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outside the organization.

Social Control Contributes to Social Order

Socialization is never perfect. For many, loyalty is never felt; for some, the patterns are not willingly followed. This is true in every organization: in society, in the university, in families, and in businesses, to name a few. If socialization worked perfectly, there would be little individuality, no criminals, no revolutionaries, no dissatisfied member, no one unhappy with the social structure. Thankfully, humans are not only conforming members of organization. They are also rebels, questioners, suspicious, creative, and individualistic.

To encourage reluctant members, social organizations develop a system of rewards and punishments so that people will have another reason to conform. These are called social sanctions, or social controls. They aid conformity but do not guarantee it. In fact, if only negative sanctions (punishments) are relied on, it is at great cost because resources must be allocated to watch people and punish them; anger and resentment are the likely results. If an organization relies only on positive sanctions, people conform only to be paid, and conformity remains highly conditional (I will conform only if I am paid); a more positive voluntary commitment tends to be lost.

Social Deviance

It is impossible to ensure total conformity to organization, nor is that ever desirable. Society needs thinkers, not robots; problem solvers, not sleepwalkers; creative, self-directing persons, not simple conformists. Everyone breaks the established rules occasionally, and some break the rules much of the time. As children, we learn to test adults: We bend  the rules of authorities, they act back, we test again. In real life, everything is dynamic and involves conflict.

The problem is always “How much individuality is acceptable?”

How much bending of the rules can be tolerated?

Americans value individuality; yet we all have our limits, and certainly authorities do. Every social organization draws lines and brings negative social controls to bear on those outside those lines.

High-schoolers recognize well that there are certain acceptable ways to dress and act around peers; outsiders are nerds, uncool, weird. Certain people are declare to be mentally ill; others we punish as criminals. Wherever there are social patterns, there are those who are unacceptable, who are condemned as “immoral,” “sick,” “unnatural,” or “antisocial.”

Deviance is the term used by sociologists to refer to that action defined by society and its defenders to be outside the range of the acceptable.

Deviance is actually created by society, by REACTION to certain actions, rather than by the actor who does the acting.

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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