SOC 2700 Chapter Notes - Chapter 10: Social Control, Dynamic Equilibrium, Group Conflict

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Chapter #10, Conflict Theory, Page 221-244
Coflit theo is the assuptio that soiet is’t held togethe  ageeet ad
consensus on major values but is a bunch of groups held together in a dynamic
equilibrium of opposing group interests and efforts. Conflict is one of the principle and
essential social processes upon the continuing on-going society depends.
Power is the principle determinant of the outcome of this conflict. The most powerful
groups control the law, and their values are the legal standard for behaviour. The
members of the less powerful groups although they suffer legally, act in accordance to
the with their internal group norms, which means violating the law. Conflict theory
offers an explanation for both law and the CJS and criminal and deviant behaviour.
Law is a Type of Social Control
Social control is a normative system with rules about the way people should and
should’t ehae, ad a sste of foal ad ifoal ehaiss used to otol
deviation from and promote conformity to these rules.
Informal social control exists in the family, friendship groups, churches,
neighbourhoods, and other groups in the community.
Formal social control includes law and the CJS where rules are officially made and
enforced by authorized agents.
Social control relies on socialization which is the process of teaching and learning
values, norms, and customs through example and the application of positive and
negative social sanctions. Morality and values are learned through the family, churches,
and other social institutions. Socialization also teaches how to react to norms and self-
The giving or withholding of affection, praise or ridicule, acceptance or rejection and
other forms of social sanctions all help to maintain compliance with social norms.
Law is the application of formal negative sanctions in the form of punishment for
wrongdoing. Law is different than other forms of social control as its sanctions are
supported by coercion of the state.
2 views on the perspective of enactment and enforcement of law by the state. #1) views
law as developing out of a widespread normative consensus in society reflecting the
common interests of society as a whole. #2) views law as a product of a conflict
between group interests and the exercise of power in society.
Consensus and Functionalist Theories of Law
The main theory until the 1960s for law and social control was consensus theory which
views the formal system of laws and enforcement as incorporating those norms in
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society on which there is the greatest normative consensus. The main theorists are
Sumner, Ross, Durkheim, and Weber.
Dukhei’s ie is o the ehaial eethig alike ad ogai diese soieties.
Wee’s said as soieties eae oe eooiall adaced, societies and law
become more rational. Rationality of law is based on the rule of law characterized by
due process and fair procedures determined by established legal principles and rules
(formal rationality) rather than fairness of the actual outcome of the process judged
according to the interests or ideology of particular individuals of groups (substantive
rationality.) Sumner said law is developed by the formal codification through legislation
and court rulings of the prevailing folkways and mores, which are unorganized, intuitive
principles of right and wrong that evolve over time, and take a while to change. When
laws are passed they express the underlying mores, legislation cannot create new mores
of change them. Sumner main emphasis was that law is shaped by the customs of
society. Ross was much like Sumner.
No major theorists have considered these models since the 1950s.
Functionalist theory underscores the consensual norms and values of society, the social
sste’s odel state of euiliiu ad the la’s ultiate futio of soial
integration. It overlaps with consensus theory and says law functions for the greater
public welfare. Where law serves the interests of society, not just the special interests of
certain powerful groups.
No major theorists have considered this model since 1975.
Conflict Theory of Law and Criminal Justice
Began to challenge consensus theory in the 1950s. Used by Marx, Simmel, and most
importantly Vold. Many started by not trying to go after criminal behaviour but
criminality, the process of where behaviour and people are labeled criminals. Why are
soe ats defied as iial ad othes ae’t? oflit theo sas the foulatio
and enforcement of the law directly and indirectly are to serve the interests of the more
powerful groups in society.
The values and interests of different groups conflict with one another where behaviours
in one may be considered deviant, or normal in another. The dominant group has their
definitions enacted in law, ensconced in public policy and protected by the operation of
the CJS. Groups in the minority often come into conflict with these dominant laws.
Class, race, sex, age, ethnicity, and others that denote social positions in society
determine who is punished by the dominant laws. Typically, the economically, and
socially disadvantaged groups of lower class, minorities, youth, women and others are
disadvantaged by the CJS. Conflict theory does recognize consensus in part of it. Law is
both the result of and a weapon to be used in group conflict. However, no one can have
everything completely go their way, even the most powerful.
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