Document Type


Publication Date

Spring 2023

Course Description

“All social problems turn out to be problems of social control” (Park and Burgess 1921).” Social control was the organizing theme for the American Sociological Association conference in 1917. Over a century later, contemporary sociologists still focus on how social control affects social order. Most of us conform to the overarching norms of our society, but why? What happens if we don’t? How do social institutions such as medicine, sexuality, sports, the media, the police and military, work, education and religion affect social structure, relationships, identities, norms and opportunities? How do people reify and resist the myriad sources of social control? How can we use an intersectional approach to understand social control? In the beginning of the semester, we will explore these issues as we gain an understanding of formal and informal social control through the lens of various social institutions. We will also explore how social control is developed and maintained through ongoing socialization. The rest of the semester will mostly be independent work on theses and meetings with me individually along with presentation of your thesis to peers. Drawing on the conceptual resources of the course, each of you will empirically investigate some aspect of social control from a macro and/or micro approach. Your thesis will be based on original data collection methods. Your projects will result in a 25-35 page academic paper (fashioned after a journal article), which you will present at the departmental Senior Symposium on May 4 time 5:15-8:30.

Student Outcomes


1. To obtain a thorough grounding in the social-scientific literature on social control.

2. To understand the core theoretical issues and approaches related to issues of social control.

3. To recognize the various ways that human behavior is monitored, affirmed, altered and constrained via various means of informal and formal social control across numerous social institutions as well as in social interactions. To also recognize the consequent implications for social, economic and political life.

4. To appreciate how structural patterns of inequality can be reproduced, exacerbated and/or challenged by various types of social control.

5. To develop the discipline and independence needed to design and carry out an original research project.

6. To practice the skill of presenting social-scientific research to a critical audience.