What is Social Control? Concept-definition and objectives


  1. Introduction
  2.  Meaning and Definition of social control
  3. The objective of Social Control

Objective-After reading this article you will be able to learn the primary concept of Social Control and its objective.


Social control is a central concept in sociology. All of us are expected to behave in a certain way. It ranges from how to eat to giving respect to our elders to driving to the left side of the road and obeying the laws of the land. The very basic idea behind following certain desired rules is to make collective social life possible. Community life is possible only in the context of social constraints as a social living demands the sacrifice of individual interests.

For example,one is always Social Control and Change tempted to jump a traffic signal but does not do so for fear of being fined. Thus, to function smoothly and efficiently society makes certain rules and regulations and expects that its members will follow them.

Social institutions such as families, schools, religious institutions, and media are some of the agents that reinforce and maintain these rules. Many sanctions are not applied directly but only by embedding certain values in the socialized person. Thus, most people conform not because of fear but because they are internally conditioned to do so. In the most fundamental sense ‘social control’ refers to the capacity of a society to regulate itself according to desired principles and values.

Meaning and Definition of Social Control

The purpose of social control is as the term indicates is to exercise control over people in an effective manner. Confirming or behaving in accordance with the norms of society is referred to as conformity. In fact, in a modern complex society social order can be achieved by making the people to accept and follow certain specified group norms. By maintaining solidarity and stability among its member's society ensures its continuity. As a result, the means of social control does not remain external to individual but are followed unconsciously too and becomes the larger part of culture and gets transmitted from one generation to another. And this is how a social order is maintained. It delimits the chances of chaos and confusion in the functioning of society. Therefore, social control is a necessary component of social order.


 E.A. Ross, an American Sociologist who introduced the concept Social Control in his famous book “Social Control” published in 1901. He has defined social control as

“System of devices whereby society brings its members into conformity with the accepted standards of behavior”. Others like Ogburn and Minkoff have said that social control refers to “the patterns of pressure which society exerts to maintain order and established rules”.

From the above definitions society exercises influence on the behavior of the individual. The influence may be exercised by means of public opinion, religion, morality, ideology or by coercion. Such influence is exerted at various levels. 

It may be the influence over all members of society or the influence of a dominant group over smaller groups or individuals. Some members exercise and influence the behavior of others by having moral authority over them. The influence of society over individuals or groups may also result in a benevolence and caregiving approach.

The objective of Social Control

Social control aims at bringing about conformity, solidarity, and continuity of a particular group or society. Social control attempts to achieve the following purposes.

  1. To bring the behavior of individuals and groups in tune with the established norms of society.
  2. To bring solidarity and uniformity in the social organizations. To establish stability in social relations.
  3. To exercise control over social tensions and conflicts.
  4. To provide fair and equal chances for cooperation and competition to all individuals, groups, and institutions to realize their goals.
  5. To facilitate appreciation and rewarding of champions of social cause and take punitive actions against anti-social elements.
  6. Bringing desired modifications in the social milieu, especially effecting required changes in the means and agencies of social control.
  7. Establishing primacy of social and humanitarian values over individualistic and separatist list ends.
  8. Providing for the protection and promotion of the interests of the weak and vulnerable sections of society.
  9.  Forging alliance among the various groups and institutions of society


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