutions and legal regulations(which functions as an imperative and institutionalized authorities)
According to the functionalist-structuralist theory of T.Parsons, social rules indicates the individual the permitted social norms for different situations, from which he orientates his activity and chooses from all possible alternatives the most suitable one. Parsons insists over the idea that the obedience to the rules isn’t caused by a coercive social control but rather by a natural behaviour, due to the internalization of the social values. The interpretations of social control that sociologists make today can be grouped into two large categories:
restrictive interpretations which emphasize institutionalized and coercive character of the social control
regulatory interpretations which treats the social control systematically as set of actions focused towards defining social deviance and stimulating the social reaction of prevention and rejection of it.
Allan Horowitz suggests that the definition of deviance changes from a subculture to another in accordance to different norms of utilization. Take for example homosexuality. It is considered as an illness in some cultures while in others it can be seen as a libertine way of living.
M. Sorin Radulescu considers that the main criteria of the forms of social control classification is:
1.by the means of originating, social control exercised by state institutions(courts, prisons, mental hospitals etc) by different social groups(family, school, associations, organisations etc) or by particular individuals who possess a certain authority within a group(priest, householder etc);
2.by the means of which social control is exercised, is formally organised, achieved by specialized institutions and spontaneous, achieved by traditions, customs, public opinion etc
3.by the utilized means: the incentive of social control(positive), through the means of rewards, distinctions, suggestions etc and the coercive social control(negative), through rumors, manipulation(propaganda and advertising), prohibitions etc
4.by the methods(types of sanction) adopted in relation to the act of deviance, there is penal social control(punishment), compensatory (payments as a consequence of damaging other individuals property or state property), conciliator(negotiations and mutual understandings), therapeutic(resocialization).
Starting from the last criteria Horowitz points out the existence of a number of social control ”styles”: penal(the punishment that the individual suffers as a consequence of his act), compensatory(which obligates the individual to compensate his acts through payment, thus restoring his place in society), conciliatory (can be carried out without the need of coercive sanction) and therapeutic(has the objective to change the individual personality in order bring him back to ”normality”. According to the last ”style”, the therapeutic style, individuals are being treated as victims of an illness which they cannot control by themselves thus being forced to a programme of medical treatment.
The deviant behaviour became a key concept in sociology in 1940, and as time went by, it has developed its own study, the sociology of deviance. Sociology of deviance studies crime, violence, alcoholism, prostitution, drug consumption, invalidity, suicides, mental illnesses, homosexuality and lesbianism. The definition of social deviance was first gave by two authors: Sellin and Merton.
Sellin defined it as being the force that disturbs the social equilibrium of institutions and the rules of conduct. A similar definition gave Merton. The type of behaviour that opposes the conformist type, and includes not only breaking the law but every deviation from the rules of cohabitation. Many behaviours can be categorized as being deviant from being indecent and obscene to antisocial behaviour. We can assume that although most deviant behaviours consist in breaking the law, there is a part that are not dangerous for society (victimless crimes). In order to clarify this concept a distinction is to be made: between the phenomenon of deviance and that of abnormality. The first is a sociological concept(deviance) and the second is a psychopathologic(abnormal). The last refers to the incapacity of the individual(medically valid) to adapt to social life and its requirements. A few observations are necessary to clarify the concept of ”deviance”. Deviance is a relative notion because of at least two reasons: because the normative system differs from a society to another and where in one society an act might be considered deviant and immoral in another the same act could be interpreted as being conformist. The second reason is that the law represents an important factor in the changes of society which could induce modifications in the reception of normative context of a society and it could even transform itself under the impact of a social change. For this reason, even in the same society at different points in time, an act could be seen as deviant or not. Tolerance to behaviour changes along with society, it evolves. These arguments sustain the fact that deviance is relative and is in accordance to age, law, culture and the form of society. It is also necessary to divide deviance from anomie. It must be clarified that deviance does not correspond with the absence of norms, with anomie, social disorganization. The term anomie comes from the Greek ”a nomos”(without law) and refers to the state of disorder of a social system or subsystem caused by the disintegration of the norms that assure social order and regulates the behaviour of individuals.
The sociologic term was established by Emile Durkheim who used it first in his work ”The Division of Labour”(1893) to explain one of the malfunctions of labour division and later on in ”Suicide” to assign on type of suicide within other types.
An example of anomie is revolutions. Revolutions overcome the old social order, creates situations of anomie because it provokes disorientation of norms, confuses system parts that should normally guide behaviour. Analysing the great tragedies of the Russian revolutions, Pitrim Sorokin, a Russian-American sociologist found that the state of anomie generated by revolutions are shortly followed by a downfall of human behaviour, with deviant tendencies. Consequences emerge from the revolution into individual and social behaviour of masses, such as:
-The disappearance of old customs and values and the appearance of others, in an extremely short time compared to the normal society.
-Individuals adopt new forms and methods of thinking, involving the religious, moral, aesthetic, political and professional realm.
-the involution of the individual to its primitive stage where his basic needs are his main interest.
-justification of the act of crime in the name of the fight for freedom, fraternity and equality.
-verbal and written reactions of the public amplifies(meetings, press articles etc)
-the increasing of the property crimes
-the growing number of divorces, sexual delinquency and other types of moral delinquency that affects the public
-the change in the relationship of authority and the negation of hierarchies and the authority of the law.
Understanding the concept of social control is a key understanding of crime, its causes, its effects and its ”surroundings” as it may lead to ways of preventing crimes, and social disorder. It describes the very foundation of crime and crime related behaviour. It provides a complex definition of both deviant behaviour, antisocial behaviour, or just eccentric behaviour and classifies each of them into categories by their different influence and importance to social health. Social control is the form society preserves itself from various internal threats, sets patterns of behaviour and norms that individuals must follow. It draws the relationship between individuals and institutions. I consider that understanding it is not only extremely important but vital into understand criminology.
Andrei Dan Cristian
SC.104, Spring essay: ”What do criminologists mean by social control and why should they be interested in it?”
Tutor: Darren Thiel