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Outline and Assess Sociological Approaches to Social Control Within Crime and Deviance

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Introduction

Outline and Assess Sociological Approaches to Social Control within Crime and Deviance. Society has many rules, which although they are not rigidly enforced, we conform to. But what is it which makes us conform? This is what sociologists call social control and how this relates to criminal and deviant behaviour has been discussed and disputed for many years. Social control refers to social mechanisms that regulate individual and group behavior, leading to conformity and compliances to the rules of a given society or social group. Many mechanisms of social control are cross-cultural, if only in the control mechanisms used to prevent the establishment of chaos or, as Durkheim referred to it, the state of anomie. Social control can only exist if there is a degree of order and predictability prevalent in a society. This prevalent set of norms and values does not arise spontaneously however, societies, or the more powerful members of a particular society, develop methods of controlling those less powerful to conform to the ways of the more powerful, and of punishing those who do not stick to the rules. They do this through a mix of informal social control and formal social control. Informal Social Control can be defined as the social values that are present in individuals. It is exercised by a society without explicitly stating these rules and is expressed through customs, norms, and values. Individuals are socialized whether consciously or subconsciously. During informal sanctions, ridicule or ostracization can cause a straying towards norms. Through this form of socialization, the person will internalize these values. Formal Social Control is expressed through law as statutes, rules, and regulations against deviant behavior. It is conducted by government and organizations using law enforcement mechanisms and other formal sanctions such as fines and imprisonment. In democratic societies the goals and mechanisms of formal social control are determined through rules by members of the community elected and thus enjoy a measure of support from the population. ...read more.

Middle

However, the link between deviance and crime is not as simple or as clear. While some see speeding as acceptable, and therefore deviant, the law and the majority of society view it as a crime, yet attempted suicide, while seen as deviant is not a crime. For Durkheim, crime and deviance were central to understanding how society functions and controls itself. He identified two sides of crime and how they aided the functioning of society; a positive side that helped society chance and remain diverse, a negative side that saw too much crime leading to social disruption. According to Durkheim, a limited amount of crime was needed for society to function. He argued that society shares a set of values, known as the collective conscience, which provides us with boundaries, which distinguish between actions that are acceptable and those which are not. The problem for every society is that these values are often unclear, which is where crime can help. It will reaffirm the acceptable boundaries, reflect the changing values of the society and horrific crimes can often result in social cohesion. However, too much crime will have negative consequences. Durkheim noted, during times of great social change or stress, such as hurricane Katrina which tore through New Orleans, the collective conscience may be weakened. In this situation, people may be freed from the social control imposed by this collective conscience, and begin to look after their own selfish interests, as seen in New Orleans by the looting of shops and businesses. Durkheim refers to this situation as anomie, and in this state, crime rates rocket, as social control has dispersed. Heavily influenced by Durkheim, was Hirschi, who talked about the bonds of attachment. He turned the usual question of 'why do people commit crime?' on its head and instead asked 'what is it that stops people committing criminal acts?' and he came up with four bonds of attachment; four social bonds, the weaker these are the more likely the individual is to commit a crime. ...read more.

Conclusion

Box said that there are five elements which weaken the bonds of a capitalist society and propel individuals into committing crime. The first is secrecy, whether the individual can get away with the crime, the second is skills, most people are simply unable to commit crime as organised crime takes time, planning and knowledge. The third element is supply, even the most criminal must have someone to get any equipment off and sell any goods on to. The fourth requires the offender to be able to justify their actions, in the form of symbolic support, with the fifth relying on others to share similar criminal values to support and confirm the values that justify crime. This supports the ideas of subcultures and crime, as when gangs commit crime, due to the vast number they have many contacts in the criminal underworld, as well as having each other for support and common values. Overall, social control is a highly effective yet highly complex way of controlling a society and making them conform to the rules considered acceptable by the ruling classes. The idea of the fear of being seen and caught is what make many conform, which is suprising, as in a sense, we are being governed by fear and, in another way, pride. Social control plays a major, hidden role in everybodies lives, from school children who are told what to wear, when to eat and when to play, to office workers, who are told also when to work and when to eat, and there are sanctions for all, should we dare to step out of line and break any conventional rules. What is truly amazing is how many are blindfolded to this control, and they just accept it, it would be interesting to see what would happen should everyone disobey these rules, would we descend into chaos as and a state of anomie, or would we live as normal? However, we shall never know, we are too afraid of the consequences and therefore will conform, unless placed under tremendous stress and pressure. ...read more.

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