Society and social control

Social control on the behaviour of individuals in a society is necessary for maintaining social order and stability. The means of social control vary from society to society and period to period.

Individuals’ conformity to society’s expectations or to social norms is achieved by socializing them through which they internalize values, norms and taboos, which shape their habits, wishes as well as actions.

The violation of social norms is prevented either by one’s own conscience or by the fear of punishment. Social pressures also prevent violation of conduct norms when friends begin to avoid the violators and give them a feeling that they are ‘outsiders’. Such pressures bring the violators back into a comfortable conformity.


It is not only the formal controls but also the secondary group controls that compel people to conform to social expectations. Informal controls like ridicule, laughter, gossip, and ostracism operate in secondary group settings, but generally with a reduced impact. However, no system of social control works perfectly.

Some persons fail to conform to social expectations, i.e., they deviate from social norms. Deviation, thus, is behaviour marked by violation of the norms of a group or society. Violation of the laws of the land is described as crime. Pain or suffering is inflicted upon a person who is adjudged guilty of committing a wrong, violating a law or indulging in crime.