Sociology Social Control
by
Jason Carmichael
  • LAST MODIFIED: 26 June 2012
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0048

Introduction

Social control is the study of the mechanisms, in the form of patterns of pressure, through which society maintains social order and cohesion. These mechanisms establish and enforce a standard of behavior for members of a society and include a variety of components, such as shame, coercion, force, restraint, and persuasion. Social control is exercised through individuals and institutions, ranging from the family, to peers, and to organizations such as the state, religious organizations, schools, and the workplace. Regardless of its source, the goal of social control is to maintain conformity to established norms and rules. Social control is typically employed by group members in response to anyone it considers deviant, problematic, threatening, or undesirable, with the goal of ensuring conformity. It is a broad subfield of sociology that involves criminologists, political sociologists, and those interested in the sociology of law and punishment, as well as scholars from a variety of disciplines, including philosophy, anthropology, political science, economics, and law. The subfield includes both macro and micro components. Those concerned with macro forces of social control have focused primarily on the goals and effectiveness of the formal mechanisms, such as the police, law, and punishment, employed to maintain order. Scholars interested in the macro aspects tend to examine questions related to the role that elites, the state, and other political and religious institutions have on establishing the norms and rules that people are governed by. Researchers focusing on the micro, on the other hand, tend to be more focused on the role that socialization and peer influence have on placing limits on human action. The origins of the discussions of social control can be traced back to the writings of such social philosophers as John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau, as well as classic social theorists such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber, among others. Today, social-control researchers continue to design and refine our understanding of social order and how it is maintained as well as the conditions under which it fails to do so.

Foundational Works

Social philosophers, as seen in Hobbes 2011, Rousseau 2003, and Beccaria 1963, have played an important role in the development of social control, a subfield of sociology. The modern origins of the writings on social control can be traced to some of the pillars of sociology, including Karl Marx and Emile Durkheim. Durkheim 1947 is a contribution to the area of social control and the maintenance of social order that is particularly important. The writings established the foundation of much of modern social-control theory. Marx and Engels 1978 is another significant contribution to the subfield, with particular attention paid to how class domination is at the base of social-control efforts. Contemporary works have borrowed from these classical writings but have left their own indelible mark on the subfield of social control. Mead 1925 first introduced other social-science disciplines outside of sociology into the modern debate, but perhaps the most profound statement on social control from a sociological perspective is Pound 1996. In his seminal work in the field, Social Control through Law (New Brunswick, NJ, and London: Transaction, 2006), Pound articulates rather-precise definitions of social control and the mechanisms and motivations for achieving it. Another seminal piece is Rusche and Kirchheimer 2007. These texts show that levels of punishment are a function of structural factors, particularly rates of unemployment. Recently, Foucault 1977 has dominated the discourse surrounding social control.

  • Beccaria, Cesare. 1963. On crimes and punishments. Translated by Henry Paolucci. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

    The seminal text that has shaped all modern criminal-justice systems around the world. Establishes classical deterrence theory by arguing that social control can be achieved by modifying the criminal code. Beccaria maintains that humans will avoid criminal behavior if the cost is too high. Originally published in 1764.

    Find this resource:

    • Durkheim, Emile. 1947. The division of labor in society. Translated by George Simpson. New York: Free Press.

      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

      In this book, Durkheim argues that crime is normal because it exists in every society. Given this, he argues that the goal of punishment cannot be to cure it. He claims that formal punishment is a symbolic mechanism used to galvanize public sentiment. He also maintains that modern societies will increasingly utilize restitutive sanctions over punitive ones. Originally published in 1893.

      Find this resource:

      • Foucault, Michel. 1977. Discipline and punish: The birth of the prison. New York: Pantheon.

        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

        A historical, philosophical, and theoretical account of punishment. Foucault outlines his theory of power/knowledge and argues that changes in punitive policies are merely an attempt by the state to increase its domination over individuals in society.

        Find this resource:

        • Hobbes, Thomas. 2011. Leviathan: Parts I and II. Peterborough, ON: Broadview.

          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

          In Leviathan, Hobbes outlines his doctrine of the state and social contract theory. Famously, Hobbes argues that without a strong state, society would consist of “war of all against all.” He suggests social order is maintained by the state through its control over civil and military power. Originally published in 1651.

          Find this resource:

          • Marx, Karl, and Friedrich Engels. 1978. The Marx-Engels reader. 2d ed. Translated and compiled by Robert Tucker. New York: Norton.

            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

            The Marx-Engels Reader, compiled by Tucker, includes writings by Friedrich Engels and is an excellent source of Marx’s key writings. Important sections include “The Communist Manifesto” (pp. 469–501), “The German Ideology” (pp. 146–203), and “The Eighteenth Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte” (pp. 594–618). These works were originally published between 1844 and 1883.

            Find this resource:

            • Mead, George Herbert. 1925. The genesis of the self and social control. International Journal of Ethics 35.3 (April): 251–277.

              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

              Borrowing from psychology and biology, Mead outlines the origins of social control and the interplay between social control and self-control. Specifically, Mead provides substantial detail on the creation and maintenance of consciousness, which he describes as the internalization of normative behavior relative to others’ behavior, and explains how this internalization modifies social conduct. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

              Find this resource:

              • Pound, Roscoe. 1996. Social control through law. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                In this seminal work, Pound defines social order and the law and outlines the ways in which the two operate together to enforce normative expectations of behavior. Originally published in 1942.

                Find this resource:

                • Rousseau, Jean-Jacques. 2003. On the social contract. Translated by G. D. H. Cole. Mineola, NY: Dover.

                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                  Rousseau’s classical statement on social order and politics. Originally published in 1944.

                  Find this resource:

                  • Rusche, Georg, and Otto Kirchheimer. 2007. Punishment and social structure. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                    Seminal work that examines the history of punishment through a critical lens. Authors argue that levels of punishment are a function of the surplus value of labor. They maintain that when unemployment is high, punishment levels will be high.

                    Find this resource:

                    Textbooks

                    Several textbooks provide an introduction for beginning students in the subfield of social control. All these texts cover similar issues related to social control but differ in their emphasis. Basic concepts and contemporary debates in the field are covered in recent textbooks, including Alsworth and Gross 2009, Chriss 2007, and Innes 2003. The authors of Cohen 1985 and Garland 1990 are interested primarily in theoretical issues related to social control and the maintenance of social order.

                    • Alsworth, Edward Ross, and Matthias Gross. 2009. Social control: A survey of the foundations of order. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                      This text is written primarily for undergraduate students and outlines the role of social control in maintaining the social order and how the social domination of individuals is achieved.

                      Find this resource:

                      • Chriss, James J. 2007. Social control: An introduction. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                        This is an introductory text for undergraduate students interested in social control. Using contemporary examples, the text outlines how social control is maintained in advanced societies.

                        Find this resource:

                        • Cohen, Stanley. 1985. Visions of social control: Crime, punishment, and classification. Cambridge, UK: Polity.

                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                          Despite specifically stating that the book does not aim to provide a comprehensive overview of the field, Cohen’s text provides perhaps the most succinct formal statement on social control to date. He skillfully outlines the state of knowledge, theoretical debates, and controversies about the subject.

                          Find this resource:

                          • Garland, David. 1990. Punishment and modern society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                            Perhaps the most accessible and comprehensive text on the theoretical underpinnings of social control. Garland outlines and critiques the major theoretical arguments in the field, including those advanced by Durkheim, Weber, Marx, and Foucault. Accessible reading for advanced undergraduates and graduate students.

                            Find this resource:

                            • Innes, Martin. 2003. Understanding social control: Deviance, crime and social order. Maidenhead, UK: Open University Press.

                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                              An introductory text that provides a clear discussion of the concepts and theories of social control. Includes a contemporary discussion of changes in policing, incarceration, and surveillance.

                              Find this resource:

                              Handbooks and Edited Volumes

                              A number of handbooks and edited volumes provide thorough introductions to the sociology subfield of social control. Each contains a wide range of topics discussed by leading scholars in the field but has a somewhat different focus. More-general discussions of the field can be found both in Blomberg and Cohen 2003 and Weitzer 2001. Students and scholars interested in social control from a more theoretical angle should consider Duff and Garland 1995, an edited volume. Other volumes are more focused on empirical research related to social control and race (Hawkins 1995, Liska 1992). Stenson and Cowell 1998 brings together a set of chapters that focus on the relationship between political ideology and social- control efforts.

                              • Blomberg, Thomas G., and Stanley Cohen, eds. 2003. Punishment and social control. 2d ed. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.

                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                A wide array of chapters related to punishment and social control, from leading scholars in the field. Particular attention is given to trends of mass incarceration.

                                Find this resource:

                                • Duff, Antony R., and David Garland, eds. 1995. A reader on punishment. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                  A well-designed volume with contributions from recognized scholars in the field. Chapters focus primarily on theoretical arguments related to why, who, and how we punish.

                                  Find this resource:

                                  • Hawkins, Darnell F., ed. 1995. Ethnicity, race and crime: Perspectives across time and place. Albany: State University of New York Press.

                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                    Students of social control will appreciate this volume for its well-crafted chapters linking race and ethnicity to punishment and social control.

                                    Find this resource:

                                    • Liska, Allen E., ed. 1992. Social threat and social control. Albany: State University of New York Press.

                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                      The volume includes contributions from leading scholars and focuses heavily on racial and ethnic threats. Includes chapters on policing, incarceration, and crime, from a critical perspective.

                                      Find this resource:

                                      • Stenson, Kevin, and David Cowell, eds. 1998. The politics of crime control. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                        This edited volume is unique in its concentration on the role of political ideology in the punitive strategies employed in several countries.

                                        Find this resource:

                                        • Weitzer, Ronald, ed. 2001. Deviance and social control: A reader. New York and London: McGraw-Hill.

                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                          Provides a strong set of introductory readings both on the creation of deviance and the mechanisms for controlling it. Chapters cover theoretical and empirical work.

                                          Find this resource:

                                          Data Sources

                                          Vast data sets on crime and punishment can be used to assess formal social-control efforts across US and cross-national jurisdictions. Numerous data sets related to crime and punishment in the United States and internationally are included on data-archive sources, which, broadly speaking, are the most-accessible, wide-ranging sources for crime statistics. More-specialized data sets are also available for those interested in a more detailed picture of crime, policing, sentencing, or incarceration.

                                          Data-Archive Sources

                                          More-general data archives with data sets related to crime and social control can be found both at the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research hosted by University of Michigan and the Bureau of Justice Statistics Data Archive (BJS).

                                          Crime

                                          Several major data sources are available that provide indicators of crime. For data on aggregate crime in the United States, consider the FBI’s Uniform Crime Reports, or if you are interested in incident-level information on crimes in the United States, look at the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention’s Easy Access to the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reports: 1980–2009 or the National Incident-Based Reporting Service (NIBRS). International crime figures can be obtained using the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research’s International Crime Victimization Survey (ICVS), 1989–2000, hosted by University of Michigan.

                                          Policing

                                          Data on police in the United States can be found either in the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies or Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics (LEMAS), both of which are compiled by the BJS. The strength of the census is that it has full coverage of US police departments. Its weakness is that it is administered only every four years. LEMAS includes data only on larger US police departments but provides much more detailed information on police departments than the Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies.

                                          • Census of State and Local Law Enforcement Agencies. Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                            Provides data on all state and local law enforcement agencies across the United States. Data collected include the number of sworn and civilian personnel by state and type of agency, as well as the functions performed by each agency for every four years since 1992. Counts of sworn law enforcement officers can also be found in the Uniform Crime Reports (UCR), cited under Crime.

                                            Find this resource:

                                            • Law Enforcement Management and Administrative Statistics. Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Statistics.

                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                              LEMAS collects data from over three thousand state and local law enforcement agencies in the United States, including those that employ one hundred or more sworn officers and a nationally representative sample of smaller agencies. Data include operating expenditures, officer salaries, demographic characteristics of officers, weapons policies, education and training requirements, special units, and community policing activities. Conducted every 3–4 years since 1987.

                                              Find this resource:

                                              Sentencing

                                              Data on sentencing outcomes in the United States are difficult to obtain. One of the few widely available data sets that exists offering complete statistics is the Pennsylvania Sentencing Data, 1998, featured on the Inter-University Consortium for Political and Social Research’s website hosted by the University of Michigan. Data on all individuals sentenced to prison in federal courts are also available from the site’s Monitoring of Federal Criminal Sentence, 2003. This data set is comprehensive and extraordinarily detailed, allowing for detailed analyses.

                                              Jails and Prison

                                              Scholars interested in examining patterns of incarceration in the United States can look at the Annual Survey of Jails or the National Correction Reporting Program (NCPR). The survey of jails provides detailed information on individuals sentenced to jail in each US state over a large time span. The NCPR provides detailed longitudinal data on all prisoners admitted to US prisons. For international incarceration figures, see the United Nations Surveys of Crime Trends and Operations of Criminal Justice Systems Series, Waves 1–10, 1970–2006.

                                              Journals

                                              Scholarly work on social control can be found in numerous journals spanning multiple disciplines. Within American sociology, the literature on social control is published in the major general sociology journals as well as specialized journals associated with crime and criminal justice, including Criminology, Punishment and Society, Journal of Criminal Justice: An International Journal, Justice Quarterly, Law & Society Review, and American Journal of Criminal Justice. A large number of journals outside the United States focus on issues related to international social control, including Howard Journal of Criminal Justice, the British Journal of Criminology: An International Review of Crime and Society, and the International Criminal Justice Review.

                                              Informal Social Control

                                              The questions central to the subfield of social control can be broadly broken down into those that examine informal social-control mechanisms and those that focus on formal social control. Theorists of informal social control tend to focus on microprocesses that lead to normative behavior, including socialization by family, friends, peers, and the media. A substantial stream of research in informal control has examined the influence that the fear of shame and stigma has on human action. Leading works in the area include Goffman 1986, Goffman 2007, Braithwaite 1989, and Falk 2001. Another stream of informal social control has looked at ways the community can and, under which circumstances, cannot exercise influence over members (Carr 2003, Silver and Miller 2004, Warner and Rountree 1997). Important theoretical work has also linked self-control (internalization of normative behavior) with the socialization process of early childhood. Gottfredson and Hirschi 1990 makes theoretical claims that poor parenting in early childhood is linked to all forms of nonnormative behavior.

                                              • Braithwaite, John. 1989. Crime, shame and reintegration. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                This book suggests that the key to why some societies produce greater social control is the social process of shaming. Braithwaite maintains that when shaming is done within a cultural context of respect for the offender, it can be extraordinarily powerful, efficient, and a just form of social control.

                                                Find this resource:

                                                • Carr, Patrick J. 2003. The new parochialism: The implications of the Beltway case for arguments concerning informal social control. American Journal of Sociology 108.6 (May): 1249–1291.

                                                  DOI: 10.1086/377517Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                  An ethnographic case study of the mechanisms used to maintain social control. Findings suggest an interplay between the patriarchal and public levels of control. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                  Find this resource:

                                                  • Falk, Gerhard. 2001. Stigma: How we treat outsiders. Amherst, NY: Prometheus.

                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                    Falk looks at how stigma affects the behavior of a wide range of minority group members, including women, gays and lesbians, prostitutes, overweight people, single people, Native Americans, African Americans, and others.

                                                    Find this resource:

                                                    • Goffman, Erving. 1986. Stigma: Notes on the management of spoiled identity. Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin.

                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                      In Stigma, Goffman defines and articulates the role that stigmatization (or the fear of being stigmatized) plays in controlling and shaping human behavior.

                                                      Find this resource:

                                                      • Goffman, Erving. 2007. Asylums: Essays on the social situation of mental patients and other inmates. New Brunswick, NJ: Aldine Transaction.

                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                        Examines the institutionalization of individuals and the stigmatization of being mentally ill. Goffman discusses how incarceration is an extreme form of a total institution that has the capacity to monitor and control behavior continuously and completely.

                                                        Find this resource:

                                                        • Gottfredson, Michael R., and Travis Hirschi. 1990. A general theory of crime. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                          Gottfredson and Hirschi bridge the gap between psychology and sociology, with their theory that crime, deviance, and risky behavior are all produced by a similar limitation in self-control. They argue that low levels of self-control are a result of poor parenting during early childhood.

                                                          Find this resource:

                                                          • Silver, Eric, and Lisa L. Miller. 2004. Sources of informal social control in Chicago neighborhoods. Criminology 42.3 (August): 551–583.

                                                            DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2004.tb00529.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                            Silver and Miller explore why young people in disadvantaged neighborhoods experience lower levels of informal social control. Using a large-scale survey in the United States, they find that satisfaction with police mediated a substantial portion of the association between informal social control and neighborhood levels of concentrated disadvantage and immigrant concentration. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                            Find this resource:

                                                            • Warner, Barbara D., and Pamela Wilcox Rountree. 1997. Local social ties in a community and crime model: Questioning the systemic nature of informal social control. Social Problems 44.4 (November): 520–536.

                                                              DOI: 10.1525/sp.1997.44.4.03x0235aSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                              Investigates the increasing impact that disorder produces in a neighborhood, resulting in undesireable activities such as crime. Argues that disorganized neighborhoods have difficulty providing informal social control because conditions in these neighborhoods undermine social ties. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                              Find this resource:

                                                              Formal Social Control

                                                              A substantial body of research within sociology has focused on the influence that formal mechanisms of social control have on maintaining social order. Formal social-control mechanisms are those employed by the state, such as the legal structure, policing, courts, and correctional institutions. Legal scholars and those specializing in the sociology of law have examined the role that the law plays in maintaining a stable social order. Criminal-justice scholars have focused more directly on control efforts such as policing, sentencing, and incarceration. Sociologists interested in formal social control have paid particular attention to the role that politics and religion have on formal sanctions, and the impact that race/ethnicity and gender have on the use of formal social control. A relatively small body of work has also explored the state’s efforts to control corporate elite crime.

                                                              Law

                                                              A number of scholars in the sociology of law have examined the role the legal order plays in maintaining the social order (Black 1989, Black 2010, Sutton 2001, Tyler 1992)

                                                              • Black, Donald. 1989. Sociological justice. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                Black is arguably the most well-known scholar of social control today. In this book, the author outlines his understanding of social control, with a particular focus on legal decision making and the role that status and power play in determining legal outcomes. Black spends a significant amount of time discussing how and why the victim/offender dyad is important in sentencing outcomes.

                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                • Black, Donald. 2010. The behavior of law. Bingley, UK: Emerald.

                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                  In this early work, Black articulates a set of testable hypotheses about the likelihood and level of legal sanctions. This book has generated dozens of studies designed to test Black’s hypotheses. Mixed support has been found.

                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                  • Sutton, John R. 2001. Law/society: Origins, interactions, and change. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                    This important text provides a thorough summation and critique of the modern founders of the sociology of the law, including Durkheim, Marx, and Weber.

                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                    • Tyler, Tom R. 1992. Why people obey the law. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                      The book attempts to explain why individuals comply with rules and laws. In particular, Tyler attempts to understand whether people obey the law primarily because they have something to gain or because they agree with it or fear punishment. Results shows that compliance is largely a function of a law’s perceived legitimacy but not because an individual fears punishment.

                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                      Police Strength

                                                                      A number of studies have analyzed the link between the police and social control. A group of scholars have based their research on the assumption that the police are the state’s primary agents of social control. To better understand the role of police in society, researchers have examined variations in the size of police departments (Kent and Jacobs 2005; Liska, et al. 1981; Pager 2008; Stucky 2005).

                                                                      • Kent, Stephanie L., and David Jacobs. 2005. Minority threat and police strength from 1980 to 2000: A fixed-effects analysis of nonlinear and interactive effects in large U.S. cities. Criminology 43.3 (August): 731–758.

                                                                        DOI: 10.1111/j.0011-1348.2005.00022.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                        Authors use critical theory to assess variation in police strength across the United States over two decades. Results suggest that, after controlling for differences in crime, cities with fewer blacks have fewer police but cities where blacks are highly segregated have more officers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                        • Liska, Allen E., Joseph J. Lawrence, and Michael Benson. 1981. Perspectives on the legal order: The capacity for social control. American Journal of Sociology 87.2 (September): 413–426.

                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/227465Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                          The research analyzes the size of police forces across the United States, with a particular focus on social threat explanations. Results support there being larger police forces in places where there are greater expectations of threat. Specifically, the article finds that cities with the most African Americans have more police officers. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                          • Pager, Devah. 2008. The Republican ideal? National minorities and the criminal justice system in contemporary France. Punishment and Society 10.4 (October): 375–400.

                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/1462474508095317Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                            Examines how France has modified its police strength to respond to perceived levels of disorder and delinquency in ethnic neighborhoods. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                            • Stucky, Thomas D. 2005. Local politics and police strength. Justice Quarterly 22.2 (June): 139–169.

                                                                              DOI: 10.1080/07418820500088739Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                              Considers the local political context in US cities to explain why the size of police departments varies across US states. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                              Police Violence

                                                                              Other scholars have gone beyond the mere size of the police force to examine variations in the use of force by police officers. These studies tend to assume that violence by the police is a reflection of the need for the state to maintain order with the use of more-violent (potentially repressive) measures. Scholars in this area have analyzed not just why police violence is more likely in some jurisdictions over others, but also which members of society may be more likely to be subject to police violence (Chevigny 1995, Fyfe 1988, Holmes 2000, Jacobs and O’Brien 1998, Skolnick and Fyfe 1993, Terrill and Reisig 2003).

                                                                              • Chevigny, Paul. 1995. Edge of the knife: Police violence in the Americas. New York: New Press.

                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                Examines police violence in the United States and Latin America. Explores situations under which police are likely to use force to maintain order.

                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                • Fyfe, James J. 1988. Police use of deadly force: Research and reform. Justice Quarterly 5.2: 165–205.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1080/07418828800089691Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  In this study, Fyfe examines the use of force by officers, as well as the influence that both internal police-department policy changes and legislative changes have on police violence. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                  • Holmes, Malcolm D. 2000. Minority threat and police brutality: Determinants of civil rights criminal complaints in U.S. municipalities. Criminology 38.2 (May): 343–368.

                                                                                    DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2000.tb00893.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                    Tests conflict theory’s ability to predict the number of complaints of police officers’ excessive use of force across US cities. Findings suggest that minority population size is related to the number of complaints. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                    • Jacobs, David, and Robert M. O’Brien. 1998. The determinants of deadly force: A structural analysis of police violence. American Journal of Sociology 103.4 (January): 837–862.

                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/231291Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                      The article explores structural determinants of police killings across US cities, with a focus on political accounts. Results suggest that cities with the most blacks have more police killings. They also find that cities with a black mayor have significantly fewer police killings. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                      • Skolnick, H. Jerome, and James J. Fyfe. 1993. Above the law: Police and the excessive use of force. New York: Free Press.

                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                        Perhaps the most comprehensive look available at police violence in the United States. A detailed examination of police violence and of policy reforms that may reduce the use of force by officers in the field.

                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                        • Terrill, William, and Michael D. Reisig. 2003. Neighborhood context and police use of force. Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency 40.3 (August): 291–321.

                                                                                          DOI: 10.1177/0022427803253800Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                          Examines the role that neighborhood context plays in police use of force. The authors find that police officers are significantly more likely to use higher levels of force in disadvantaged neighborhoods and those with higher homicide rates, based upon analogous situational factors and officer-based determinants. Also finds that the effect of the suspect’s race is mediated by neighborhood context. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                          Sentencing

                                                                                          Scholars of social control have spent a considerable amount of time developing the understanding of the role that formal court sanctions play in maintaining social control. Specifically, voluminous research has explored variations in sentencing outcomes. In particular, these studies have analyzed racial/ethnic differences in sentencing outcomes, and the role that other extralegal factors may play in the outcomes. Among the most important of these are Morris and Tonry 1991, Tonry 1998, and Sorensen and Stemen 2002.

                                                                                          • Morris, Norval, and Michael Tonry. 1991. Between prison and probation: Intermediate punishments in a rational sentencing system. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                            An insightful book that exposes the problems of current criminal-justice policies in the United States. The text also introduces alternatives to the current policies.

                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                            • Sorensen, Jon, and Don Stemen. 2002. The effect of state sentencing policies on incarceration rates. Crime and Delinquency 48.3 (July): 456–475.

                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                              This article explores the relationship between sentencing policies and incarceration rates, admission rates, and sentence length across the United States in the 1990s. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                              • Tonry, Michael. 1998. Sentencing matters. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Tonry discusses the sentencing reform that has taken place over the last several decades in the United States and considers whether the increased incarceration rates that have resulted have had an impact on crime.

                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                Punishment

                                                                                                Another important line of research in social control examines punishment in modern society. Studies have examined punishment from a variety of angles, including a historical viewpoint (Ignatieff 1978, Rothman 2002), a cross-national perspective (Savelsberg 1994, Whitman 2005), and close observations of statistics and policies in the United States (Greenberg and West 2001, Meier and Johnson 1977).

                                                                                                • Greenberg, David F., and Valerie West. 2001. State prison populations and their growth, 1971–1991. Criminology 39.3 (August): 615–654.

                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.2001.tb00935.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                  Examines differences in imprisonment rates across US states, with an emphasis on cultural differences and political arrangements. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                  • Ignatieff, Michael. 1978. A just measure of pain: The penitentiary in the industrial revolution, 1750–1850. London: Penguin.

                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                    An impressive historical account of the origins of the penitentiary system in the United Kingdom and America, with a focus on the ideological and religious underpinnings of the evolution in punishment.

                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                    • Meier, Robert F., and Weldon T. Johnson. 1977. Deterrence as social control: The legal and extralegal production of conformity. American Sociological Review 42.2 (April): 292–304.

                                                                                                      DOI: 10.2307/2094606Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                      Examines the deterrent effect of legal sanctions and their role in producing conformity with normative behavior. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                      • Rothman, David. 2002. Conscience and convenience: The asylum and its alternatives in progressive America. 2d ed. New York: Aldine de Gruyter.

                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                        This text examines progressive thought and its role in shaping punitive policies in the United States, with a detailed discussion of how and why progressive ideas failed to maintain their hold on the public and politicians.

                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                        • Savelsberg, Joachim J. 1994. Knowledge, domination, and criminal punishment. American Journal of Sociology 99.4 (January): 911–943.

                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1086/230367Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                          Cross-national study of punishment. Examines the legalistic, functionalist, and Marxist perspectives of punishment and the practicality of employing each across different countries. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                          • Whitman, James Q. 2005. Harsh justice: Criminal punishment and the widening divide between America and Europe. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195182606.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                            Comparative text examining the increasing gap between the types of punishment distributed for criminal activity in the United States relative to other liberal democracies in western Europe. Looks at changes in culture and politics, and at other historical shifts that may account for the widening gap.

                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                            Capital Punishment

                                                                                                            The threat of the ultimate punishment—that of capital punishment—may be a powerful tool in social control, given the seriousness and finality of its use. A large number of studies have examined the role that capital punishment may play in maintaining social order (Ehrlich 1973; Jacobs, et al. 2005; Paternoster 1991; Zimring 2004). Garland 2010 examines the historical context under which the United States has adopted and maintained this severe sanction.

                                                                                                            • Ehrlich, Isaac. 1973. The deterrent effect of capital punishment: A question of life and death. American Economic Review 65.3 (June): 397–417.

                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                              The paper examines the deterrent effect of capital punishment and finds support for its deterrent value in preventing murders. Perhaps more importantly, this study has inspired dozens of sociologists to test the deterrent effect of the death penalty in the United States and other countries. None of these studies have found support for a deterrent effect of the death penalty.

                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                              • Garland, David. 2010. Peculiar institution: America’s death penalty in an age of abolition. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                Garland provides perhaps the best historical description of why the United States has maintained capital punishment despite its abandonment by all other developed nations.

                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                • Jacobs, David, Jason T. Carmichael, and Stephanie L. Kent. 2005. Vigilantism, current racial threat, and death sentences. American Sociological Review 70.4 (August): 656–677.

                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1177/000312240507000406Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                  Examines the usefulness of racial-threat theories in explaining the use of capital punishment. Looks at the link between past lynchings and current death sentences. Findings suggest that states that had a high number of lynchings have the highest number of death sentences today. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                  • Paternoster, Raymond. 1991. Capital punishment in America. New York: Lexington.

                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                    This book reviews the historical use of the death penalty in the United States, the legal doctrine used to justify it, and the ideological arguments used to employ it. In addition to these historical accounts, the text explores why attempts to abolish its use have largely failed and how the process is flawed, in that it may lead to the execution of innocent people and because it is used disproportionately on blacks.

                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                    • Zimring, Franklin E. 2004. The contradictions of American capital punishment. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                      A thorough examination into the arguments for and against capital punishment in the United States. Also considers the link between vigilantism, lynchings, and executions.

                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                      Politics of Deviance

                                                                                                                      A number of recent studies have examined the link between political structure and the regulation of social life. In particular, a growing body of research has examined the regulation of sexuality (Grattet, et al. 1998; Soule and Earls 2001) and dress (Wiles 2007).

                                                                                                                      Politics of Punishment

                                                                                                                      A sizable portion of the literature on social control has examined the political factors associated with the imposition of punishment. These studies usually begin with the premise that the politically powerful use the punishment apparatus of the state to achieve their ends. Examples offered here include the following research: Beckett 1997, Chambliss 1994, Garland 2002, Jacobs and Carmichael 2001, Hagan 2010, Langworthy and Whitehead 1986, McBride 2007, Sutton 2000, and Yates and Fording 2005.

                                                                                                                      • Beckett, Katherine A. 1997. Making crime pay: Law and order in contemporary American politics. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                        Beckett outlines the historical evolution of local and national crime-control policies in the United States over the last several decades, paying particular attention to the role played by partisan politics, electoral strategies, and political ideology.

                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                        • Chambliss, William J. 1994. Policing the ghetto underclass: The politics of law and law enforcement. Social Problems 41.2 (May): 177–194.

                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1525/sp.1994.41.2.03x0433qSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                          Chambliss makes a profound contribution to our understanding of policing in modern society, by linking political power to decisions by police officers. Chambliss argues that the decision by police officers to treat suspects formally (i.e., employ their power to arrest) is, in part, a function of their consideration of the power they assume that suspect holds. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                          • Garland, David. 2002. The culture of control: Crime and social order in contemporary society. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199258024.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                            Garland outlines the historical and contemporary form of the criminal-justice system in the United States and Britain. A great deal of attention is paid to cultural changes that have influenced views of punishment in modern society. In particular, Garland discusses how crime control efforts are a function of power and politics.

                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                            • Hagan, John. 2010. Who are the criminals?: The politics of crime policy from the age of Roosevelt to the age of Reagan. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Hagan’s book examines the historical shift in punitive policy from one reliant on rehabilitation to one based on retribution and incapacitation.

                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                              • Jacobs, David, and Jason T. Carmichael. 2001. The politics of punishment across time and space: A pooled time-series analysis of imprisonment rates. Social Forces 80.1: 61–89.

                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1353/sof.2001.0070Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                Empirical study of political ideology and its role in producing macroshifts in imprisonment across US states. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                • Langworthy, Robert H., and John T. Whitehead. 1986. Liberalism and fear as explanations for punitiveness. Criminology 24.3 (August): 575–591.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1986.tb00391.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  The paper explores the relationship between liberal ideology and attitudes toward incarceration. The authors find that political ideology influences these attitudes significantly. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                  • McBride, Keally D. 2007. Punishment and political order: Law, meaning, and violence. Ann Arbor: Univ. of Michigan Press.

                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                    Outlines how political ideology/philosophy shapes the form of punishment and social control in modern society.

                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                    • Sutton, John. 2000. Imprisonment and social classification in five common-law democracies, 1955–1985. American Journal of Sociology 106.2: 350–386.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1086/316961Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Examines a number of explanations for variations in imprisonment rates over time across five Western democracies (the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia, New Zealand, and Canada). Sutton finds that prison growth is driven by the strength of conservative parties in each country.

                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                      • Yates, Jeff, and Richard Fording. 2005. Politics and state punitiveness in black and white. Journal of Politics 67.4 (November): 1099–1121.

                                                                                                                                        Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                        Tests a variety of political theories of punishment. Special attention is paid to the role that the political environment plays on incarceration rates and racial politics. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                        Religious Ideology and Punishment

                                                                                                                                        Religious ideology has been used to trace historical changes in the law and punitive responses to crime. Scholarship in this area has provided an important historical account of the development of legal sanctions (Curry 1996; Erikson 2005; Grasmick, et al. 1992).

                                                                                                                                        • Curry, Theodore R. 1996. Conservative Protestantism and the perceived wrongfulness of crimes: A research note. Criminology 34.3 (August): 453–464.

                                                                                                                                          DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1996.tb01215.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                          While other authors have commonly studied the link between political ideology and punishment, Curry highlights the influence that religious ideology has in this correlation. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                          • Erikson, Kai Theodor. 2005. Wayward Puritans: A study in the sociology of deviance. Rev. ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

                                                                                                                                            Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                            Erikson uses historical and archival research to test theories of deviance and social control. He examines how and when social control was employed in early Puritan New England. One of his primary conclusions is that punishment was used on those who were a threat to the religious and political order of the community. Originally published in 1966.

                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                            • Grasmick, Harold G., Elizabeth Davenport, Mitchell B. Chamlin, and Robert J. Bursik, Jr. 1992. Protestant fundamentalism and the retributive doctrine of punishment. Criminology 30.1: 21–45.

                                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1111/j.1745-9125.1992.tb01092.xSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                              The article examines the link between religious ideology and punishment, with a focus on fundamentalist components of Protestantism. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                              Implications of Ethnicity, and Class

                                                                                                                                              Another major stream within the literature on social control has focused on the influence that race, ethnicity, and class plays on levels of social control. The studies that focus on the role of race in social control are Jackson 1989; Pettit and Western 2004; Quillian and Pager 2001; Schlesinger 2011; and Walker, et al. 2007. Social-control research that has investigated the relationship between class and punishment includes Chambliss 1973, Chiricos and DeLone 1992, and Reiman and Leighton 2010.

                                                                                                                                              • Chambliss, William J. 1973. The saints and the roughnecks. Society 11.1: 24–31.

                                                                                                                                                DOI: 10.1007/BF03181016Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                In this article, Chambliss outlines labeling theory, in which the police use arrest to control the behavior of undesirable/threatening groups such as the poor. This study shows that when affluent youth engage in delinquent activity, members of the community and the police ignore or discount the behavior, but when poor youth engage in similar behavior, they are labeled as being dangerous and/or criminal.

                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                • Chiricos, Theodore G., and Miriam DeLone. 1992. Labor surplus and punishment: A review and assessment of theory and analysis. Social Problems 39.4 (November): 421–446.

                                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1525/sp.1992.39.4.03x0047uSave Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                  This study is a review of the extant empirical literature on the link between unemployment and levels of punishment. The authors conclude that the majority of studies find a significant, positive association between unemployment and punishment. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                  • Jackson, Pamela Irving. 1989. Minority group threat, crime, and policing: Social context and social control. New York: Praeger.

                                                                                                                                                    Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                    Jackson outlines a minority-threat theory of punishment and social control and conducts an innovative test by examining the expenditures of the United States on local police.

                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                    • Pettit, Becky, and Bruce Western. 2004. Mass imprisonment and the life course: Race and class inequality in U.S. incarceration. American Sociological Review 69.2 (April): 151–169.

                                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1177/000312240406900201Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                      Study estimates the lifetime risk of imprisonment for black and white men at different levels of education. Findings suggest that about 20 percent of black males have served time in prison by their early thirties, but only 3 percent of whites have been in prison by that age.

                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                      • Quillian, Lincoln, and Devah Pager. 2001. Black neighbors, higher crime? The role of racial stereotypes in evaluations of neighborhood crime. American Journal of Sociology 107.3 (November): 717–767.

                                                                                                                                                        DOI: 10.1086/338938Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                        Investigates the relationship between neighborhood racial composition and crime and shows that the perception of crime is a function of minority presence, not actual crime rates. This effect is driven by racial stereotypes. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                                        Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                        • Reiman, Jeffrey H., and Paul Leighton. 2010. The rich get richer and the poor get prison: Ideology, class, and the criminal justice system. 9th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.

                                                                                                                                                          Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                          This text examines the bias in the criminal-justice system against poor people and why there is a refusal by policymakers to deal with the causes of crime—poverty, lack of opportunity, and discrimination.

                                                                                                                                                          Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                          • Schlesinger, Traci. 2011. The failure of race neutral policies: How mandatory terms and sentencing enhancements contribute to mass racialized incarceration. Crime & Delinquency 57.1 (January): 56–81.

                                                                                                                                                            DOI: 10.1177/0011128708323629Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                            Explores the effect of mandatory minimum prison terms and their impact on racial differences in the sentencing of offenders. Available online for purchase or by subscription.

                                                                                                                                                            Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                            • Walker, Samuel, Cassia Spohn, and Miriam DeLone. 2007. The color of justice: Race, ethnicity, and crime in America. 4th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

                                                                                                                                                              Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                              Up-to-date discussion on the theories of racial, ethnic, and gender discrimination within America’s criminal-justice system. The authors synthesize recent research on patterns of criminal, victimization, and police practices, as well as sentencing and incarceration. Provides data on discrimination in the criminal-justice system.

                                                                                                                                                              Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                              Corporate and White-Collar Crime

                                                                                                                                                              Another element of the debate in the social-control literature dealing with race and class differences in punishment focuses on the monitoring and control of white-collar and corporate crime. Specifically, studies have analyzed the amount of crime committed by the affluent or elite classes or by corporations (Clinard and Yeager 2005, Friedrichs 2009, Simpson 2002, Sutherland 1985).

                                                                                                                                                              • Clinard, Marshall Barron, and Peter C. Yeager. 2005. Corporate crime. Somerset, NJ: Transaction.

                                                                                                                                                                Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                Seminal work on criminal activity by corporations. Discusses how difficult it is to detect illegal behavior by corporations, because of their political and economic power. Takes a close look at regulations and the enforcement of criminal activity of corporations.

                                                                                                                                                                Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                • Friedrichs, David O. 2009. Trusted criminals: White collar crime in contemporary society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning.

                                                                                                                                                                  Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                  A comprehensive undergraduate textbook covering topics ranging from the problems involved in studying white-collar crimes, to the principal focus of the crimes, to the character of the legal and criminal-justice response to the crimes.

                                                                                                                                                                  Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                  • Simpson, Sally S. 2002. Corporate crime, law, and social control. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                    DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511606281Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                    Simpson’s book examines the social control of corporations through regulations and enforcement agencies. Considerable time is also spent on why efforts to control the behavior of corporations often fail.

                                                                                                                                                                    Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                    • Sutherland, Erwin Hardin. 1985. White collar crime: The uncut version. London: Yale Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                                                      Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                                                      Classic work on corporate crime in America. Originally published in 1949.

                                                                                                                                                                      Find this resource:

                                                                                                                                                                      back to top

                                                                                                                                                                      Article

                                                                                                                                                                      Up

                                                                                                                                                                      Down