Wednesday, January 6, 2010
Theory of Control by Hirschi
A functionalist sociologist Travis Hirschi (1969), who is credited with first formulating a coherent statement of “control theory”. Criminology should pay more attention to answering the question. Why do men obey the rules of society? As a starting point this has been neglected, as for example, in strain theory and theories of cultural deviance like different association in favour of the more obvious question “why do men not obey”?
Hirschi takes his lead from Hobbes (leviathan): of all passion that which inclined men least to break the laws is fear. Nay, expecting some generous natures. It is the only thing, when there is appearance of profit or pleasure by breaking the laws, which makes men keep them. Control theory does not do nor, that makes men keep them. Control theory does not, however, assume that man is basically amoral: but it does assume variations occur when social controls have weakened: when the individuals “bond to society is weak or broken” (Hirschi). With this, his respect decreases, he has less to fear from society’s reproof and he acts increasingly in self-interest.
In Hirschi’s analysis the bond involves attachment’, commitment’, involvement, and a belief in conventional morals. Conforming behaviour is thereby “explained” and with it its counterpart is deviance. His research and much since was designed to test the empirical basis for this and the link with deviance. What is valuable in this approach is the assertion of man’s freedom and rationality as opposed to the social determinism, which has characterized much else. Control theory’s major claim to novelty is that it re-conceptualizes the starting point of something, which might turn into a deviant career. By stressing the bountiful in an established institutional order to cares coax and covert new comers into conformity control theory reveals that when this object is not achieved individuals remain at liberty to explore, and that exploration may lead to behaviour labelled as deviant by the powerful. (
Many studies have supported Hirschi’s theory that the lack of social bond causes deviance, but most of these studies have ignored, as does the theory, the fact that the lack of bond can also be the effect of youth to commit delinquency, delinquency can cause the youth to lose their bond to society.
Functionalist assumes the importance of social consensus for explaining deviance. Thus for Durkheim, deviance is functional to society as a whole and hence to virtually all groups in it. To Hirschi, bond to society is always a desirable goal for everybody if they want to avoid deviance. And to Braithwaite, shaming is a widely shared value in communitarian societies. By contrast, conflict as in the form of inequalities or power differentials-for explaining deviance.
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