This essay will thoroughly examine and evaluate the claim that it is social controls that prevent us from committing crimes by looking at different social control theories. Firstly we must determine what a social control theory consists of, according to Hopkins (2009) ‘social control theory is fundamentally derived from a conception of human nature that proposes that there are no natural limits on elementary human needs and desires. People will always want and seek further economic reward and it is thus not necessary to look for special motives for engaging in criminal activity. Human beings are born free to break the law and will only refrain from doing so under particular circumstances. It is these fundamental assumptions that form the basis of social control theories’ (Hopkins 2009, p.246). Therefore controls set in society are the reason humans do not commit crime, if these controls were to be removed humans would naturally due to their nature commit crime. This also shows that social control theories try and solve the question of ‘why do people not commit crime?’ rather than ‘what causes people to commit crime?’ The reason behind solving the first question rather than the second is because social control theorists believe committing crime is the default position of every human therefore the second question has already been solved.
Many of the early control theories attach more importance to psychological factors rather than social factors when analysing deviance and conformity. One of the earliest control theories to focus on sociological reasons for crime was that of Durkheim’s theory of anomie. Durkheim argued ‘inadequate forms of social control are more likely during periods of rapid modernisation and social change because new forms of regulation cannot evolve quickly enough to replace the declining form of social solidarity (N.D cited in Hopkins 2009,
Cited: Gluek, S and Gluek, E (1950) ‘unraveling juvenile delinquency’ in Newburn, T (2009) key readings in criminology Hirschi, T. (1969) ‘Social Bond Theory’ in Cullen, F. T and Agnew, R (2006) Criminological Theory: Past to Present. 3rd ed, Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp.221-222, 223 Hirschi, T Hirschi, T (1969) Causes of delinquency. Berkeley: university of California press. P.16 Hopkins, R (2009) An Introduction to Criminological Theory Tittle, C (1995) ‘Control Balance: Toward a General Theory of Deviance’ in Hopkins, R (2009) An Introduction to Criminological Theory. 3rd ed, Cullompton: Willan Publishing. P.257