Formal Social Controls.

Control here is based around the idea of formal, legal, norms (or laws) of behaviour. That is, rules of behaviour that are written down and, in societies such as our own, that apply equally to everyone (not all societies apply formal rules equally). Where laws are involved, it is usual to find a group of people, normally employed by the government, whose job it is to enforce the law. In our society, for example, the main agency of formal social control is the police and the judiciary (courts), although the armed forces can, on occasions, be used to perform this role.

Not all formal norms are laws, however. When you are accepted into an organisation (such as a school or college for example), you agree to abide by the formal rules governing behaviour in this institution. In this example, if you do not attend classes then you will be punished in some way.

In general terms, formal rules and social controls exist to tell everyone within a society or social group what is and is not acceptable in terms of behaviour. Such formal controls usually exist where a group is very large and its members are not in day-to-day contact with each other.

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