Part 1: Theories and Concepts of STS


Authors: Kayleigh Elizabeth Trumbull


Any time we as humans choose whether to partake in certain activities or share our opinions on certain topics, we are probably being at least slightly motivated by the effects of social control. Social control is defined broadly as “a collection of mechanisms to induce compliance to norms” (Likki & Staerklé, 2014). In other words, society maintains order through exerting pressures and patterns of behaviors on the people within it (Carmichael, 2012). These pressures can manifest in a variety of ways in different areas of life. A few brief examples of this include the role of law enforcement in reducing crime rates and the creation of the addict stigma to encourage people to avoid addiction. Social control looks different in various regions and cultures, but still tends to serve the same role across the board: to enforce norms and resolve conflicts (Jang & Agnew, 2015).

The application of social control is most widely discussed with respect to its role in the reduction of crime rates. One article explores the diminishing effect of social control as people age. It uses social control theory to explain crime in terms of the absence of positive relationships with conventional others. It posits that youth are less delinquent because they are emotionally bonded to others close to them, committed to conventional goals and accept laws as morally binding (Jang & Agnew, 2015). As people age, they might realize that they do not have an issue with the consequences of their actions and may choose to ignore society’s norms. It has also been suggested that instituting a heavier enforcement of social norms may act as more indirect social control than expanding the law enforcement team. Some examples that may exhibit this effect include “verbal correction, humiliation, ostracism, banishment, fines, beating, incarceration, and execution” (Jang & Agnew, 2015). Several of these tactics have been deemed morally unjust, but they were employed at some point in history as a method of discouraging certain behaviors in the general society. Arguably the most powerful of these examples employed throughout history was execution as the cost for committing particularly heinous crimes. Executions were treated as major events, especially in smaller communities, where the offender was prominently displayed before the rest of the community as they paid the price for their unacceptable actions. This served as a form of social control for the rest of society by implicitly threatening them with the consequence of participating in similar activities, the goal being that people will think twice before engaging in them. Less morally damning and emotionally traumatizing modern uses of social control are still intended to have a similar effect. One article from the New York Times explores what may happen if law enforcement followed through on arrests instead of dismissing the cases. Engaging in criminal acts would have higher stakes associated with it, which would exert a higher degree of social control over the situation with a relatively small change in procedure (Roberts, 2018). This idea portrays the power of social control to affect people’s actions despite it requiring minimal effort on the part of those trying to decrease crime. Overall, there are an abundance of potential tactics to generate social control in an effort to control crime rates; the debate lies in which methods to choose and how to appropriately implement them in different areas.


Here is where you will discuss those who may disagree with the theory or concept.

Relationship to STS

Here is where you will describe how your theory or concept directly relates to STS.


Here you will provide examples of this theory or concept as it relates to STS.

Missing Voices

Here you will provide information about ways that voices may have been left out of the conversation about this theory or concept.


Here you will provide an infographic that sums up your theory or concept that includes a brief definition, its relationship to STS, and brief examples.

Chapter Questions

Type your questions here.

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Carmichael, J. (2012, June 26). Social Control. Oxford Bibliographies. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

Cohen, S. (1989). Critical discourse on “social control”: Notes on the concept as a Hammer. Critical Discourse on “Social Control”: Notes on the Concept as a Hammer | Office of Justice Programs. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

Dafoe. (2015). On Technological Determinism: A Typology, Scope Conditions, and a Mechanism. Science, Technology, & Human Values, 40(6), 1047–1076.

Harris, J., & McElrath, K. (2012, June 22). Methadone as social control: Institutionalized stigma and the prospect of recovery. U.S. National Library of Medicine. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

Jang, S. J., & Agnew, R. (2015). Social Control. ScienceDirect Topics. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

Likki, T., & Staerklé, C. (2014, January 16). A typology of ideological attitudes towards social solidarity and Social Control. Wiley Online Library. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from

Roberts, S. (2018, July 29). The ‘Social Control’ Elements of New York’s Criminal Justice System. The New York Times, pp. 3–3. Retrieved April 5, 2022, from

Wickes, R., Hipp, J., Sargeant, E., & Mazerolle, L. (2016, January 1). Neighborhood Social Ties and Shared Expectations for Informal Social Control: Do They Influence Informal Social Control Actions? Springer Link. Retrieved February 5, 2022, from


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