Formal and Informal Social Control

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Examine formal and informal social control in controlling individual’s behaviour

Mechanisms of social control can be formal or informal. Formal social control includes the criminal justice system, involving the police, courts and prisons. Informal social control consists of mechanisms which are not based upon formal rules but are carried family, friends and member of the society everyday.

The use of negative or positive sanctions (punishments or rewards) are vital in maintaining social control.

Functionalist see the criminal justice system as operating to look after the interest of society. They argue that society requires to be controlled and need punishment or it would collapse into a state or anomie.

According to Durkheim in order for society to keep its existence, members must commit to shared values, a collective conscience. Also the type of punishment provided by the formal system of control reflects what type of society it is. In less complex, mechanistic societies, punishment is based on retribution. The punishment will be public and physical in nature e.g. execution. As societies develop and become more complex (organic societies), punishment will shift away from public punishment to imprisonment. The aim of the punishment is more to force the person to make amenders for their wrongdoing. Durkheim called this ‘restitutive law’.

Marxist sociologists such as Hall et al and Chambliss believe that the criminal justice system reflects the interest and benefits the ruling class and is based on controlling the working class, ensuring that any opposition to capitalism is punished. According to Reiman, the law controls on punishing the working class for certain acts, however, ignores the bad acts carried out by the ruling class. Rusche and Kircheimer argue that there are certain form of punishments that reflect the ruling class interest.

Farrington and West argue the correlation between family and crime is that if a member of family is...
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