Social Control and Symbolic Interactionism in Literature
The way in which social order is achieved has been the subject of many theories
presented by respectable sociologists such as Emile Durkheim, Thomas Hobbes, George Herbert Mead, and Karl Marx. Among the most prominent of these theories are Hobbes’ “Social Control” theory and Meads’ “Symbolic Interactionism” theory. Through these two theories, it is possible to gain a better understanding of how social order can be achieved.
The social control theory of Thomas Hobbes has five basic premises to it. The first premise is that humans are egotistical beings that will do anything to fulfill their wants and desires. The second premise is based on the idea that because humans are egotistical, crime and deviance are a natural occurrence and do not need to be explained. Instead, those who are not criminalistic or deviant are the ones who need to be explained. The third premise is that humans conform to societal values and norms through rational choice. They do this by weighing the consequences of bad actions with the perceived benefits of good actions, then decide whether to proceed in the direction of good or bad. The fourth premise is that social control is a response to deviance and crime; coercive forms of social control can regulate or reduce crime and deviance. This is possible through the final premise, which is that the fear of consequences imposed by the state influences members of society to adhere to societal norms. The adherence comes from human beings being afraid of suffering a painful and horrible death, whether physical or societal. The social control theory holds strong validation in explaining why most people follow the values and norms of society. In a way though, the theory contradicts itself.
The first premise of humans being egotistical is an excellent observation in human nature. Most human beings continually strive to achieve goals that they perceive as valuable. This theory is best illustrated by American culture where competitiveness and the drive for escalation in social status is apparent in just about everyone. American colleges and universities are often the breeding ground of competitiveness for jobs after graduation. By looking at the large number of students enrolled in secondary education, it can be seen that many Americans choose to receive schooling in hopes of making more money and gaining an elevated social status.
The second premise of Hobbes’ theory is where he seems he contradicts himself. The contradiction comes from him saying that deviance and crime are human nature, and then in his fifth premise saying that members’ adhere to societal norms because they fear a horrible and painful physical or social death. If the fifth premise were true, then no one would commit crimes or become deviant, which contradicts the second premise of deviance and crime should be expected.
The fifth premise also seems invalid because it does not...