The term social control-is used in connection with the maintenance of order and stability in society. It deals with the nature and causes of both stability and change. People are expected to behave according to group norms so that the social order can be maintained properly.

Social control is the control exercised by the society over its members. There are many people in society who always conform to the social norms and values and they are known as conformists. But few people who always deviate from the existing norms and values. They are known as nonconformists or deviants. The conformists possess the beneficial tendencies from the point of view of the smooth and harmonious functioning of society. Society controls only the tendencies of deviants considered harmful or injurious for social welfare. It creates some conditions by which human beings are socialized and prevented from indulging in antisocial activities. So social control is called by sociologists as social control.

Definition of Social Control

The following are the important definitions of social control.


E.A. Ross defines “Social control as the system of devices whereby society brings its members into conformity with the accepted standards of behavior.”

Ogbum and Nimkoff are of the opinion that “Social control is the pattern of pressure which society exerts to maintain order and establish rules.”

Gillin and Giltin remarks “Social control is the pattern, suggestions, persuasion, restraint and coercion by whatever means including physical force by which a society brings into conformity to the approved pattern of behaviour.”

Mac Iver says, “Social control is the way in which entire social order coheres and maintains itself.”


H.C. Bearly says, “Social control is collective term for those processes, planned and unplanned, by which individuals are taught persuaded or compelled to conform to the usages and life values of group.”

Nature or Characteristics of Social Control:

Following are the main nature or characteristics of social control.

1. Social control is the control of society over individuals.


2. Social control denotes some kind of influence. This influence may be exercised in various ways by means of public opinion, coercion, religion, leadership etc.

3. The influence of social control is essentially exerted by the society or community.

4. The influence of social control is exercised for promoting the welfare of all the individuals or the group as a whole.

5. Social control is as old as human society. It is an essential condition of the human society.


6. The influence of social control is universal. Where there is society, there is social control.

7. Social control is exercised through both formal and informal agencies.