Methods of social control can be broken into two types:
The informal type of control is casual,
unwritten. It lacks regulation,
scheduling, and organization. The
informal types consist of casual praise, ridicule, gossip, and ostracism. The formal type is codified, scheduled organized,
or regulated in some way, as in promotion, demotion, satire, monetary payment, mass media, etc. (see Horton and Hunt 1981).
We now discuss each method in detail.
This is also known as primary social control, as it is more effective in what sociologists call primary groups . The primary groups are relatively more homogeneous, small, compact, and
intimate groups.Members are tied to
each other, and to the group by feelings of personal loyalty. A family, playgroups, neighborhood, rural
community, and a simple primitive society are some examples of such compact
social groupings. In such societies, every individual is constantly surrounded
by very potent and subtle mechanisms of social control. Within a family, the individual is under the
control of his or her parents and other family members.Family, in turn, is under the control of neighborhood
or kinship groups, and these, in turn, are under the watchful control of the
whole society.Thus, no individual or
group can be free from social control.
circles surrounding individuals and groups.The important characteristics of this type of
control are that it is informal, spontaneous, and unplanned.Usually, the group shows its disapproval to
the deviating member by ridicule gossip, opprobrium, criticism, ostracism, and
sometimes application of physical force and coercion.Since the group is compact, ties are strong,
members are personally known, and the individual has little choice of an
alternative group’s membership.He
cannot afford to ignore the disapproval of his groups and so he must conform to
his group’s expectations. Such methods of control are effective not only in
primitive societies in which primary groups and relations abound but are also
effective in modern complex societies such as ours, particularly within
secondary groups (such as voluntary associations, clubs, and trade unions, etc.)
where such informal controls are effective to achieve the goals of the organization.
This is also known as secondary social control as it is
usually found in larger, secondary social groups.Modern complex societies such as ours, are
good examples of such social groupings.In such societies, we find many groups, which are characterized by
impersonal relations and are oriented to certain specific objectives. A
political party, trade union, factory, office, students’ association, maybe
some examples.In these secondary
groupings, relations among members are more formal and less intimate.Their relationships mean that informal
controls such as ridicule, criticism, or ‘gossip’ do not operate here.It is a well-known fact in sociology, that
informal groups do develop within such formal organizations.In a university or a college, certain cliques’
informal controls are more effective.
The point is that such informal groups which develop within formal organizations,
may either inhibit or facilitate formal secondary controls and affect the
performance of the organization. In secondary groupings, informal controls take
their place.Both positive sanctions in
the form of reward, honor, and negative sanctions by way of punishments,
expulsion, etc. are used in this form of control.In the larger society, such controls are
exemplified by law, police, courts, prisons, and other agencies of law
enforcement.Apart from these more
visible forms, formal control mechanisms also include well-organized propaganda
through mass media, to ‘engineer’ social control in society.
In large secondary groupings, informal
controls are weakened due to growing anonymity, mobility, and conflicting norms
and values.Intimacy declines and
members do not have personal or feelings towards each other.They frequently move from one place to
another, or from one group to another.Thus, they can easily escape from the controls of some group. Moreover,
in a complex society, there is always a conflict of norms and values of
different groups.One group may approve conduct that may be disapproved by some other group.Under such circumstances, recourse is
ultimately taken to the formal agencies of social control.