Tuesday, January 19, 2010
Informal and Formal Social Control
Techniques of informal control are typically employed within primary groups such as families. Individuals learn such techniques early in their childhood socialization to cultural norms. Since these mechanisms of social control are not formalized, there can be great variation in their use even within the same society. For example, imagine that a teenager is sated in a crowded bus in a seat. A rather frail-looking elderly man gets on the bus and has nowhere to sit; yet the teenager does not move. One nearby passenger may scowl at the teenager; another may stare until the teenager becomes uncomfortable, while a third may verbalize the control mechanism by telling the teenager to get up.
In some cases, informal methods of social control are not adequate in enforcing conforming or obedient behaviour. In the example above, the teenager might look away from the scowling and staring passengers and might tell the third person, “Mind your own business!” At this point, passengers might enlist the aid of the bus-driver – whose occupational role carries with it a certain authority – in an attempt to force the teenager to give up the seat. Formal social control is carried out by authorized agents such as police officers, physicians, school administrators, employers, military officers, and managers of any organization. As we have seen, it can serve as a last resort when socialization and informal sanctions do not bring about the desired behaviour.
Societies vary in deciding which behaviours will be subjected to formal social control and how sever the sanctions will be. In the nation of
It is important to emphasize that formal social control is not always carried out only by government officials in response to violations of the law. Certain subcultures within a society exercise formal social control to maintain adherence to their distinctive social norms. For example, in the villages of
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