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Censorship and Surveillance Essay

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Social control refers to organizational or societal practices and trends that regulate personal and group performance. Social control leads to agreement and acceptance of the guidelines of any community, organization, state, or society. Societal control emerges at all levels of social order. For example, individuals socialize to respect their parents purely for the reason that they are parents in the family unit. The peer groups also agree with the familiar customs like dressing styles that control the conduct of group members.

Similarly, the same applies to the institutional values that the scholars must preserve in their academic fields. However, in many official organizations, the employees experience official methods that regulate and rule them. Thus, the peaceful existence of every society depends on the laws they design and make them work.

As a result, groups or individuals are made to do as required by the societal standards they have set. The resumption of governments to implement control strategies aimed at excluding the socially undesirable characters who break laws is one example of the social control on the society that was responsible for setting the social standards they believed were good in ensuring a harmonious society (Beckett and Herbert, 2010, p. 3).

The submission or agreeing to do according to the societal expectations and values are strong under the influence of both official and informal methods of control. Several groups accept and respect the basic societal customs. Individuals do conform to the commands of the law. They follow the daily guidelines in the workplace. However, when those in control come in, they retreat and expect guidance from them. An actual picture of socialization to these values of culture is reflected in such situations.

Many societal control settings are believed to be culturally different. The statement is true when the ability to control others is used to prevent the start of chaos. Several philosophers, including Durkheim Émile, therefore, declare that the forms of social control may be regarded as a rule. Sociologists identify two basic forms of social controls. These are formal and informal controls (Herbert & Beckett, 2009, p. 3). This paper examines the means, endorsements, censorship, as well as the surveillance of societal control.

Societal Control

Different types of control can be used to educate, encourage, or force the outsiders and group members to abide by societal expectations and customs. Similarly, this might enable them not to depart from such standards and expectations.

These may include both official and informal methods of control. Initially, the unofficial societal control may be started by implementing standards and principles through a process of socialization among members of a group. This procedure is concentrated on individuals with similar societal capabilities and intentions. The non-group members or group members with huge natural capabilities help improve the intended result and values of the group.

On the other hand, there is an official method of societal control. The laws enacted by the government prevent the formation of chaos in every social order. Hence, several philosophers such as Durkheim Émile mention formal social control as a requirement by the government (Ross, 2009, p. 271).

The elements of social control differ concerning the characteristics and expectations of those involved. Sociologists identify two basic practices of social controls. This includes what those in control do not want to be associated with the group. The other is to encourage individuals or groups to view the objectives as good for them. The traditional and ancient method of societal control was to be physically violent. In an uncontrolled society of youngsters, physical violence remains the main challenge.

Nevertheless, the main argument is violence in the politely run social orders of the modern republics. There is a lack of proper social co-existence in nations that lack police influence to maintain law and order. All societies have different methods of maintaining control and order in their particular positions. Groups and individuals observe societal standards through a system of social organizations (Herbert & Beckett, 2009, p. 3). These include commercial organizations, state, education, village, caste, kin groups, and family.


The methods for putting into effect the guidelines observed by respective groups are known as sanctions. Sanctions may be negative or positive. Whether positive or negative, these categories play a vital role in societal control. The main objective of social methods is to support and maintain social order. The existence of social order in terms of laws describes the procedure of the conduct that group and members of the public can use in their everyday survival.

Moreover, sociologists categorize sanctions as both informal and official. As an administrator, an individual must consider social control as a mandate and guide. For instance, once an employee disobeys the workplace norm, the executive intervenes through applying the regulations that the employee is supposed to observe. The same applies to lawbreakers who are imprisoned according to the legal guide establishing what is lawful or unlawful (Beckett and Herbert, 2010, p. 4).

Societal sanctions are capable of influencing individuals in every instance of survival. The sanctions might isolate individuals or groups from their associates, subject them to mockery, and deprive them of accessible freedom. Interestingly, sanctions may deny individuals or groups the gift of life — the same guidelines in the name of law subject offenders to punishment, including death sentences.

The ethics and regulations of society may create complicated reasoning for every regulation. Even the soberly courteous police may be required to carry a gun even when issuing traffic ticket in case a rogue driver decides to react against such a move when caught on the wrong side of the set standards. Governments have hence embraced public strategies to reach and control antisocial behaviors (Beckett and Herbert, 2010, p. 4).

Conversely, a good number of groups or individuals will learn if they are cast-off through warning due to their nonconformity to social order. As argued by several researchers such as Cara Tabachnick, groups or persons are positioned in the societal time and space. As a result, the society remains a historical unit that spreads further than every person’s life history.

A society therefore survives and remains ahead of all people and groups. It will continue to survive after the collapse of any group or persons in the same way it appeared before our existence. The arrest and detaining of a trespasser will not make the society to collapse but rather warn others not to do the same (Beckett and Herbert, 2010, p. 8).

At all times, it is expected that organizations, groups, and individuals should act appropriately. Failure of an appropriate action might lead to punishment through the application of the existing laws. This includes formal sanctions like fines, jail sentences, and informal sanctions like mockery and fear. When an individual faces the law, the repercussion is the application of the same law that was protecting the individual before they went against the same law.

Hence, groups or persons in an association might be criticized fairly as there is sufficient room for explaining the reasons for a particular behavior. On the other hand, the performance patterns of governments describe the straight conducts expected from an individual and cannot be changed easily since the law does not favor individuals (Beckett & Herbert, 2010, p. 9).

Positive Sanctions

The positive sanctions are the rewards set for following the customs and the expected behavior. When an individual works hard in an organization, they receive positive sanctions by being promoted. Under social control, promotion, rewards, an affirmation of appreciation, or a smile means a positive sanction. Consequently, the different benefits of positive sanctions might demonstrate different motivations for people to join organizations and social groups.

The positive sanctions indicate an individual or group willingness to operate under the rules the society has set out. The result is a reward for compliance with these regulations. Mutually, the specific and general notions of sanctions advocate for the coercion of persons or groups to the social standards. The rewards enable them to distinguish that the advantages of playing along the laid down rules outshine the penalty costs of negative sanctions.

Moreover, the importance of such benefits depends on the personal acceptance of the social rewards and importance of connections to such prizes. The availability of rewards differs with different groups and individuals. This reflects the difference between financial conditions and the effort the beneficiary has put into achieving the awards. (Herbert & Beckett, 2009, p. 14).

Negative Sanctions

The negative sanctions come in the form of punishment for being disrespectful to the set standards of the group. As an example, serious punishment or imprisonment is a negative sanction for disorderly conduct at school. In this regard, punishments, physical threat, criticism, and frown are good examples of negative sanctions. Different societies differ in determining the behaviors that should be exposed to official social control. That is, the behaviors that should be reported to the authorities, such as the police.

Similarly, they differ in defining the extent of the harshness of sanctions. Singapore deals with serious crimes without mercy. For instance, death punishment is compulsory for murder, drug selling, and offenses related to guns. Negative sanctions are an expression of dissatisfaction for breaking the set norms.

Japan, for example, has generated an exceptional prison for irresponsible motorists. Whereas certain drivers are jailed for knocking and killing, the other motorists serve prison terms for escaping after causing accidents while drunk-driving (Ross, 2009, p. 273).

Informal Sanctions

Informal sanctions are used to ridicule those who violate the set standards. This does not mean that an individual or groups that avoid social order will go unpunished. As an alternative, such groups or individual will undergo informal sanctions. Informal sanctions appear in social communication. Perhaps, wearing a cap backward during a presentation or use of offensive language in the church might result in judgmental stares and criticism.

However, constructive behaviors such as assisting the elderly persons in their dealings will possibly receive approving reactions like congratulations or a smile. Individuals or groups use familiar societal control calmly to put norms into effect. Rising the eyebrow, smiling, laughter, and mockery best illustrates the informal societal control (Ross, 2009, p. 273).

In several cultures of nation-states like the US and Canada, the common sample of informal social control is the use of physical warning by parents. Parents often look at their children with a stern face — some view spanking kids as the necessary and proper method of preserving control. However, the experts of child growth hold that physical punishment is unsuitable since it teaches youngsters to resolve their differences through violence.

Children’s health specialists currently consider that physical forms of punishment are harmful. They encourage parents to use friendly methods and self-control when disciplining their children. At times, informal approaches to societal control are no longer suitable to administer obedience, good behavior, or conformity (AlSabousi, 2014, p. 5).

Formal Sanctions

The sanctions used when discouraging violation of set rules and encouraging compliance to social values are approved through prearranged social devices. The formal sanctions are means that officially differentiate whether or not set guidelines have been violated. A student may face expulsion in case he/she disobeys the code of conduct in a learning institution.

Similarly, unsuitable communication to managers at the workplace could lead to the discharge of an employee. Criminal activities lead to imprisonment. On the contrary, an official award would be given to any fighter who protects a life (Beckett & Herbert, 2010, p. 15).

In the above instances, the arbitrators similar to movie theatre executives, military officials, managers, school administrators, general practitioners, and police officers practice formal social control.

The set sanction is, therefore, an indicator of appreciation or dissatisfaction through the support of policies, rules, and legislated laws. The form of sanction specifies the circumstances in which individuals or groups should be punished or rewarded. Moreover, formal sanctions specify the techniques for governing punishments and assigning rewards (AlSabousi, 2014, p. 5).

The formal sanction may work as the only hope when socializing considering that the informal sanctions cannot always produce the expected behaviors. In Canada, for instance, a more progressive and important mechanism of formal societal control is jailing individuals. One culprit is sent to prison for every forty-three crimes that occur. The others escape imprisonment but receive some punishment. Out of this, small offenders account for nearly 8-10% of the inmates.

The hardened criminals account for the larger fraction of inmates. Therefore, the operational changes in many societies will experience extraordinary crime groups if social control is not strictly implemented. Cara Tabachnick argues that the efficiency of formal based sanctions is expected to be destabilized due to such changes (Beckett & Herbert, 2010, p. 8).


Suppression is a way of preventing information from reaching an audience by agents who filters the conveyed information through the internet, television, literature, movies, and media channels. The censors remove or block any materials that are thought to be unsuitable or threatening. In this framework, censors may include public opinion, neighborhood, and the family. Public opinion is shaped through the unsupported information, fact sheet, statutes, motion pictures, TV set, radio, and dailies.

In remote residences, radio has turned out to be the significant channels of relaying information. Persons or groups in distant sites express their opinions on the theme through gossip, as they cannot have access to newspapers or TV.

Contemporarily, many homesteads have access to televisions. In forming the public opinion, visual and print media remains the leading character in urban areas. Amongst the educated, newsprint influences several opinions even though TV has gradually grown predominantly over the newspaper due to a more compelling audiovisual means (Ross, 2009, p. 201).

On the other hand, the relationships in the neighborhood societies are informal and intimate, given that the groups or individuals fit into a similar social order or relations group. The connections remain strong even further than the immediate localities. However, the interactions amongst the urban setting neighborhoods are formal.

The relationships are even fragile in large cities as compared to rural locations and are visible by irregular communications (Herbert & Beckett, 2009, p. 7). As a result, the village accomplishes its function as a channel of societal control since it is a passionate contributor to the day-to-day activities of the family.

The family remains the utmost significant censor of social control since it is the immediate learning environ for every individual. The family shapes the behavior of individuals as it mixes them into the customs, traditions, values, and norms. Correspondingly, the family is an example to groups or individuals that acquire attitudes, manners, and etiquette. For instance, families provide reputation to the individuals and groups. The manifestation is evident in the way of life, interests, and attitudes of group members or individuals.

The predominance of nuclear family arises due scarcity of space, limited revenue, and industrial development in the cities. Other minor institutions like media, age group, play area, and learning institutions complement the family social role. In urban areas, groups or individuals develops the societal status from private accomplishment.

In rural areas, social status is obtained partially from the family. To ensure conformity with acceptable everyday life, normative processes and ethics are mobilized by the society to inhibit behavioral problems, facilitate conformity and restrain social deviance (Fagan & Meares, 2008, p. 183).


Surveillance in the context of social control is an approach that comprises of checking the movements, actions, dialogs, and relations of wrongdoers. Surveillance aids in catching the wrongdoers and prevents people or groups from violating norms. It also ensures that the society is secure from the offenders. Under the law, aspects like customs and values are put in place to control group or personal conducts. They play a fundamental role at the family level and consequently overflow into the community.

Presently, the standards of living, morals, division of labor, freedom, and mixture of different individuals have represents the societies. This has changed the atmosphere of the societal order, and customs are not enough to control the population. By expressing the organizational laws that are supported by the political, administrative and legal mechanism of nations, governments are in an extreme position to effectively control the society (Ross, 2009, p. 203).

Apart from the law, schooling is an important support of the societal order. Education communicates the principles of mixing, tolerance, teamwork, and discipline to groups or individuals. This organizes individuals and groups for social existence.

Education delivers information to individuals or groups on how to maintain social order through social contributions and officially designed courses in universities, colleges, and schools. For example, the focus was laid on beliefs and spiritual scriptures in prehistoric India. However, the control measures changed due to more demands on decision-making skills and information by social growth (Herbert & Beckett, 2009, p. 17).

Eventually, the state plays an important role in surveillance. According to sociologists, the state is accountable for implementing collective authority inside communities to maintain safety and order. Through government policies, the state is capable of maintaining law and order through the implementation of the law. The laws are usually accepted as having an independent power.

However, the law must be supported by force. To ensure proper surveillance, nations aim to offer unemployment grants, adulthood allowance, medical cover, and training to the society. The state stays away from pressuring individuals. It only acts as a formal surveillance organization.

However, the state may require implementing surveillance by using several groups in specific tasks such as currency, security, and preservation of law and order. The state has therefore emerged as one of the essential implementers of surveillance about social control in modern societies (Ross, 2009, p. 206)


Social control is important in ensuring that families, communities, and societies co-exist in harmony. This study reveals that the state, society, predominant traditions and customs as well as families control group or individual manners. Any society with uncontrolled freedom tends to suffer from a lack of social order.

The processes that shape social control vary depending on the environment where individuals live. Religion, customs, and beliefs are forces that informally help maintain social control. In present days, governments play a central role in preserving social order. Social control is impacted by public opinion, neighborhood, and family engagements.


AlSabousi, F. Social Control.” PowerPoint presentation. Zayed University, Dubai, UAE. 2014.

Beckett, K., & Herbert, S. (2010). Penal boundaries: Banishment and the expansion of punishment. Law and Social Inquiry, 35(1), 1-38.

Fagan, J., & Meares, T. (2008). Punishment, deterrence and social control: The paradox of punishment in minority communities. Ohio State Journal of Criminal Law, 6(173), 173-229.

Herbert, S., & Beckett, K. (2009). Zoning out disorder: Assessing contemporary practices of urban social control. Studies in Law, Politics, and Society, 47(1), 1-25.

Ross, E. (2009). Social control: a survey of the foundations of order. Cleveland, OH: Press of Case Western Reserve University.

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