Friday, January 15, 2010

Social Control

Social Control
As was seen earlier, every culture, subculture, and group as distinctive norms governing what it deems appropriate behaviour. Laws, dress codes, by-laws of organizations, course requirements, and rules of sports and games all express social norms. Functionalists contend that people must respect such norms if any group or society is to survive. In their view, societies literally could not function if massive numbers of people defied standards of appropriate conduct. By contrast, conflict theorists are concerned that “successful functioning of a society will consistently benefit the powerful and work to the disadvantage of other groups. They point out, for example, that widespread resistance to social norms was necessary in order to overrun the institution of slavery in the United States.
How does a society bring about acceptance of basic norms? The term social control refers to the “techniques and strategies for regulating human behaviour in any society”. Social control occurs on all levels of society. In the family, we are socialized to obey our parents simply because they are our parents. In peer groups, we are introduced to informal norms such as dress codes that govern the behaviour of members. In bureaucratic organizations, workers must cope with a formal system of rules and regulations. Finally, the government of every society legislates and enforces social norms – including norms regarding “proper” and “improper” expressions of sexual intimacy.
Most of us respect and accept basic social norms and assume that others will do the same. Even without thinking, we obey the instructions of police officers, follow day-to-day rules at our jobs, and move to the rear of elevators when people enter. Such behaviour reflects an effective process of socialization to the dominant standards of a culture. At the same time, we are well-aware that individuals, groups, and institutions expect us to act “properly”. If we fail to do so, we may face punishment through informal sanctions such as fear and ridicule, or formal sanctions such as jail sentences or fines.


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