Social Control (and Deviant Behavior)

Scholarly Tools You Are Expected to Know How to Use

Introductory Materials

Mass of wide and varied examples (get students to pile sort and cluster?)

  • Point is to broaden our sense of what comes under the umbrella of social control. Things we all encounter every day. Obvious things and very non-obvious things. Trivial and non-trivial. Cases where solution is first, second, third person. Cases where the social control is compensation, punishment, reform, prevention, therapy, or conciliation. Cases where we are dealing with ethics, contracts, norms, rules, and laws. From interpersonal relationships to international relations (e.g. global warming).

Social Control and the Problem of Social Order

  • Point: social control is pretty much the most central idea/problem in the social sciences. Everyone is studying it. It's where the big policy mysteries are. It's where the stuff that matters happens. Stuff that's interesting and stuff that's consequential.
  • Hechter & Horne "The Problem of Social Order"
  • Gintis/Fehr experiment

Three views of human nature: good, bad, mixed

  • Looking back at the previous class, we carry forward a social scientific sense of what we mean by "good" and "bad" — basically "pro-social" (altruistic) or selfish (anti-social). We start by looking at the spectrum of possibilities when it comes to our answers to the question "what kind of a thing is a person?" We can start from the premise that people are good, or that they are bad, or that they are somewhere in between, either a mix, or with potential in either direction. Moving forward, we'll see that theories of control tend to implicitly embrace a model somewhere in this range of possibilities. We'll end up what we can call the "sociological model of (hu)man" which there is a social part and an individual part and make sure we understand that this model is compatible with or at least complementary to various other models (and we should show these — rational choice ones in particular).

Crime is normal, deviance is relative, social control is the thing

  • We have to interrupt our meditations on weeding out the bad among us with the concept of relativism and the idea that what is considered bad or deviant is relative and changeable over social space and time. We will distinguish mala prohibita from mala in se. And we'll grapple with Durkheim's idea that crime is normal and Coser's elaboration that suggests that deviance is in fact something that groups and societies need in order to flourish.
    • Durkheim
    • Erikson
    • Coser

The Sociology of Deviance

Born to be bad?

  • That said, the earliest work that comes under the banner of scientific criminology or psychology/sociology of mis-behavior was in the category we call "etiological" theories: essentially attempts to answer the question : what is wrong with people who break the rules? We examine these approaches from the perspective of today and find them almost primitive but similar logics and motivations underlie some contemporary efforts to identify the biological roots of bad behavior. We've learned to do better science over the last few centuries, but some urges are irresistable.

But why do they do it? Strain, Opportunity, Structures, Subcultures
Society creates deviants - strain, opportunity structure, subcultures

  • Although Durkheim wrote that crime was normal in the 1890s, most of the social science of crime, deviance, and related topics in the first half of the twentieth century was geared toward answering questions like "what makes them do it?" In particular, a lot of research and theorizing addressed questions of juvenile delinquency in America's growing and increasingly ethnically diverse cities. To be fair, it is an interesting question: if behavior varies around some average or norm, is it all just random or are there causes behind where a person ends up in the distribution? And, the work was useful insofar as it "rendered intelligible" many "apparently senseless and meaningless forms of aggressive delinquency" (Downes and Rock 1988, 137) and, eventually, seeing them as a solution to a problem rather than as a problem per se. Some of these ideas would later be parodied as "society made them do it."
    • Cohen
    • Cloward and Ohlin
    • Miller
    • Matza
    • Jack Katz
    • Elijah Anderson
    • Mills' Social Pathologists

A Slight Phenomenological Turn

  • The hallmark of the research mentioned above is the way it shifts our perspective from seeing deviance as the problem to seeing it as how people respond to problematic situations. Here we want to take that a step further and look at how social scientists can take the perspective of the "deviant" and see behavior "from the inside out," so to speak. We'll look at Sykes and Matza's discussion of "techniques of neutralization" that describes how rhetorical resources can reduce the purchase norms have on us, even as we have more or less fully internalized them. Jack Katz helps us see that "deviant" behavior actually requires a lot of things to go right. Paul Willis takes us inside a youth subculture to see how much that is labeled "delinquent" is a playing out of the larger drama of class conflict in which young people find themselves. Along the way we'll also meet the concept of the self-fulfilling prophecy and see how it is related to the reproduction of (dis)advantage.
    • Sykes and Matza Techniques of Neutralization
    • Katz : Ways of the Badass?
    • Mills Situated Actions… vocabulary of motive
    • Paul Willis
    • Self fulfilling prophecy

Making deviance - labeling, stigma, secondary, career,

Conflict, Fighting Back

    • Quinney and such?
    • Willis and the like?
    • Coming out all over?

The Sociology of Social Control

How Social Scientists Study Deviance

Every rule somebody's rule

  • Our earlier observation that definitions of deviance vary across social space and time raises the question: how do rules evolve? Are the rules that define "good" or "right" behavior simply represent what is "best for society"? Hopefully, our sociological intuitions make us skeptical of that proposition. Rules do not evolve all by themselves; they usually are the result of the work of "moral crusaders" or "moral entrepreneurs" and they often represent the outcomes of "symbolic politics" in which social groups contest rules because their relative status depends on whose cultural values are THE cultural values.

Crime as social control

  • This provocative essay by Donald Black is the first part of a complete turning on its head of the sociology of deviance. At first glance it makes a simple point: sometimes what we see as crime or deviance is actually individuals or groups "taking social control into their own hands," or, as criminologists and legal scholars sometimes call it: "self-help." But it raises a larger question for social science: under what conditions do people resort to methods of social control that are themselves proscribed by society? And this will lead us to our next topic which is social control as the dependent variable.

Social Control as Crime

  • How easily society slips. Prison experiments, etc.
    • Milgram, Zimbardo?

A Typology of Control

  • If social control is the dependent variable, then we need a scheme for describing how it varies. Donald Black provides a useful scheme in his article "Social Control as the Dependent Variable." We complement this with Robert Ellickson's description of "the system of control" to give ourselves a map of the the topography of control. We'll use this to arrange what we are studying.

Controlling Organizational Behavior

  • Although the issue is not new, the financial crisis of 2008 and the Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission decision by the US Supreme Court brought the question of the social control of corporate behavior to the attention of a new generation. In this section of the course we will borrow some ideas from the sociology of organizations, learn some history of the corporation as person in the US, and then look at a few specific cases of organizational behavior and attempts to control it. 
    • Stone, Christopher. Where the Law Ends.
    • Nace, Ted. Gangs of America.
    • Vaughn, Diane. Controlling Unlawful Organizational Behavior.
    • Vaughn, Diane. The Challenger Accident.
    • Ermann, M. David and Richard J. Lundman (eds.) Corporate and Governmental Deviance.

Design as Social Control

Medicalization and Social Control

Social Control and Apology

Money, Compensation and Deterrence

  1. Health Officials Brace For Fall Flu Season. 2009. NPR Talk of the Nation Science Friday
  2. Ariely, Dan : "We're All Predictably Irrational" @ EG2008[19:55]
  3. Ariely, Dan : "Why we think it's OK to cheat and steal (sometimes)" [18:23]
  4. Becker, H "Moral Entrepreneurs," pp. 147-164 in Outsiders or pp.43-50 in Clarke & Kelly via Google Books. There's also a summary HERE, and a not half-bad article on Moral entrepreneur in Wikipedia
  5. Best, J "Rhetoric in Claims-Making: Constructing the Missing Children Problem." Social Problems 34,2:101-21 (Digital Library)
  6. Bicchieri, Cristina. "Norms of Cooperation." Ethics 100, 4, 838-861.
  7. Downes, David M. Paul Elliott Rock Understanding deviance: a guide to the sociology of crime and rule-breaking (Google books, Intro and part of ch on sources of knowledge about deviance. Plus more…) AMAZON
  8. Erikson, Chapter 5 "Conclusion" Wayward Puritans
  9. Foucault. Michel Foucault On 'Disciplinary Society,' Part 1
  10. Foucault. Michel Foucault On 'Disciplinary Society,' Part 2
  11. Foucault. Spying on Children
  12. Garfinkel, Harold. "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies." American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 61, No. 5. (Mar., 1956), pp. 420-424. (JSTOR)
  13. Garfinkel H "Conditions of Successful Degradation Ceremonies, " American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 61, No. 5. (Mar., 1956), pp. 420-424 (JSTOR)
  14. Gibbs, Jack P. 1977. "Social Control, Deterrence, and Perspectives on Social Order" Social Forces Vol. 56, No. 2, Special Issue (Dec., 1977), pp. 408-423 (
  15. James, Frank . 2009. "Saudis To Use Thermal Scanners To Fight Swine Flu During Hajj" (July 29, 2009) NPR "Two Way" Blog
  16. Jencks, C. 1990. "Varieties of Altruism," pp. 53-67 in Jane Mansbridge (ed.) 1990. Beyond self-interest. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.
  17. Klapp, Orrin E. "Heroes, Villains and Fools, as Agents of Social Control," American Sociological Review, Vol. 19, No. 1. (Feb., 1954), pp. 56-62. (JSTOR)
  18. Meier, Robert F. "Perspectives on the Concept of Social Control." Annual Review of Sociology, Vol. 8. (1982), pp. 35-55.
  19. Neyland, Daniel. 2009. "Who's Who?: The Biometric Future and the Politics of Identity." European Journal of Criminology, vol. 6, no. 2, pp. 135-155, Mar 2009
  20. Radiolab Help! on self control or self mastery.
  21. Radiolab The Good Show on altruism and such
  22. Ross, L Social Control Through Deterrence: Drinking-and-Driving Laws Annual Review of Sociology Vol. 10. (1984), pp. 21-35 (JSTOR)
  23. Rule, James and Peter Brantley. 1992. "Computerized Surveillance in the Workplace: Forms and Distributions." Sociological Forum, Vol. 7, No. 3 (Sep., 1992), pp. 405-423.
  24. Sanford, Sarah & S Harris Ali. (2005). "The New Public Health Hegemony: Response to Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in Toronto." Social Theory & Health, 3(2), 105-125.
  25. Sudnow, David. 1965. "Normal Crimes: Sociological Features of the Penal Code in a Public Defender Office." Social Problems 12, 3. Pp. 255-275. (also JSTOR?)
  26. Teo,Peggy, Brenda S.A. Yeoh, and Shir Nee Ong. 2005. "SARS in Singapore: surveillance strategies in a globalising city." Health Policy Volume 72, Issue 3, June 2005, Pages 279-291
  27. Zhou, Rongrong and Soman, Dilip, "Consumers Waiting in Queues: The Role of First-order and Second-order Justice" (February 2, 2005).

Overcoming participatory omniscience. As social scientists we have to be careful about identifying with society. As members, we find certain kinds of activity objectionable or threatening or distasteful. Good enough. But as sociologists we are simply standing on the outside looking in and wondering whether anyone will notice (or have it called to their attention) and what they will do about it.