Agents Of Social Control

To understand social control is to not only distinguish its purpose but also the means through which it is achieved. Social control can take two different, though related, forms: externalized and internalized. The individual experiences constant contact from outside forces that influence their behavior—even before they are born. These outside forces are known as “agents of social control” that are roles, positions, and institutions which “provide positive models for how to do something” (Clemens and Cook 445) as well as what is right, or normal. Although there are several agents of social control, we will examine the forces of Politics, Religion, and Education.

Externalized control

Externalized control enforces socially appropriate behavior through outside agents such as the judicial system, priests, professors, politicians, police officers, etc., in order to “constrain action, define opportunity, and facilitate patterns of interaction” (Clemens and Cook 445).

Internalized control

Internalized control is the process by which an individual controls their own behavior through conformity to norms or standards. As a chronological consequence to externalized control, individuals voluntarily conform to social expectations because it is what they believe is the right thing to do, otherwise known as enculturation—the process by which a person acquires the values, ideas, and other factors of a society. Research suggests that social control is attained, though not exclusively, through politics, religion, and education.
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