Introducing Social Control
At its most basic, social control involves all of the things that we do or have done to us that are designed to maintain or change people's behaviour.
The socialisation process, for example, involves social control because it represents an attempt by people to shape the way a child develops. When we develop certain values and adopt particular norms, this too is a form of social control since we are placing limits on what we consider to be acceptable or normal behaviour.
Role play is again a form of social control because we are trying to act in ways that are considered orderly and predictable in certain situations. Social life, in this respect, is a life-long process of learning rules. We may not always agree with those rules, nor do we always obey them, but the fact remains that they exist and we have to take note of their existence.
People, therefore, create rules of behaviour that are the basis for social organisation and since we always have a choice as to whether or not we obey these rules, they are supported by social sanctions. These are the things we do in order to try to make people conform to our expectations. Sanctions can be one of two types:
As I've suggested, social controls are closely related to norms of behaviour and just as there are two basic types of norm (informal and formal), there are two basic types of social control (formal and informal).
Social controls, therefore, are attempts - sometimes successful, sometimes unsuccessful - to ensure that the values and norms that operate within both cultures and subcultures are obeyed by the members of such groups.