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Examine the role of formal and informal social control in controlling individuals

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Examine the role of formal and informal social control in controlling individuals' behaviour. In Emile Durkheim's early writings, he stated that society must have some form of boundaries to behaviour that is acceptable. Social control provides the basis for society to police its boundaries and is the way that societies deal with the deviant and criminal behaviours that a minority of societies members subscribe to. There are two types of social control, formal, which is practiced by specific social agencies which have the role of maintaining order in society, and informal, which is where social interaction pushes society's members back into conformity. Most societies tend to have a mixture of informal and formal control mechanisms, and the balance depends upon the type of society. In societies like that of Britain, which is highly multicultural, it is suggested that since a collective conscience is basically impossible to achieve, formal methods of social control are more useful. ...read more.


acts of crime, people were less likely to commit the crime as they saw their lives being affected greatly by the punishment. However, in some cases formal social control have been argued against as in Britain for example, some prisons hold reoffending rates of about 74% for the people who have served lesser jail terms showing formal social control may be not working in some cases. However Marxists such as Hall argue that the criminal justice system operates solely for the benefit of the ruling class. They believe it is based on controlling the working class and to ensure that any opposition to Capitalism is removed. They do recognise the why the legal systems exists yet believe harmful acts performed by the middle-class are often ignored. Therefore formal social control is effective in controlling the working class, yet is pursued in the interests of the middle-class. ...read more.


Farrington and West carried out a study out a study of 411 working class males and found that it was more likely offenders would come from homes with poor parents or lone-parent families. This suggests that informal social control can lead to crime and therefore is not effective in controlling the behaviour of individuals. The community is another factor within informal social control. Murray found that children from underclass families are more likely to be brought up with little or no concern for society's values. Poorer communities are being destroyed by the underclass. It has been suggested that the best way to understand why people commit crimes is because of the failure of the family and thus make informal social control ineffective. In conclusion, formal control tends to hold more power over people rather that the informal social control. However the idea of social bonds will prevent individuals from participating in harmful activities. This means both are crucial to societies, just the degree of each fluctuate depending on the societies dynamics as was suggested by Durkheim. ...read more.

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