Law Ans Society: How Law is Used as a Form of Social Control

In any given contemporary society, social control mechanisms are crucial for the maintenance of order and stability. One of the objectives of this course Law and Society is exploring how law is used as a form of social control in curtailing certain deviant behaviours and applying rule of law respectively.

Social control refers to methods used by members of a society to sustain order and promote predictability of behaviour, “it is also considered to be a very important aspect of an individual’s socialization process.There are some universal norms or rules which should be followed by members of all societies and any deviation from these norms may result in a minimum level of punishment for ensuring the social order. ” There are two main forms of social control these are formal and informal. Informal methods of social control are best exemplified by folkways and traditions, formal means of social control are usually characterized in more complex societies where there are various sub-groups with competing values and different forms of traditions which are more routine and standardized.

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Discussion Every society has its very own system of social control whether it be formal or informal. It is what they consider to be most appropriate in keeping their population in check. “Formal methods of social control includes the criminal justice system, involving the police and the court system. While informal social control consists of mechanisms that are not based upon formal rules but are passed on by family, friends and members of everyday society.

” However, the two means of social control are different.Formal means of social control includes “ written, formalized and codified statements in laws, rules and regulations. Whereas informal control does not contain any written rules. Another difference between the two is that formal control is much more effective and stronger than informal social control, any situations which cannot be handled by informal social controls are dealt with by the formal ones.

” In Jamaica there has always been issues of noncompliance to the laws of the land by criminals or individuals who display deviant behaviour that is, behaviour which is not in accordance with the norms and values of a society.Among the deviant behaviours present in Jamaica that often result in the noncompliance of the law include crimes such as; Homicide, shootings, carnal abuse, robbery( fraud, white collar crimes) among others. As such, there is always a need for the use of formal or non-formal methods of social control. Jamaica mostly adheres to the formal means of control which fall under systems of deterrence and rehabilitation to maintain order in the country.

Deterrence as a system of formal control or punishment entails incarceration that is, sentencing convicted persons to jail or prison.The aim of this type of punishment is to prevent future occurrence of certain crimes and also to deter persons from committing crimes. Another type of formal control used by Jamaica is Rehabilitation. Judges will sentence persons to rehabilitation if they are found to have a dependence on chemicals like illegal drugs, for afflictions like mental illness or chronic and violent behaviours.

On the other hand, when it comes on to informal methods of social control these are found under methods of retribution where the punishment is an eye for an eye or in other words capital punishment.This however, is not exercised in contemporary Jamaican society. In contemporary Jamaican society, it is the formal mechanisms of social control which are utilized to maintain order and curtail deviant behaviour. As mentioned previously, deterrence is one of the main mechanisms of formal control used by the country when punishing criminals and it is far more effective than informal means of control.

Deterrence operates in two ways those are general deterrence and specific deterrence.General deterrence means that the punishment should prevent other people from committing criminal acts. The punishment serves as an example to the rest of society, and it puts others on notice that criminal behavior will be punished. The method of deterrence which is popularly used by Jamaican court system is that of incarceration or in other words imprisonment.

In addition to deterrence Jamaica also uses rehabilitation as a mechanism for social control. The goal of rehabilitation is to prevent future crime by giving offenders the ability to succeed within the confines of the law.In the case of Jamaica it is my opinion that deterrence is the most effective means of social control. Every year judges impose stiffer prison sentences to curtail the re-occurrence of some crimes however it has been frequently argues that unless these offenders are locked away for life they will always commit the crime again.

On the other end of social control, there are also the informal mechanisms. Informal controls cover a vast array of possible sanctions and tend to differ from society to society.These sanctions entail ridicule and various expressions of disapproval. However, in contemporary Jamaican society this type of social control is not exercised by the justice system, they tend to stick to the more formal means of social control in punishing unacceptable behaviour.

Informal social control is mostly used among individual within their various sub-groups where they ridicule non-conformist or go as far as handling the matter themselves by hitting the individual or by seeking revenge for a crime committed.This type of informal control is seen in the Jamaican garrisons where persons have made it their duty to take up the law in their own hands which is contrary to the laws of the land. As cited in the work of Christopher A. D.

Charles student of the University of The West Indies: “The informal justice system of garrison constituencies undermines the rule of law in Jamaica….. The counter society framework is used to explain garrisons as informal governance units that challenge the state. Society abhors a governance vacuum.

People will replicate policies when these policies are inadequate” To date, despite reported crime rates in 2012 with 1133 being murders ( Jamaica Observer 2012) it is the formal methods of social control which are most effective as they ensure criminals are given the full length of punishment and deters many future attacks aimed towards Jamaican society. In this study of social control and its formal and informal mechanisms, the works of Emile Durkheim early functionalist theorists and Conflict theorist Karl Marx is shown. As a complex society Jamaica has high crime rates, in his studies Durkheim argued that the basis of social order in complex, industrial societies were to found in the relationship between two ideas namely; the Collective Conscience and The Legal Rules. The idea of the collective conscience is used to express the way in which collective beliefs, values and so forth combine to create a kind of “collective sense of consciousness” about various aspects of the social world within which people exist.

While, legal rules represent a form of objective expression of the collective conscience. , Durkheim argues that people are shaped by their social experiences it follows that if the collective conscience is weakened, the moral ties that bind people together are also weakened. When or if this happens, the concept used by Durkheim to express this weakening of moral ties was that of anomie. In a literal sense, this concept can be taken to mean a state of normlessness, a situation in which no norms of behavior are in operation.

” Jamaica is in a state of anomie.Where there are incidents of rape, In the year 2012 a raping incident in the parish of St. James where 5 women were brutally raped, a 8 year old included. This deviant behaviour portrays Durkheim’s concept of anomie within complex societies.

People no-longer believe in their obligations to others because they no-longer have a concept of a collective conscience by which to guide their behaviour, they revert to self-interest. In effect, they attempt to look after themselves without bothering too much about how this may affect the lives of others.It is until such persons conform to the norms and values of the society that certain parts of the Jamaican society will rise out of anomie a state of lawlessness. On the other hand however, is the Marxist perspective which argues that there is always some existence of inequality in any given society, where one group is always preventing the other and because of this they implement laws in accordance to certain values and norms to quash deviant behaviour.

This is where social control comes in where they use formal mechanisms such as the justice system to punish wrong doing.Marx’s view is quiet evident in contemporary Jamaican society, where the justice system creates laws and penalties for non-conformists. Conclusion Social control is indeed crucial for the maintenance of order and stability in any given modern society. It is used to curtail deviant behaviours which are in non-conformity with regular norms and values of a society.

Earlier it was established that there are two main forms of social control mechanisms which societies like Jamaica have employed to keep their population in check, these are formal and informal mechanisms.Formal mechanisms are found to be most effective, as these are methods employed by the justice system when informal methods are no longer effective. Methods of formal and informal controls vary from society to society, however, In Jamaica the justice system relies mostly on the courts punishments which include incarceration and the paying of fines to punish individuals and also prevent them from repeating their criminal actions. On a final note, with the continue utilization of formal means of control which act as deterrence, the Jamaican society should see an eventual change in crime statistics.

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Law Ans Society: How Law is Used as a Form of Social Control. (2017, May 19). Retrieved from