Among the formal means of social control the importance ones are law, education and coercion. A brief explanation of these means follow.
Law is the most important formal means of social control. Early societies depended upon informal means of social control but Mien societies grew in size or in complexity they were compelled to formulate rules and regulations which define the recurred types of behaviour and specify the penalties to be imposed upon those who violate them.
Law is a body of rules enacted by legally authorised bodies and enforced by punishments for their violation. The modern societies are large in size.
Their structure tuitions and vested interests. Informal means of social control are longer, sufficient to maintain social order and harmony. Therefore modern societies had to resort to formal means of social control.
Along with law, the importance of education as a means of social control is being growingly realized. Education is a process of socialization: It prepares the child, for a social living.
It reforms the attitudes wrongly formed by the children already. Thus, a family may make the child superstitious, education will correct his beliefs and remove his prejudices.
It teaches him value of discipline, social co-operation, tolerance and sacrifice. It instills in him the qualities of honesty, fair play and a sense of right and wrong.
The importance of education for creating right social attitudes among the youth cannot be minimised. It is to note that education in India has miserably failed to create right social attitudes among the youth of the country and act as an effective means of social control.
Coercion is the use of force to achieve a desired end. It may be physical or noil-violent. It is the ultimate means of social control when all other means failed. Physical coercion may take the form of bodily injury, imprisonment and death penalty.
Physical coercion is without doubt the lowest form of the social control. Societies would least desire to use it. It may have immediate effects upon the offender but it does not have enduring effects.
If a society has to depend on external force, it shows its weakness rather than strength in social control. Society’s best protection lies in the development of its citizens.
Non-violent coercion consists of the strike, the boycott non- co-operation. A person who threatens to withdraw his support to a friend if he does not give up smoking, is using non violent coercion to change his action.
The students may go on strike to force the principal withholding of social or economic intercourse with others to express disapproval and to force acceptance of demands. A student who teases the girls may be socially boycotted by the other students of the college. Non co-operation is refusal to co-operate.
The teachers may refuse to co-operate with the principal for his insulting behavior. Nonviolent coercion can be a successful way of effecting social control. Mahatma Gandhi used it to force the British Government to grant political independence to India.