The terms ‘social control’ is broadly concerned
with the maintenance of order and stability in society. It may be used in
the limited sense of denoting the various specialized means employed to
maintain order such as codes, courts, and constables. It is also used to categories
social institutions and their inter-relations insofar as they contribute
specifically to social stability legal, religious, political institutions, etc.
Social control is one of the most fundamental subjects of sociological
discussion. It arises in all discussions about the nature and causes of both
stability and change.
From many of the definitions of social control, which we
have reviewed earlier, it becomes clear that social control is supposed to
achieve several important goals. Some of these goals are:
5-Goals of Social Control
One of the aims of social control is to bring about
conformity in society. Social control mechanisms are employed to control, check,
or prevent deviant behavior. As we shall see in Unit 31, deviant behavior is
dysfunctional to society in several ways. The objective of social control is to
safeguard the group against such dysfunctional consequences of deviant behavior.
A related objective of social control is to produce
uniformity of behavior. This does not mean that all the members must behave
alike. It only implies that there should be some co-ordinations, among the
several interrelated activities performed by different people.
For example, the movement of traffic on a road will be impossible if some traffic rules (keeping
to the left, etc.) are not followed by all road users. A game cannot be played
if uniform rules are not followed by all teams and their members. In every sphere
of social life, some uniformity of behavior is not only expected but is also
This is a very important objective of social control. As MacIver
and Page (1985) have noted, social control ensures order and solidarity in
society. Society is constituted of several parts and units. These different
parts must maintain an equilibrium with each other, and with the whole to ensure
social solidarity and stability. The mechanisms of social control are directed
at maintaining this equilibrium among the parts, and between the parts and the
Social control is also necessary to maintain and preserve
the accumulated culture of the group. By compelling or inducing individuals to
conform to the prevailing norms and values, continuity of these cultural
characteristics is ensured.
For example, when parents insist on their children
following family customs or practices, their continuity over generations is
sought to be assured.
5- Social Change
Social control is employed not only to conserve the existing
patterns but also sometimes to induce desired social changes. In our country,
many methods of persuasion, inducement, and compulsion are used to bring about
desired changes in some social customs, attitudes, and behaviors. Prescribing
the age of marriage. Two children’s family norms, removal of untouchability, dowry, etc. are some of the examples of attempts to bring about social change through
various means of social control.