Dust in the hair.
Dust. In my beholder's eye.
Floodin' the daisies!
Saturday, May 12, 2012
Tuesday, May 08, 2012
To understand the concept of control, it is useful to associate it with at least seven other concepts, themselves associated with the automobile: ignition (connected to the fuel-gauge), 'view' (or vision), gear (forward and reverse), steering, accelerator (connected to the speedometer)) and brakes. The ignition must be 'turned on', directly or remotely (or virtually), or even the sufficiently fuelled automobile will not start; and ‘turning it off’ stops all activity. The gear must be engaged and the accelerator stepped on, or the ‘turned on’ vehicle will only ‘idle’, even with properly functioning wheels and 'shocks'. Without the steering wheel and a clear view, we know the moving vehicle will soon go where we don’t want it to! Without the brakes, we are at the mercy of momentum and gradient. However, for a stationary vehicle, shorn of all velocity, the main control device is the 'system' of brakes, not the steering wheel.
A side question: Is society as we know it a perpetual state of ignition or not, in motion or stationary, or all of these in various ways and contexts?
Among the earliest sociological conversations about social-control is the pre-20th century article by Edward Alsworth Ross (1896: 513-535).Ross (1896: 519) saw social-control as follows:
“By social control … I mean that ascendancy over the aims and acts of the individual which is exercised on behalf of the group. It is a sway that is not casual or incidental, but is purposive and at its inception conscious. It is kept up partly by definite organs, formally constituted and supported by the will of society, and partly by informal spontaneous agencies that, consciously or unconsciously, serve the social interest and function under constant supervision from above.”
He added that even though both social control and social coordination are designed “to make certain rules or standards prevail”, they do not mean the same thing. Thus:
“An ordinance requiring street cars to stop at the further crossing or directing passing teamsters to turn to the right, coordinates rather than controls. Control harmonizes clashing activities by checking some and stimulating others. Coordination combines activities already harmonious in respect of their ends” (Ross, 1896: 519).
In her book titled Textbook on Criminology [this is the latest edition], Williams (1997: 370) observes that the central assumption, or the starting point, of social control theorists of the last thirty years or so is that “every individual is born free to break the law. It is criminality which is natural, and conformity needs explanation.” That is to say, the central tendency of human agency is “law breaking” or deviation (deviance) from, not compliance (conformity) with, norms or conventions.
Of course Williams is aware that this perspective is in direct opposition to what one may call the standard approach to criminality and deviance, whereby it is “assumed that conformity is normal or natural, and criminality is abnormal” (Williams, 1997: 370). Based on this standard approach, the reasoning that emerges is that “there is no justification for individuals to break the law unless something abnormal is present” in the individual actor (in the form of biological or personal defects) or in the wider society (Williams, 1997: 370).
For those who subscribe to this standard approach – those who think that deviance/criminality is abnormal – the charged question they would pose to those who think that it is normal is this: If deviance or criminality is “normal” and if “conformity needs explanation”, then “why don’t we all break the law?” (Williams, 1997: 370). The answer to the above question, given by those who see deviance/criminality as the normal state of affairs, is this: We don’t all break the law because of the “power” of conformity – conformity which society instills in its members’ behaviors through effective socialization and/or direct social control. In the absence of these ‘twin’ pillars, it is reasonable to expect deviance or criminal behavior to take root or express itself from a very early age.
But that is exactly the answer that the proponents of the standard view, who see “deviance as abnormal”, would give! Our social and generally sociable nature as humans leads us in the direction of conformity. Furthermore, the longer and more consistently we interact with others with the same mindset, the more likely it will be for us, most of us, to stay the course.
Why or how so? Because conformity projects a society’s or community’s array of dos and don’ts onto the observed behaviors of its members, even when such dos and don’ts cannot be seen to be naturally rooted in “human nature”. Thus, walking is a natural human habit, and so are eating and sleeping. But the prohibition against walking naked in the street is a cultural prohibition, not naturally occurring abstention – though the naturalist might ask why not, since we are all born with no clothing. We sleep on the bed, and not under it. We expel the usual bodily wastes in privacy – unless such privacy cannot be had when there is absolutely no more time to wait.
Williams (1997: 370) illustrates the point about conformity with two illuminating examples:
“… there is nothing natural about driving [on] one side of the road, and yet motorists do keep to the required side. It is not natural to buy rather than take food when one sees it, and yet in our society most people buy rather than take. There is clearly nothing natural about conformity, as most of our formative years are spent learning what is permitted behaviour and what is not, and often why the difference exists”.
Socialization processes and agencies, operating throughout our lives, are key to the continuation of conformity – and social control. Williams (1997: 371) emphasizes, however, that “…conformity is always seen as fragile, as something which might be broken at any time if the reason for conformity is weakened, lost or momentarily broken.”
Socialization refers, to a large extent, to the internalization of norms; and there is a tortured link between Social Control and the Internalization of Norms. As Cohen (1979: 91) sees it:
“The individual internalizes the norms of a culture as a result of a successful socialization process. When internalization occurs, the individual does not have to stop and think about what is right or wrong, proper or improper. The person follows the norm almost as a matter of reflex, and whether or not the person is being observed by others, he or she will continue to manifest ‘proper’ behavior as a result of the internalization of the norms. An individual is motivated towards adherence of established norms because of inner controls, such as conscience [MY (Feb 19, 2009): or ethics/morality, religious beliefs, professional knowledge, training, past experience, profit-maximization, etc], rather than a fear of discovery by others that he or she has engaged in improper behavior. Through the process of internalization of norms, most necessary social controls are exercised internally by each of us.”
These internalized norms are what Pierre Bourdieu refers to as habitus; and from this we can see clearly that habitus (habit) is not only the product of socialization but, more importantly in the present conversation, the internalized instrument of social control]. Cohen (1979: 91) adds the important observation that: “Most of the behavior of an overwhelming majority of the population is in conformity with the behavior expected of us. Individuals know it is inherently wrong to murder, steal, cheat, and abuse others. These acts are contrary to our standards of morality and to the values we have learned…”
A norm is
“...a standard or rule, regulating behaviour in a social setting. [As a concept, a norm represents the widely shared idea in Sociology] that social life, as an ordered and continuous process, is dependent upon shared expectations and obligations” (Jary and Jary, 1999: 453). Thus, add Jary and Jary, Parsons concept of normative order is central to the idea of the social system – which underscores the view that norms are related to socialization, social roles and even social control; and, moreover, operate at all levels of society (ibid.).
A social norm, on the other hand, is:
“A rule or standard of behavior defined by the shared expectations of two or more people regarding what behavior is to be considered socially acceptable. Social norms provide guidelines to the range of behavior appropriate and applicable to particular social situations” (Theodorson and Theodorson (1969: 276-7)
The authors add that “…one’s role obligations in a social group are defined by that group’s social norms. Social norms are studied by observing overt behavior (what people do), as well as by observing what people say their norms are.” Moreover, many sociologists see the following as examples of normative structure based on shared expectations of behaviour: society, social institutions, social roles, and moral systems (Theodorson and Theodorson, 1969: 277). However, the reader is cautioned to note that what people say and do are often at variance. This commonly observed phenomenon has given rise to the sarcastic remark: “Do as I say, not as I do.”
A clustering of norms is the basis for the conceptualization of normative integration. By normative integration, sociologists typically have in mind a coherent set of mutually reinforcing norms that is comprehensive or large enough to address all the main contingencies – or ‘cover all the main bases’ – pertaining to an extended or sustainable social group. It is, in other words:
“The interrelationship of the social norms of a group into a consistent pattern so organized that there are relatively few seriously conflicting social or psychological expectations or obligations on the members that stem directly from the norms of the group. Normative integration within a social group is a function of its members’ values”( Theodorson and Theodorson, 1969: 277).
There are two kinds of norms, prescribing and proscribing, but Cohen prefers the terms: ‘proscribed’ and ‘prescribed’. Thus, to nevertheless use Cohen’s words, prescribing norms specify “those things that an individual should do”, while proscribing norms point to things “that an individual must not do” (Cohen, 1979: 91).
II. Levels of Control (of day-to-day or ‘Extreme’ Human Behaviour)
The control of day-to-day or ‘extreme’ behavior operates at two broad levels in society: Self and Social. These can be further analyzed as follows:
Self control refers to “physical actions and emotional states”, as well as the use of symbols of all kinds that are peculiar to the individual actor, and which anchor the actor’s response to sudden judgment situations or more long-term pressures toward deviant acts of commission or even omission. Self control is internally energized control of overt or covert behaviour, and/or of verbal or other symbolic utterances or projections or broadcasts – reflected in, for example, toilet “behaviour” (adherence to appropriate forms of which, in adults, are taken as a given), personal hygiene, personal grooming, personal manners, aversion to foul language, avoidance of minor or grand taboos of all kinds, and other personalized or ‘socialized’ do’s and don’ts. All this starts (must start) very early in life; and reflects the “choices” that the individual “makes” and the opportunities he/she misses – out of the array of possibilities he/she periodically or habitually comes upon.
To Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990), the core explanation for criminal (or deviant) behaviour is the “absence of self-control.” Self-control is a deliberate – or, so to speak, ‘reasoned’ – and internally driven behaviour control technique or capability that the individual typically learns, particularly within the orbit of the family, in the formative years of life. This is a capability which is thereafter, in their view, “highly resistant to change.”
Prof. Ariely (2011) observes that scientists are only now beginning “to realize how central self-control is to many important life outcomes.” Yet how exactly does self-control come into the social control, or ‘life outcomes’, equation, and how does it work? Despite their impact on such outcomes, he argues, socio-economic status (SES) and IQ are not easily manipulated for the desired social control effects, since they are “highly resistant to intervention.” We cannot be sure that the resources we invest in them will invariably, or in a timely way, effect the change we intend in the behaviors of target actors. So we must resort to or devise – and have indeed resorted to or devised – an alternative option: Self-control. Click here for more of Ariely’s thinking:
And yet, as Ariely notes, when you think about the dynamics of the modern world, every cross-current – from marketing/advertising to retail and professional services – “is essentially designed to challenge every grain of our self-control.” In this fast-paced and super-hyped world, so to speak, retailers and marketers and hustlers and agents and “such like” tempt us in every way and at every turn to buy or commit ourselves now and not later – to leap and possibly think all at once.
Ariely (2011) cites a study which, having controlled for the effects of SES and IQ, sought to determine the role of self-control in people’s lives. The study ‘revealed’, inter alia, that:
“Individuals with low self-control experienced negative outcomes [in health, wealth and public safety], with greater rates of health issues like sexually transmitted infections, substance dependence, financial problems including poor credit and lack of savings, single-parent child-rearing, and even crime.”
Ariely then asks what the source of “the mysterious force of self-control” might be, and why there are differences among people in the ability to activate effective self-control. And he wonders:
“…are the [people] who are better at self control able to control and actively reduce how tempted they are by the immediate rewards in their environment, or are they just better at coming up with ways to distract themselves and this way avoid acting on their temptation?”
He has no concrete answer to that question, but thinks that it “may very well be the latter.” He adds that this would be good if it were so. Why” “…because it is probably much easier to teach people tricks to deal with self-control issues than to train them with a zen-like ability to avoid experiencing temptation when it is very close to our faces.”
Low self-control predisposes one to deviant tendencies or behaviour, but does not necessarily lead to actual deviant behaviour. For it to do so, there must be “opportunity” for such behavior (Williams, 1997: 373, citing Gottfredson and Hirschi, 1990). Certainly, such opportunity can be reduced, minimized or eliminated by reinforcing self-control as such, or by the interplay of self-control and social control, or through social control alone.
Self-control has two overlapping pillars: (1) Self-Concept and, (2) Personal or Individual Control. Both are internal to the individual, and understanding them helps us to better understand the broader concept of elf-control.
Concerning self-concept, Saul McLeod (2008) starts off by noting that “To be aware of oneself is to have a concept of oneself.” To be aware of oneself, thus, is not only to perceive that one is but also to have a sense of who’s the one who is. This should usually include the realization that one is not, in the place one is, alone – but with another or others in a surrounding. Citing Lewis (1990), McLeod points out that self-concept has two components: (a) the existential self, and, (b) the categorical self.
The existential self is in fact the self characterized in the above lines. It represents the most elementary awareness of one’s existence. It refers to the individual – an infant to start with – being aware that he/she exists and is alive as a separate and distinct entity or human being, standing apart from any other. This awareness of self as a separate identity, is at the core of the individual’s capacity to distinguish between “me” and “not me”, and to know that “I” am “me” and not, for example, the ‘other” whom the infant will soon enough come to know as mummy or daddy or sister or brother.
To have self-concept is to be self-conscious. Only a ‘fully’ conscious mind can be fully self-conscious, but this capacity grows with age, though it is frequently lost in some to the influence of alcohol, other drugs and certain diseases or illnesses. Thus, for an infant: to be self-conscious, and therefore to have self-concept, is to know, for example, that the feeling of discomfort or contentment that I am feeling right now is not only a true feeling but my own feeling as well, and not another’s. It is to know that the sense of fear or exhilaration that I am enduring or having is my sense; or that the unfamiliar faces all around are indeed unfamiliar to me and around me; or that the playful other who’s alone with me right here is playing with none other than me – and that it is I who’s experiencing all this playfulness in return.
McLeod characterizes the categorical self as follows: “Having realized that he or she exists as a separate experiencing being, the child next becomes aware that he or she is also an object in the world. Just as other objects including people have properties that can be experienced (big, small, red, smooth and so on) so the child is becoming aware of him or her self as an object which can be experienced and which has properties. The self too can be put into categories such as age, gender, size or skill.”
The Mosby’s Medical Dictionary (2009) defines self-concept as “the composite of ideas, feelings, and attitudes that a person has about his or her own identity, worth, capabilities, and limitations. Such factors as the values and opinions of others, especially in the formative years of early childhood, play an important part in the development of the self-concept.” On the other hand, the American Heritage Medical Dictionary (2007) sees it as “An individual's assessment of his or her status on a single trait or on many human dimensions using societal or personal norms as criteria” (for both definitions, click here). These definitions certainly allude to self-concept as more consciously grasped later in life.
David Demo (1992: 309) argues that self-concept is not static, but changes over time: “…the content and structure of self concept change with each stage of self-development, and with each stage there is evidence of both stability and malleability from one context to another.” It is, in other words, “situationally variable” (Demo, 1992: 306). He insists that:
“to understand self-concept we must conceptualize it as a moving baseline with fluctuations across situations…and life stages. This involves recognizing that the self-concept is simultaneously a complex structure and a process, that it is stable, but that it is also dynamic” (Demo, 1992: 304).
Reckless (1967, 1973) suggests that self-concept is an internal quality in the individual, and (in Williams’ words) argues that “those individuals with a strong and favourable self-concept were [are] best insulated against the drives and pulls towards criminality. A favourable self-concept might be illustrated by saying that the individuals view themselves in a positive way: as having values to live up to; as being law-abiding; and as having an idea of being of use and value to society and those in it” (Williams, 1997: 372).
Self-concept is thus the springboard of self-esteem, the latter trending high or low in tandem with the former.
1.2. Personal or Individual Control:
Reiss (1951) sees ‘personal control’ as meaning “how well the juvenile [MY: the individual] manages to resist using socially unacceptable methods to reach his goals” (Williams, 1997: 371). Note that this definition is “based in the psychological diagnosis of the development of the super-ego, and therefore indicates a Freudian basis” (Williams, 1997: 371). The conforming individual – the one with high personal control – thus has “a healthy super-ego” (Williams, 1997: 371). Personal-control thus drives the individual’s life-choices – that is, the kinds of choices, short-term and long-term, that the individual makes in the course of his/her life.
Nowadays, a common feature of business school curriculum is self/personal control, relabeled SELF-MANAGEMENT (see UNISA’s Centre for Business Management). Self-Management encompasses: Time management, Grooming, Interpersonal Relations, Discipline,
2. Social Control:
Social control, which is EXTERNAL to the individual, refers to society’s strategy or means or capacity to secure orderly processes (of social change and/or continuity), within and to some extent around it, through the behaviors and interactions of its members -- in whole or in certain specified contexts.
To most sociologists, Williams (1997: 370) notes, social control “includes all the social processes which militate for [MY: which promote] conformity, from infant socialization, through school and job to the public and state control systems such as the police, the courts and the punishment systems.”
In other words, social control refers to “the ability of social groups or institutions to make norms or rules effective. Conformity resulting from social controls tends to involve submission to the rules and norms of society”(Williams, 1997: 371). Note that “submission” implies that a level of self/personal control is required for self-control to work.
In the same vein, Bruce Cohen (1979: 90) points out that “Social control is really an extension of the socialization process.” In other words, through “the process of socialization, the person learns what behavior is acceptable in various situations and learns to differentiate between proper and improper behavior patterns”(Cohen, 1979: 90).
Thus, social control “refers to the means and methods that are used to order or induce a person to conform to the expectations of a particular group or the larger society. If social control is effectively exerted, the individual’s behavior will be consistent with the type of behavior expected. Social control is mutually exerted; we influence the behavior of others, and in turn they influence our behavior”(Cohen, 1979: 90).
However, the argument that social control is “the means by which a group keeps its members behaving in mutually expected ways” (Cohen, 1979: 93) is true only if by “mutually expected ways” we mean that the members are seen to behave according to the values and norms upheld by the collective conscience – that is to say, by the conventional (and non-conventional) society . Those who defy conventions (the collective conscience) are treated by those who don’t (its subscribers) as unconventional and therefore as deviants [we will define deviance in a moment].
Social control, according to Cohen, thus refers to:
(a) all manner of “tools” (principles, values, norms, strategies, instruments/technologies and institutions) which conventional society utilizes in order to secure the conformity of its members with its conventions; and,
(b) the attainment of the goals, as well as the consequences, of such effort.
Taking into account the fact that deviants do exist, other sociologists (and I) would rather argue that social control operates to deny deviants a say or role in molding “the expected ways of behaving” – that is, it operates to keep them out of the circle of consensus circumscribed by the relevant aspect(s) of the collective conscience -- and to demand simply that they conform to (or return to the “fold” of) the values and norms that make up the collective conscience. What is the device by which we distinguish the wishes of conventional society from those of deviants? It is collective conscience.
Having said that, let us note that, according to Gibbs (1985: 765) [Jack Gibbs “Social Control,” pp. 765-768, in Adam Kuper and Jessica Kuper, eds. (1985), The Social Science Encyclopedia. London and New York: Routledge], “the now prevailing conception of social control in sociology” is the counteraction-of-deviance (that is, the counteraction of the failure of self-control) conception given by Talcott Parsons (1951), namely, that:
”The theory of social control…is the analysis of those processes… which tend to counteract… deviant tendencies… Every social system has, in addition to the obvious rewards for conformative [behavior] and punishments for deviant behavior, a complex system of unplanned and largely unconscious mechanisms which serve to counteract deviant tendencies.” [We will see the limitations of this conception in a moment]
Thus, clearly, social control has been seen as both intentional/purposive/deliberate/conscious (that is, some preventive or reactive action that we choose to take) and unconscious/unintentional/ (accidental?) (rooted in the collective conscience). But Gibbs (1985: 765) argues, wrongly I think, that in this definition Parsons denies the relevance of intentional social control or suggests that it does not exist. He does not.
Intention is an important concept in social control. Without the notion of intention, Gibbs (1985: 765) rightly notes, “the distinction between successful and unsuccessful social control is lost.” And if it is lost, he adds, we cannot even attempt to answer these two important questions:
(a) “Why are some means of social control employed more than others?”
(b) “Does social control counteract deviant tendencies?”
Gibbs (1985: 765) observes that one advantage of the foregoing view of social control – the intention perspective – is that it helps to answer the question: “What is social about social control?” Two characteristics of social control make it social: (a) it “has a normative quality” [unlike bank robbery, for example, which we may label “counter-normative”; and (b) it is “distinct from everyday interaction” – such as “hailing a cab”(Gibbs, 1985: 765).
There are, in Gibbs’ view, two intractable difficulties with the idea of social control as counteraction of deviance. These are:
(a) The conception risks being tautological – that is, if we see social control as the counteraction of deviance, and deviance as the absence or failure of social control, then we have explained nothing (Gibbs, 1985: 765).
(b) It ignores the occurrence of certain large-scale “manipulations” of non-deviant or normal human behavior – such as through media advertising and ideologically-charged political campaigns; for example, those of the Nazi party against the Weimar Republic (Gibbs, 1985: 765).
Based on the foregoing, Gibbs (1985: 765) suggests an alternative to the counteraction-of-deviance definition of social control: The Third-Party Conception of Social Control. Before he gets to that, however, he points out that social control is indeed possible without the intervention of a third party; and proceeds to set aside such control as tangential to his main interest: showing how third-party control, properly conceived, operates.
III. The Conception of Social Control without a Third-Party:
Gibbs (1985:765) starts by giving the following definition of [Third Party] social control:
“Social control is an attempt by one or more individuals (the first party in either case) to manipulate the behavior of one or more other individuals (the second party in either case) through still another individual or individuals (the third party in either case) by means other than a chain of command or requests.”
I have difficulty with this restriction to “an attempt” as opposed to the ‘real deal’. I would prefer to have a definition that stresses actual as opposed to attempted manipulation. From his view of social control, Gibbs (1985: 766) excludes two elements of control behavior, on the grounds, which I disagree with, that they are “conspicuous in everyday interaction, especially in bureaucratic or military social units”, namely:
n Proximate Control: That is, “control without a third party” [Examples: Customer requests (asks for) an item at a shop or customer desk or elsewhere; or “a mother physically restrains her child” (Gibbs, 1985: 765-766)]. This exclusion would be acceptable only if we acknowledged that proximate control is already accommodated in (indeed is integral to) the counteraction-of-deviance approach – to which the third-party approach is a gap-filling alternative [MY]
n Sequential Control: This refers to orders/controls executed in a sequence – that is, executed through a “chain of command;” for example from A through B to C [Example, “when X orders Y to order Z” (Gibbs, 1985: 766)]. [MY: March 3, 2009]But the problem with excluding “chain of command”, and therefore sequential control, from the definition of third-party control is that it contradicts the foundational notion of third-party, as Gibbs himself has presented it, and therefore severely reduces the value of his definition as an (as the) alternative to Parsons’ counteraction-of-deviance approach – in the context of which “chain of command” is in fact an unavoidable concept.
Gibbs’ examples open the way to inserting or at least considering an additional way in which one may argue that control without a third party operates; what Smith (1993) calls the ‘relations of ruling’:
n The ‘relations of ruling’ element/approach, which extends the conversation beyond what we have seen so far, focuses on “social domination”, and, as noted, has been introduced by Dorothy Smith (1993) Her notion of relations of ruling is encapsulated in the emotive word patriarchy, and the phrase “male power”. It refers to culturally and historically deep-rooted inequality in power relations between men and women. This inequality is reflected in a world in which women have been “in various ways silenced [and] deprived of the authority to speak"; a world in which women have “participated unknowingly” – their experience lacking a “voice” and “indeed a language”. How did this come about? It happened because, as women have come to discover, they “had taken from the cultural and intellectual world created by men the terms, themes, conceptions of the subject and subjectivity, of feeling, emotion, goals, relations, and an object world assembled in textually mediated discourses and from the standpoint of men occupying the apparatuses of ruling. [Women]…understand this organization of power as ‘patriarchy’, a term that [identifies] both the personal and public relations of male power.”
The ruling apparatuses she refers to are “those institutions of administration, management, and professional authority, and of intellectual and cultural discourses, which organize, regulate, lead and direct, contemporary capitalist societies”. The power relations – the “forms of communication and action” – entailed therein “are distinctively mediated by texts” (Smith, 1993: 2).
In the view of Applerouth and Edles (2007: 322), Smith uses the term “Relations of Ruling” to underscore the fact that social domination operates, not (as I may add) strictly through third parties of any kind, and not only through the usual matrices of bureaucratic management, formal organization and the media, but also through texts, such as: medical records, census reports, psychiatric evaluations, employment files (Applerouth and Edles, 2007: 322). These texts -- ’the complex of discourses, scientific, technical, and cultural’ – do in fact “intersect, interpenetrate, and coordinate” the matrices. Moreover, “behind and within the ‘apparently neutral and impersonal rationality of the ruling apparatus’ is concealed a ‘male subtext.’ Women are ‘excluded from the practices of power within textually mediated relations of ruling’” (Applerouth and Edles, 2007: 322). As an example of scholarly discourse and practice, sociology does not escape this charge (Applerouth and Edles, 2007: 322; Smith, 1993: 2).
IV. Gibb’s Conception of Third-Party Social Control:
Gibbs (1985) identifies the following five types of social control associated with his notion of third-party control:
(a) Referential Social Control: This is witnessed at the micro and macro levels of society; for example when, at the micro level, a child tells a sister or brother: “Give me back my candy or I will tell Mother.” Here, as Gibbs (1985: 766) describes it, “The first party (the child in this instance) attempts to manipulate the behavior of the second party (the sibling) by making reference to a third party (the mother)”.
(b) Allegative Social Control: To use the above example of siblings and their mother, this kind of social control occurs when the ‘offended’ child, instead of issuing the threat, reports the sibling directly to mother, who then acts against the ‘offending’ child. Court cases offer frequently-occurring examples: The plaintiff (first party) makes allegations about the defendant (second party) before a judge or jury (third party) in the hope that the allegations are persuasive enough for the judge/jury to pass judgment in favor of the plaintiff (Gibbs, 1985: 766).
(c) Vicarious Social Control: Here, the organizing principles are deterrence or inducement. When the court punishes an offender, would-be offenders are deterred; and when an employer awards an employee for hard work, fellow employees may see the reason to improve their work habits (Gibbs, 1985: 766).
(d) Modulative Social Control: Gibbs (1985: 766) gives this example comes from advertising: “when an advertiser (first party) pays a celebrity (third party) to extol some product on television, the advertiser assumes that the celebrity has some influence over consumers (second party).” Gibbs (ibid) also notes in this case that law can be used to reduce the influence of ‘agitators’ or to promote class/caste interests through selective legal prohibitions or proscriptions.
(e) Prelusive Social Control: This kind of control is constructed around some knowledge of what prospective controlees “hate, fear, value and respect” – knowledge which could be manipulated to deter/reverse or bring under control the actual or potentially vexing aspects of the behaviours of certain second parties (that is, of certain would-be controlees). Hate is a common passion. The post-election violence of 2007/2008 in Kenya was driven by much 'prelusive' calculation.One kind of fear that many people have is the fear of drowning. An illustrative example of the exploitation of fear is water boarding [Here's a demonstration], a torture technique used to induce the sensation of drowning which has been used since at least the 14th century and more recently been used by US security forces in Viet Nam and in the "War on Terror" to extract information and confessions from suspects. Gibbs (1985: 766) claims that prelusive social control is “the most-highly organized type” of third-party social control. He suggests that the questions to ask in order to gain the knowledge are these: (1) “Which kind of control would be most effective?” (2) “Who should be subject to special efforts at control?” In order to obtain answers to these questions, Gibbs suggests that the first party should assign a third party to undertake any of the following four tasks: (i) generate requisite information of likely second parties, including via surveillance; (ii) carry out a study on the relative effectiveness of alternative social control modes; (iii) “create conditions that facilitate control”; (iv) selectively exclude second party categories or strata “from certain social or spatial contexts, as in the case of immigration laws” (Gibbs, 1985: 766).
V. Why is Social Control Important as a Mode of Practice?
To start with, let us reiterate a point already made, that social control refers to the process by which members of a society come to conform to, or not deviate from, the prevailing or dominant norms – prevailing or dominant as long as we remember that within the orbit/domain of a counter-culture (or sub-culture), these norms will in fact be counter-norms (or sub-norms)]
Social Control is important because, as Cohen (1979: 90) argues, behavior which has proven conducive to the proper functioning of society must be maintained, for society’s own good. Or, alternatively, behaviour deemed crucial to social order must be consciously nurtured and enforced. This nurturing occurs through a future-oriented, expectations-driven, template-rich or SOP-predicated socialization of the members. Cohen is thus of the belief that “proper social control” is activated when what we may call “routine” socialization fails to realize its purposes. In other words, direct social control measures are alternatives to ‘failed’ socialization processes. Thus, the activation of such social control measures reflects the need, where socialization has for whatever reason fallen short of its intended purposes, to maintain a preponderance of behaviors that are consistent with established, or preferred, norms – in order, ultimately, to maintain the required levels of preferred social organization and order.
VI. Formal and Informal Social Control:
1. Formal control mechanisms include ”those written rules, regulations, codes of behavior, and laws that specify in writing how procedures should be carried out, how individuals occupying specific roles should behave, and what form of punishment or penalty will be imposed on those who disobey” (Cohen, 1979: 94). Those with authority to administer these control mechanisms include: Government officials, legislators, police, courts, probation officers, professional organizations (Cohen, 1979: 95) – as well as employers and heads of institutions such as schools and colleges.
Examples of formal social control techniques (ibid): Imprisonment (of the criminal), Hospitalization/confinement of the psychotic (or someone with an infectious disease), Probation (for the drug abuser, petty offender), (physical punishment, p. 94), (dismissal p. 95), (fines, expulsion, death sentence, deregistration, p. 97).
- Informal control mechanisms are distinct from formal ones because, to put it simply, they are not anchored on formally-bureaucratically or institutionally constructed rules, procedures, expectations and/or sanctions. Examples of informal social control techniques: Informal Group Rejection or Ostracism (or Shunning); Gossip; Laughter; Public Naming, Jeering/Ridicule/Scolding or Disowning; Demonstration, or the threat of any of these, the activation of One’s Conscience (see, for example, Cohen, 1979: 90, 92, 97).
VII. QUESTION: Why is self (personal) control crucial to social control?
ANSWER: The decision/failure to comply with social norms rests with the ‘individual’ in the first place. That is, it is a function of self-control. Social control serves to facilitate such decision and/or to respond to, or preempt/prevent, such failure. It is the individual who ‘decides’ or fails to conform. It is society that rewards such decision or seeks to punish or preempt/prevent or reverse such failure (see, also, Cohen, 1979: 91).
Self-control facilitates social control by providing internal restraints to deviation. Restraining oneself from violating social control measures ensures the voluntary enforcement of those measures; that is to say, facilitates the unproblematic application/success of the measures. Social control is nevertheless a necessary and valuable option (society’s Plan B) because self control often fails. Social control stands on two feet: (a) voluntary compliance (self-control); and, (b) enforcement.
When enforcement entities/agents are weak, the lack of self-control creates room for a downward spiral toward the “breakdown of law-and-order,” as we saw during Kenya’s post-election violence of 2007/8. Other examples from Kenya are the periodic outbreaks of Mungiki violence, and chaos in the matatu transport sub-sector.
When self-control accommodates or mirrors social control – that is, when social control signals lock into “kindred spirits” lodged in self-control – their combined effect on the individual’s behavior is more assuredly unproblematic and seamless; in a word, ‘socially’ desirable.Voluntary compliance with social control measures, due to self-control, obviates (rids us of) the need and cost of enforcement and sanctions.
When self control and social values and norms match – that is, are in harmony – social control inevitably reigns. Without self-control, it is virtually impossible to even imagine that informal social control can effectively operate. Likewise, in the absence of self-control, it is nearly impossible for social control (informal or formal) to operate effectively without sanctions (positive or negative). It is not possible to socially control the behaviour of an individual who lacks the requisite amount of self-control, except by means of effective formalized social control measures.
There is no doubt in my mind that self-control has its roots in an instinct which all living species must surely have – the instinct to survive against all danger; danger arising from predators of all kinds, or simply from natural events. So it is not a uniquely human trait. However, as we understand it today, self-control in humans is a particularly valuable example of soft-culture at work. I have tried to sketch in these notes how self-control and social-control interconnect and mutually reinforce each other – and how social processes and society in general are shaped by the multiple ways in which the interfaces between the two do or may play out. In all of this, of course, the matrix of Time and Space is the arena in which all unfolds. There is not one but many matrices. Millions of individual actors are nowadays caught up – and in a globalizing world increasingly so – in more than one matrix, and even many such.
I will say more about all of this at a later date.
Read more on self control and related themes here:
As paraphrased by Williams (1997: 373), Gottfredson and Hirschi (1990) view self-control as: “a subjective state whereby one individual is more [less?] vulnerable to temptations of the moment than is another. It is an assessment of how restrained each individual feels about his or her actions” [if you cannot access the hard copy of Williams' book, read this ; to access some reviews of the book, click here.
To read more on the theory of crime click here .
Prof. Mauri Yambo
[Lecture notes for CSO 103: Introduction to Comparative Sociology (Graduate students in the Theory Course may find aspects of these notes useful). Online Version 1, January-April 2012 Semester].