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Critical Discourse on "Social Control": Notes on the Concept as a Hammer

NCJ Number
International Journal of the Sociology of Law Volume: 17 Issue: 3 Dated: (August 1989) Pages: 347-357
S Cohen
Date Published
11 pages
Some social control concepts and doctrines of the past 20 years can be seen as hammers attempting to bang reality to fit ideological norms. Radical, critical, and revisionist writings about crime, deviance, and law are examined for evidence of such manipulation.
Revisionist literature manifests ten specific features, among them a use of the concept of social control to refer to a single essentialist "thing" and a tendency to define social control as a manifestation of the wider social order and not as a response to deviance. Ideologies and structures of social control are not analyzed in their own terms but are traced back to wider social contexts, which are often perceived as sinister or negative. In an attempt to demystify the concept of social control, new mystiques are created. Additionally, generalizations are created that cloud specific problems and solutions. The author proposes a ten-point checklist to use when contemplating what is referred to by revisionists as social control. 2 footnotes.