Define and discuss the concept of social control. In your discussion highlight how forms of governance

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Define and discuss the concept of social control. In your discussion highlight how forms of governance, penal control, discipline, and risk management operate as means of social control in contemporary society. Illustrate with examples.


Robertson (2018) defines social control as the organized actions taken by a society to alter the behaviors of individuals. Social controls are primarily implemented so that an established social order may prevail. The social order denotes the accepted underlying practices and behaviors on which the society bases its norms (Robertson, 2018). Some of the organized initiatives intended to change individual behavior established in the society include governance, disciplinary control, penal control, and risk management strategies.

Penal social control is a type of social control that responds to deviance with punishment (Robertson, 2018). An example of penal social control is imprisonment, where individuals who have exhibited a particular form of deviance are sentenced to spend some time in jail as punishment for their offenses. On the other hand, governance as a form of social control refers to the strategies that individuals adopt to steer others’ conduct. Notably, this initiative emanated from multiple treatises written in the 15th and 16th centuries, which dictated how to guide individual conduct, children, the poor, beggars, a family, an estate, and other components of society (Robertson, 2018). Contemporary governance is extended through modern institutions such as factories, public schools, and hospitals, as well as the modern army, all of which have been utilized to extend the level of control that governments have over their citizens (Robertson, 2018). Through providing certain services for their citizens, contemporary governments can exercise a level of control over its citizenry and curb them from engaging in deviant acts.

Disciplinary social control, on the other hand, is composed of three components, surveillance, normalization, as well as examination, and involves continuous comprehensive training of individuals to render them more compliant to authority and easier to manipulate (Robertson, 2018). Governments enforce it in avenues such as schools, where children are tailored to become future law-abiding citizens. Finally, risk management social control is that which puts in place measures that prevent deviant acts from incurring extremely adverse consequences. It tolerates deviant behavior but put in place measures that alter the environment in which such behavior occurs, for the benefit of the greater society (Robertson, 2018). In this way, measures such as safe-injection sites allow addicts to keep on using substances but prevent them from experiencing some adverse implications of drug use. Addicts avoid the transmission of diseases such as HIV, which benefits society as a whole.


Robertson, S. (2018) Foundations in Sociology: Social Construction of everyday life. In Little, W, Introduction to Sociology-2nd Canadian Edition. B.C Open Textbook Project.

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