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.
MediaCommunication to the masses using media controlled or influenced by the power structures of a society.
EducationEducation is a foundational form of communication that transmits the building blocks of behavior such as values, beliefs and norms.
ForcesA 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.
LawsRules that are passed by a government and enforced by the justice system of a society.
Civic DutyCivic 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.
AuthorityAn 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 StructuresThe distribution of formal authority and control of resources to a social structure such as the hierarchy of a government bureaucracy.Segregation of duties is the practice of designing counterbalances into a power structure that prevent an individual from misusing their authority.
SystemsSystems are complex entities that implement things. For example, the banking system implements financial services and financial controls.
RegulationsRules 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.
PoliciesDecisions made by politicians or administrators that may have the effect of a rule.
ContractsContracts such as a contract you agree to when you take a job, open a bank account or install a mobile app.
ObligationsThe obligations of a person. These are often established with contracts. For example, the obligation to repay a student debt and interest on that debt.
ProcessesProcesses that implement rules and regulations such as a process for applying for a school.
ProceduresStandardized steps that are used to implement rules and policies.
MonitoringThe 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.
ScoringAssigning 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.
AutomationElements of rule implementation can be automated including processes, procedures and monitoring. In theory, the authoring of rules could also be automated.
Roles & ResponsibilitiesRoles 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.
OrganizationsMany 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.
MembershipsAgreeing 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 ProcessesSocial processes such as groupthink that prevails in a culture.
RelationshipsSocial 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.
NormsNorms 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.
UncertaintyUncertainty 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 ConstructsPostmodernists 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 SanctionsInformal sanctions such as being shamed for violating a norm.
SanctionsSanctions such as the loss of freedom or property that are enforced by the power of a state under the rule of law.
RewardsRewards including tangible rewards such as a salary and intangible rewards such as social status.
RightsRights 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.
FreedomsFreedoms 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.
NotesPostmodernists 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.
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