Social Control -- Spring 2012

Instructor : Dan Ryan
Lectures: Tu-Th 9:30-10:45am
Office Hours by Appointment

"One of the classic puzzles - perhaps the classic puzzle - of social theory is how society induces us to behave in ways that serve not our own interest, but the common interest of society." Jencks, "The Social Basis of Unselfishness".1

"The stuff of a civilization consists largely of its substantive norms." Ellickson, Order Without Law: How Neighbors Settle Disputes2

Thurs 19 Jan

Course Introduction — Humans, Selfishness, and Cooperation

No reading. Exercise.

  1. Requirements: Two along the way exams + final exam (~50%); research essay (~25%); assignments (~25%)
  2. Fill out our first day index card
  3. Take our Media Survey
Tues 24 Jan

How about us? What makes us "pro-social"?

  1. Public Goods Game

Homework (1) Public goods commentary; (2) Thoughts on papers, assignments, etc.

Thurs 26 Jan

What is there to Control? Models of Individual and Society

Sociological and non-sociological humans

Good, bad, or both?

The initial journalistic "readings" are not sociology or even social science per se though they draw on social science and involve interviews with scientists. They are intended to provoke — not so much for immediate discussion as for opening up some intellectual space for the rest of the course. Be forewarned that some of the stories or the "takes" of the journalists might be offensive — certainly many parts are disturbing. If, based on descriptions of any of the pieces (or, in a few places the journalist actually saying "some of the following…"), you think you'd rather not listen, that's fine. Also, note that most of the producers actively solicit feedback on the program website.

  1. Radiolab The Good Show on altruism and such. (~1 hour)
  2. TTBOOK Steven Pinker on "The Better Angels of Our Nature" (10:29)
  3. Radiolab The Bad Show on the question of evil in everyone. (~1 hour)

The next readings provide a rather selective tour of classic writings on self/society.  There's a "glass half full" way to see these: either they are about good humans having a selfish side or bad humans having an altruistic side. Wuthnow's essay asks directly: what is the place of altruism as a concept in sociological theory?  Keep an eye on a subtle meta-theme that shows up in several of these pieces: the way in which the the historical experience of evil motivates questions social science asks.

  1. Katha Upanishad section 3 (tr. S Beck). See also Wikipedia (1)
  2. Plato Phaedrus (246a - 254e). See also Wikipedia (1)
  3. Aristotle (Ethics) (1)
  4. Hobbes, T. (1588–1679) "Chapter XIII Of the Natural Condition of Mankind as Concerning Their Felicity and Misery" (2)
  5. Durkheim, E. 1912. "The Origin of Beliefs," from The Elementary Forms of the Religious Life. (4)
  6. Freud, S. "The Psychical Apparatus," from An Outline of Psycho-Analysis, Standard ed., Vol. 23 (4)
  7. Wuthnow, Robert. 1993. "Altruism and Sociological Theory." Social Service Review Vol. 67, No. 3, Altruism, pp. 344-357 (JSTOR) (13)

Modern Sources

These pieces are research reported just last year on evidence for pre-socialized infants having some sense what we might call "the social."

  1. Infants prefer a nasty moose if it punishes an unhelpful elephant
  2. Hamlin, Wynn, Bloom & Mahajan. 2011. How infants and toddlers react to antisocial others. PNAS
  3. Hamlin,J. Kiley, Karen Wynn & Paul Bloom Social evaluation by preverbal infants Nature 450, 557-559 (22 November 2007) | doi:10.1038/nature06288 SEE ALSO HARPERS FEB 2012?
Tues 31 Jan

The Search for the Born Criminal…
C. Lombroso is called the father of modern criminology. The ideas for which he is most well known are dismissed today, but the underlying logic of the trying to use physical indicators to predict rule breaking continues to this day. Rather than reading separate articles, we'll take advantage of a summary webpage and read a short piece on the concept of "atavism."

  1. Rice, Keith E. : n.d. Biological Theories of Crime (web page)
  2. Katie Lambert How Atavisms Work


  1. Healy, K. Sampling on the Dependent Variable, an issue here….
  2. Cohen, Patricia 2011. "Genetic Basis for Crime: A New Look." New York Times, June 19, 2011. (There is no “crime gene,” but researchers at the National Institute of Justice conference will consider looking for inherited traits that are linked to aggression and antisocial behaviors, which may lead to violent crime.)
  3. Goleman, Daniel. 1992. "Storm Brews On Whether Crime Has Roots in Genes." New York Times, September 15, 1992
  4. Yong, Ed. : 2010. "Dangerous DNA: The truth about the 'warrior gene'" New Scientist, April 10, 2010. (See also, Discover Magazine blog piece.)
  5. Friedland, Steven I. : n.d. "A Vision of the Future"

Homework: | Q45: Diagram/essay describing YOUR model of individual/society. Submit to Dropbox before end of week (5pm Friday)

How Sociology Thinks about Social Control and Deviance

Thurs Feb 2

1. Crime is normal and deviance is relative (notes, cards).

  1. Erikson, K. T. "Notes on the Sociology of Deviance" (DRL 12)
  2. Collins, R. 1982. "The Normalcy of Crime" in Sociological Insight: An Introduction to Nonobvious Sociology. (DRL 33)
  3. Wikipedia Forms of Relativism

Homework: Problem 43

Tues 7 Feb

2. Social environments create crime, deviance, and delinquency (notes, cards).

  1. Agnew, R A Revised Strain Theory of Delinquency Social Forces (1985) 64 (1): 151-167. doi: 10.1093/sf/64.1.151 (JSTOR Read 151-6, 161-4 (9pp))
  2. Matsueda, R L. "Differential Association Theory (WWW 5pp) (See also Wikipedia (~2)
  3. Travis Hirschi "Control Theory” (WWW ~2pp), see also Wikipedia (~2pp)
  4. Cohen, A. (See wikipedia (~2pp)
  5. Gresham M. Sykes and David Matza "Techniques of Neutralization: A Theory of Delinquency." American Sociological Review Vol. 22, No. 6 (Dec., 1957), pp. 664-670. (JSTOR 7pp) (see also Wikipedia)
Thurs 9 Feb

Respect (cards)

  1. Katz, J.
  2. Anderson, E. 1994. "The Code of the Streets, The Atlantic

Exam 1 Thursday 16 February

Tues 21 Feb

3. Social control can act as a deviance amplification system (W5) (notes, cards).

  • Labeling. Secondary deviance. Law as amplifier. Stigma. Deviant careers.
  1. Becker, H. S. 1963. "Outsiders" from Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. (DRL 18)
Thurs 23 Feb

4. Deviation from rules serves important functions for society (cards)

  1. Coser, Lewis A. "Some Functions of Deviant Behavior and Normative Flexibility." American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 68, No. 2. (Sep., 1962), pp. 172-181. (JSTOR 10)
  2. Robert K. Merton. 1938. "Social Structure and Anomie." American Sociological Review Vol. 3, No. 5 (Oct., 1938), pp. 672-682 (JSTOR 11)
  3. Kingsley Davis. 1975. "The Sociology of Prostitution." American Sociological Review Vol. 2, No. 5 (Oct., 1937), pp. 744-755 (JSTOR 11)
  4. Newman, D. M. Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life Page 18 (1)
  5. Critique of functionalism TBA
Tues 28 Feb

5. "Deviance" can be a form of conflict resolution and rebellion (cards)

  1. Coser, Lewis A. "Some Functions of Deviant Behavior and Normative Flexibility." American Journal of Sociology, Vol. 68, No. 2. (Sep., 1962), pp. 172-181. (JSTOR 10)
  2. Robert K. Merton. 1938. "Social Structure and Anomie." American Sociological Review Vol. 3, No. 5 (Oct., 1938), pp. 672-682 (JSTOR 11)
  3. Katz. J. 1988. "Ways of the Badass," from Seductions of Crime. (DRL 32pp)
  4. Paul Willis Interview
  5. Willis, P. 1981. Excerpt from Learning to Labor. (annotation)
  6. Lafer, Gordon. 2011. "Why Occupy Wall Street Has Left Washington Behind." The Nation, November 14, 2011
  7. John I. Kitsuse. 1980. "Coming Out All Over: Deviants and the Politics of Social Problems." Social Problems Vol. 28, No. 1 (Oct., 1980), pp. 1-13 (DRL) (annotation)
Thurs 1 Mar - Thurs 8 March

6. Every rule is somebody's rule: moral panics, moral crusades, and status politics (cards)

  1. H Becker "Moral Entrepreneurs," pp. 147-164 in Outsiders (DRL or GoogleBooks).
  2. Mary deYoung The devil goes to day care: McMartin and the making of a moral panic. Journal of American Culture Spring 1997; 20, 1 (Proquestor DRL)
  3. Roberto Hugh Potter and Lyndy A. Potter. 2001. "The internet, cyberporn, and sexual exploitation of children: Media moral panics and urban myths for middle-class parents?." Sexuality and Culture 5, Number 3, 31-48, DOI: 10.1007/s12119-001-1029-9 (NOTE: if link does not work, go to Mills Library>Electronic Resources>EbscoHost and search for the authors' namesebscohost) (alternative path)
  4. Craig Reinarman "The Social Construction of Drug Scares" (DRL)
  5. Gusfield, J. 1986. (1963) "Introduction" pp. 1-12 in Symbolic Crusade. Urbana: Univ Illinois Press. (DRL)
  6. Best, J. 1997. "Rhetoric in Claims-Making: Constructing the Missing Children Problem." Social Problems 34,2:101-21 (JSTOR) (annotation)

Homework 44

Tues 13 March SPARE

Exam 2 Thurs 15 March


Tues 27 March

7. Social control varies in predictable ways : Social control as a variable.

  1. R Ellickson, "The System of Social Control," pp 123-36 in Order Without Law (DRL, also here (larger file))
  2. D Black "Social Control as a Dependent Variable," pp. 1-26 (be sure to read the footnotes which contain lots of good examples) (DRL)
  3. Andenaes, J 1974. "General Prevention - Illusion or Reality?" from Punishment and Deterrence.
  4. Deterrence (legal) in Wikipedia
  5. Sherman, L and R Berk. 1984. "The Specific Deterrent Effects of Arrest for Domestic Assault ASR :261-271 (JSTOR)
  6. Donohue, John and Justin Wolfers. 2006. The Death Penalty: No Evidence for Deterrence," The Economists' Voice, April 2006

Homework 61, 62

Tues 3 April - doing background research on corporate personhood
Thurs 5 April
Tues 10 April
Thurs 12 April

CITIZENS UNITED V. FEDERAL ELECTION COMMISSION (DOCKET NO. 08-205) Summary by Cornell University Law School

9. Organizations present special problems.


  1. Nace, Ted. 2003. Gangs of America. San Francisco: Berrett-Koehler Publishers (1-57675-260-7)
  2. Stone, Christopher. Selection from Where the Law Ends. (DRL, Annotation)
  3. Vaughn, Diane. "Introduction" (DRL) to /Controlling Unlawful Organizational Behavior,// other selections to be determined.
  4. Charles Ferguson 2011. "Inside Job" (outside of class viewings to be arranged) Sony Pictures Classics produced by Audrey Marrs; produced, written & directed by Charles Ferguson; co-written by Chad Beck & Adam Bolt. (Mills)

Tuesday 17 April: Subgroups work on collaboration
Thursday 19 April: Guest speaker — Workshop on Citizen's United.

Homework 00

Tues 20 April April

10. The Precariousness of Social Control

  1. Milgram
  2. Zimbardo
Tues-Thurs 24/26 April

Contemporary Theory and Research : Norms, Neurons, and Social Science

  • Interdisciplinary Approaches: Law and society, Law and Economics, Neuroeconomics; Primates and Neurons; Norms and Contemporary Social Science; Nudge and Design and Crowdsourcing

Final Exam

What Will We Learn?

I hope that you will learn many things, improve skills you already have, make connections between material encounted here and material you have encountered in other parts of your education or life in general, and lay down some placeholders and latent connections that you will come to appreciate later in your sociological training.&nbsp; The goal is multiple learning opportunities, some of which will work for some participants, others for others.&nbsp; Basic big ideas of the course:<br>

  1. Deviance is relative;
  2. crime is normal;
  3. conflict is a form of sociation;
  4. social control is a dependent variable, or, there are many ways to resolve disputes and coordinate behavior;
  5. rules and social control are political;
  6. norms matter;
  7. group boundaries, rules, and identity are all the same thing;
  8. control is a central human concern and has been for a long.

That said, the College and its Accredidation Agency believe education happens best when what you will learn in a course like this can be matched up to a set of overarching learning goals. And so, here is what you are promised, if you work hard and successfully complete this course.

College Learning Goal How this will be evidenced in this course
Think critically. Assess evidence and employ logic to answer questions.
Push the traditional boundaries of their disciplines Use a mix of the analytical approaches of economics (individualist) and sociology (collective) to describe the world
Consider ways to effect thoughtful changes in a global, multicultural society. Talk/write about real world problems in a manner that is neither dogmatic nor ideological, but that is, instead, informed by analytical and realist pragmatism
Departmental Learning Goal How this will be evidenced in this course
Understand what it means to be a human being in different kinds of societies and cultures.
Understand and value diversity.
The Sociological mindset: appreciation of socio-cultural relativism, experience in and/or knowledge of contexts other than one's own, recognition of the social and the cultural as real.
Provide examples of social rules being relative to places and times.
The fields: History and shape of the field, its conceptual vocabulary and mental tools, race, class and gender as dimensions of inequality. Demonstrate progressively increasing level of sophistication in utilization of sociological concepts, terms, etc.
What we know about the world: substantive knowledge about world, core institutions, and social scientific findings. Describe specific social control institutions
Attitudes and skills of empirical research: empiricism as a value, methods of empirical research, and capacity to find what is already known. Distinguish questions that are open to empirical investigation from those which are theoretical and these from those that are ethical/moral. Demonstrate intellectual reflex of "how to find out" or "model it"
Communication: attitudes that value clear, coherent, stylistically correct writing and speaking, knowledge of scholarly communication conventions , and skill to speak and write well. Write and speak clearly and correctly according to general academic and discipline specific standards.

Course Policies

Attendance As a graduate class, 100% attendance is expected. You are responsible for obtaining from classmates or other sources any materials missed because of absences. Do not contact the instructor with valid excuses. Attendance at lab, in particular, is expected to be 100%; missed labs may result in final grade attenuation at instructor's discretion.

Class Preparation and Assignments You are expected to read, work with, and learn from assigned readings BEFORE the class in which they will be discussed. Do not expect lectures and notes you might take during them to suffice for learning the material. Written assignments are due when they are due without exception. Expect zero credit and zero feedback on any work not submitted by deadlines. Better incorrect and incomplete but on time. Incorrect or incomplete work should still be presented in as professional a manner as possible.

Grading Policy

Your grade for this course will be based on 1) your ability to understand and analyze the various topics and perspectives presented in the readings and during class, and 2) to communicate in writing effectively and with sophistication. Failure to complete all course assignments ON TIME may result in a failing grade. In general, no late papers or make-up work will be permitted. If there is an emergency, an exception to the late policy may be made. In this case, late assignments may be accepted with a grade deduction per day they are late (extreme emergencies excepted).

How will my work be evaluated and graded?

The evaluated work for this course will consist of problem sets, mid-semester exams, and a final exam.

Labs/Problem Sets

There will be problem sets covering material from a section of the course and employing techniques introduced. Grading is based on the degree to which the artifact demonstrates skill competence and professional presentation.

A Excellent exceptionally good; extremely meritorious; superior; of the highest quality; very good of its kind ; eminently good
A- Very Good
B+ Good Having the qualities that are desirable in a particular thing; better than average or satisfactory
B Adequate Satisfies the requirements of the task, acceptable
B- Unsatisfactoryish Falls distinctly short of adequate practice
C Unsatisfactory Not acceptable as demonstration of competence
D Dastardly and Despicable Strongly suggestive competence has not been acquired yet
F Failure Demonstrative of competence nonacquisition


Please keep in mind that grades are not measures of effort, stress, time, or other personally variable factors. They represent an assessment of competence demonstrated in the artifact of problem solutions or answers on an exam.

Final course grades will be translations of semester achievement into the conventional scale:

A = Excellent. The work

  1. consistently demonstrated competence in skills under consideration,
  2. results essentially correct; the final product
  3. communicated clearly what was done, how, and why, and is presented in a
  4. professional manner.

B = Satisfactory. Fundamentally sound as far as demonstration of competence, but falls short on one or more of above criteria.

B- = Weak Satisfactory. Uneven performance or consistently middling performance with significant gaps.

C,D = Unsatisfactory. Unacceptably low achievement.

Keep in mind that the purpose of these exercises is two-fold. First, you are practicing a skill. Second, you are using the exercise as an opportunity to demonstrate your competence and skill.

With the latter in mind you should shift from thinking of it in terms of "what is required?" and "what does the teacher want?" to "what have I learned how to do and how can I demonstrate it?" Everything you submit should be complete and stand on its own as a document, and, as much as is possible at a given point in time, be something one could show around to say "look what I can do."

NEVER submit "naked" answers that presume that some evaluator knows what the question was. Never omit your reasoning. Never assume that the reader, knows something and doesn't need to read it again.


AccessibilityTo request academic accommodations due to a disability, students should contact Services for Students with Disabilities in the Cowell Building. If you have a letter indicating you have a disability which requires academic accommodations, please present the letter to me so that I will be able to provide the accommodations that you need in this class.