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Maintaining Order and Harmony: Exploring the Role of Social Control

Introduction to Social Control

Social control is a concept that is used to describe the regulatory mechanisms in a society that work together to restrain individual behavior, ensuring that every member of society abides by the established rules. At its core, social control ensures that individuals are aware of the boundaries within which they can operate and behave.

It is a mechanism that instills discipline, guidance, and regulation in the society, and its primary objective is to promote the harmony, peace, and stability of society. In this article, we will explore the concept of social control, the types of social control, focusing on formal social control, its properties, and enforcement mechanisms.

Types of Social Control

Social control is categorized into two main types, namely formal and informal social control. Formal social control is typically executed and enforced by government bodies or institutions that are specifically designated to apply and enforce regulations and laws.

On the other hand, informal social control is driven by the values, attitudes, beliefs, and customs of a society, and is enforced by non-governmental organizations or individuals that work to preserve and protect those norms and customs.

Formal Social Control

Formal social control is based on the rule of law. It refers to the practices, procedures, and policies of the government or other institutionalized organizations that are responsible for enforcing the laws of society.

It is written and official, meaning that there are documented rules put in place to regulate human behavior. Formal social control is designed to be punitive and repressive, meaning that there are consequences for breaking the rules and expectations.

Examples of

Formal Social Controls

Formal social control takes many forms, and we encounter it in our day-to-day lives in various ways. Law enforcement is one prime example of formal social control.

The police function to maintain order and regulate human behavior by imposing punishment, such as fines or imprisonment, for deviant behavior. Additionally, the judicial system is responsible for formal social control.

Courts pass judgment on people who break the law and impose penalties that serve as a deterrence for future deviant behavior. Another example of formal social control is the regulatory policies that govern various aspects of our lives, such as health and safety regulations in the workplace, environmental protection laws, and consumer protection regulations.

These policies are created to regulate and control business practices, ensuring that they adhere to specific standards established to protect people from harm or unfair treatment. Enforcement of

Formal Social Controls

The government is the primary body responsible for enforcing formal social control.

It relies on its institutions such as the police, courts, and various regulatory agencies to enforce laws and regulations on its behalf. The enforcement mechanisms of formal social control can be divided into three main categories; preventive, corrective, and reformative.

Preventative enforcement means that the government structures the institutions in such a way that it prevents deviant behavior from occurring in the first place. This means that the police work to discourage criminal behavior and maintain public order.

Corrective enforcement means that if deviant behavior occurs in society, then the government steps in to restore the balance. This is typically done through punishment such as fines, imprisonment, or other measures that punish the person who broke the law.

Reformative enforcement means that the government focuses on rehabilitating the offender, offering mechanisms such as probation, community service, or counseling that prevent future deviant behavior.


In conclusion, social control is a crucial aspect of human society that ensures that order and stability are maintained. Formal social control is an extremely vital mechanism that the government utilizes to ensure that people adhere to the laws and regulations of society.

The enforcement mechanisms employed in the execution of formal social control are aimed at ensuring that citizens remain within the boundaries set by society, promoting a healthy and harmonious environment for all.

Informal Social Control

Informal social control, unlike formal social control, is not based on laws or written rules but rather on socialization and social norms. Socialization refers to the process by which individuals acquire knowledge, skills, and values that enable them to function and adapt to society.

Informal social control is therefore persuasive and integrative. The process is persuasive because it operates on an individual’s emotions, values, and beliefs.

Integrative in the sense that it reinforces the individual’s identity within the group. Examples of

Informal Social Controls

Informal social controls are enforced in a variety of ways, including praise and compliments, ridicule, gossip, and social exclusion.

Praise and compliments work to encourage individuals to conform to the social norms of the community. Those who conform to the norms of their community are held in high esteem and regarded as role models.

Ridicule, on the other hand, is used to shame or embarrass individuals who fail to conform to the norms of their community. Gossip is another common form of informal social control that can be used to discourage behavior that is considered deviant.

Enforcement of

Informal Social Controls

Unlike formal social control that is enforced by government agencies, informal social control is enforced by family units, peers, schools, and workplaces. In a family unit, socialization is key in ensuring that children are familiarized with the social norms of their community.

Parents and guardians play a considerable role in promoting conformity to these norms. Schools and workplaces also play an essential part in the enforcement of informal social control.

Schools, for instance, incentivize students to conform to the norms of their academic community, such as the dress code or rules of conduct. Workplaces, likewise, enforce norms that regulate employee behavior to maintain productivity and efficiency.

Differences Between Formal and

Informal Social Control

Formal and informal social control differ in several ways. Formal social control operates within the confines of the law while informal social control operates without the law.

Formal social control is characterized by punitive measures such as fines and imprisonment while informal social control is based on praise, compliments, ridicule, and gossip. Formal social control is exercised by government institutions, while informal social control is enforced by families, peers, educational institutions, and workplaces.

Primary Examples and Enforcement of Each Type

Formal social control examples encompass policing, judicial sanctions, and regulatory policies that are enforced by government institutions. Informal social control encompasses social norms, family values, and community standards.

This type of control is enforced by peers, family members, cultural values, and tradition.

Preference for Each Type Based on Community Size and Familiarity

The type of social control preferred by a particular community depends on the size and familiarity of the community. In small and rural communities, informal social control tends to be the preferred type of social control.

Informal social control operates on the premise that everyone knows everyone, and socialization is achieved through a closely-knit community structure. In large urban societies, formal social control tends to be preferred.

Urban societies have complex social structures, and formal social control is necessary to ensure that people adhere to the laws and regulations that govern them. In conclusion, social control, whether formal or informal, is a vital aspect of human society that ensures order and stability.

Both types of social control have their place within today’s society, and the preference for one type over the other depends on the community’s size and familiarity. The enforcement mechanisms of each type of social control work to instill discipline and promote cohesion and order, ensuring that every member of society can live meaningful and fulfilling lives within the established social structures.

In this article, we explored the concept of social control, which is a critical mechanism that ensures order, stability, and cohesion in society. We identified two types of social control – formal and informal – and discussed their characteristics, examples, and enforcement mechanisms.

We also highlighted the differences between these two types of social control and noted that communities tend to prefer either one type or the other based on their size and familiarity. Ultimately, social control is essential to promoting the harmony, peace, and stability of society, and it is crucial that we understand its role and mechanisms to ensure that our communities thrive in a supportive and cohesive environment.

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