A-Z Popular Blog Society Search »

Related Topics



Quality Of Life


Ascribed Status

Conflict Theory



Social Fact

31 Types of Social Control

Social controls are the methods that a society uses to align the behavior of its members towards the goals of the society such as quality of life, economic production or the interests of an elite. These can include powers, communications, rules, processes, procedures, monitoring, penalties and rewards designed to shape behavior. The following are illustrative examples of social controls that are used or could potentially be used by societies.


Communication to the masses using media controlled or influenced by the power structures of a society.


Education is a foundational form of communication that transmits the building blocks of behavior such as values, beliefs and norms.


A government may grant a monopoly on the use of force to police and military organizations. This force and the threat of this force are tools for implementing social controls.


Rules that are passed by a government and enforced by the justice system of a society.

Civic Duty

Civic duties are the obligations that are applied to all citizens of a nation. These can be formal or informal. For example, the informal obligation to participate in the political process by voting.


An authority is the right to control resources and make decisions that is backed by the power of a state and a system of law.

Power Structures

The distribution of formal authority and control of resources to a social structure such as the hierarchy of a government bureaucracy.

Segregation of Duties

Segregation of duties is the practice of designing counterbalances into a power structure that prevent an individual from misusing their authority.


Systems are complex entities that implement things. For example, the banking system implements financial services and financial controls.


Rules that are passed by bureaucratic bodies within a government. These are typically of more limited scope than laws. For example, a school board that establishes rules for students.


Decisions made by politicians or administrators that may have the effect of a rule.


Contracts such as a contract you agree to when you take a job, open a bank account or install a mobile app.


The obligations of a person. These are often established with contracts. For example, the obligation to repay a student debt and interest on that debt.


Processes that implement rules and regulations such as a process for applying for a school.


Standardized steps that are used to implement rules and policies.


The collection of information to implement policies and rules. For example, teachers who monitor a schoolyard to make sure students don't break the rules. Monitoring of people and their communications is known as surveillance.


Assigning scores to individuals that assess them. For example, a credit score serves as a type of social control that encourages individuals to meet financial obligations.


Elements of rule implementation can be automated including processes, procedures and monitoring. In theory, the authoring of rules could also be automated.

Roles & Responsibilities

Roles and responsibilities that are assigned to members of a society. For example, the responsibility of a parent or guardian to care for a child and to give the child every chance to thrive.


Many of the controls used by societies are also used by organizations to direct and control their members. For example, contracts, internal controls and performance scores used by a corporation to manage its employees.


Agreeing to join organizations, institutions, groups, cultures or a religion typically results in the assumption of more rules, norms and responsibilities. For example, a person who feels they can't miss church on Sunday because it is a norm to attend.

Social Processes

Social processes such as groupthink that prevails in a culture.


Social relationships often create more norms you need to follow. For example, a homeowner on friendly terms with neighbors who feels they have to keep their lawn free of weeds to respect and maintain these social connections.


Norms are rules of a culture that emerge through shared experience. This can be a lightweight alternative to formal rules. As with culture, norms are flexible and aren't directly controlled by the systems of a society.


Uncertainty can be a form of control. For example, making it unclear what the rules are and how they are applied as a means of exercising broad control on behavior. This can be prevented with a principle known as void for vagueness.

Social Constructs

Postmodernists view social constructs such as language as an element of control. It should be noted that postmodernists have a tendency to view everything in terms of power structures and control such that they tend to completely discount behaviors such as emergence, cooperation, kindness, camaraderie and altruism.

Informal Sanctions

Informal sanctions such as being shamed for violating a norm.


Sanctions such as the loss of freedom or property that are enforced by the power of a state under the rule of law.


Rewards including tangible rewards such as a salary and intangible rewards such as social status.


Rights are things that are owed to an individual by a society such as a right to privacy or due process. These can represent important limits on social control.


Freedoms are elements of a person's life that a society is not allowed to control according to a foundational set of principles such as the constitution of a nation. This is extremely important as it prevents a government from overcontrolling things in a way that decreases the pursuit of happiness. Social controls can be used to create and sustain freedoms just as they can be used to take them away.


Postmodernists tend to view all social constructs as a tool of control. For example, elements of culture such as language, music, film, holidays, pastimes, fashion, roles, norms, traditions and sport may be viewed as controls by postmodernists as opposed to valuable elements of the human experience.
This article omits some of the more bleak theoretical types of social control such as mind control or the therapeutic state.
The list above involves the mechanisms of social control and not the strategies such as bread & circuses or divide and conquer.
Overview: Social Control
The methods that a society uses to align the behavior of its members towards the goals and values of the society.
Related Concepts


This is the complete list of articles we have written about society.
Ascribed Status
Civil Society
Democratic Society
Economic Opportunity
Expert Culture
Government Spending
Human Behavior
Human Rights
Industrial Complex
Information Age
Physical Env
Political Stability
Public Safety
Shared Meaning
Social Behavior
Social Change
Social Conditions
Social Conflict
Social Control
Social Identity
Social Issues
Social Justice
Social Norms
Social Problems
Social Reality
Social Rights
Social Science
Social Stability
Social Systems
Social Trust
More ...
Try our search:

If you enjoyed this page, please consider bookmarking Simplicable.


The definition of society with examples.

Sense Of Entitlement

The definition of a sense of entitlement with examples.


The definition of ghosting with examples.


An overview of happiness and its many variations.

Human Nature

A list of the common elements of human nature.


The definition of respect with examples.


An overview of the basic types of socialism.


A basic overview of Marxism.

Human Behavior

An overview of human behavior with examples.


The definition of norms with examples.


The definition of tolerance with examples.


The definition of self-control with examples.

Structural Functionalism

The definition of structural functionalism with examples.

Polite Opposite

A list of words that can be used as the opposite of polite.


The definition of nihilism with examples.

Social Norms

An overview of social norms with examples.

Social Bias

The definition of social bias with examples.

Social Reality

An overview of social reality with examples.
The most popular articles on Simplicable in the past day.

New Articles

Recent posts or updates on Simplicable.
Site Map