chapter  12
16 Pages

The legal system and social control

Social control is anthropological terminology for the mechanisms a society uses to maintain order in social life. There are usually mechanisms both to encourage behaviour that is approved by the society and to discourage that which is unacceptable, so that as they are brought into play they reinforce the values that underlie them. These mechanisms range from the spontaneous reactions of friends and neighbours, such as admiration, gossip or ostracism, to the highly organised system of honours and punishments which are distributed by agencies of the state in which the society is found. In a small-scale society, or close-knit group, the former are usually more effective in practice than the latter, whose part is greater the more complex and anonymous a society becomes.