All the material and symbolic resources, including religious resources, available to a society to ensure that the behavior of its members complies with certain prescribed and sanctioned rules. It is related to the problem of social order.
Social control concerns the requirements of social living; it is the result of people's actions directed at themselves and their surroundings to achieve such conditions of life as the aspirations, needs, and requirements of human nature can create, through a scaling down of egoistic and heterodestructive impulses. In other words, social control is the problem, with regard to social relations, of how to limit and direct people's attitudes. In contemporary sociology, the concept is primarily encountered in the analysis of deviant behavior, where it is an aspect of labeling theory.
L. L. Bernard, Social Control in Its Sociological Aspects (New York: Macmillan, 1939)
G. Gurvitch, "Social Control," in Twentieth Century Sociology , ed. G. Gurvitch and W. E. Moore (New York: Philosophical Library, 1945): 267-296.
|return to Encyclopedia Table of Contents|