Human societies are an ever-changing, complex system. These societies are used to enforce a standard of behaviour through which their members are governed. Their complexity, therefore, introduces opportunities for critical minds to analyse, evaluate, and criticize the foundations on which they function. Regardless of the type of social system in place, whether it is capitalism, feudalism or slavery; the common denominator in each system is the routine practice of social control.
In this essay, we will discuss components of social control by exploring it from a materialistic, moral, and rational perspective. These three perspectives are found in the theories of sociological canons Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber respectively. Marx explains social control from a materialistic perspective by explaining the effects that capitalism had on the stability of society. More specifically, he explained the factors that influenced social change which, in turn, led to social control.
All social control for Marx begins with exploitation of working class by the upper capitalist class. Marx (Bratton and Denham 2014: 106) states that capitalist method of production results in ehumanization, making human activity like that of a machine; he refers to this as alienation. Additionally, Marx (Bratton and Denham 2014: 106) identifies four types of alienation. The first, alienation from the product, refers to the notion that due to divisions of labour and machinery, workers have no creative contribution into what they produce (Bratton and Denham 2014: 106).
Second, alienation from work itself refers to the Karl notion that workers need to work to live; however, the repetitive process of capitalist work leaves no satisfaction (Bratton and Denham 2014: 107). The thi rd, alienation from oneself, refers to the instrumentality of work. It is not a source of pleasure, but rather a channel of collecting money to use for pleasure later (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 2). Finally, alienation from nature and others, refers to the class barriers and relationships of capitalist society (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 2).
The class differential influences the use of racism and sexism by the upper class (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 2). Social classes play a significant role the canons’ explanation of social control. It is one component in which all three canons agree on. Marx views social classes as having an essential role in societal dominance and control (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 2). He argues that one group exploits and takes advantage of another group. The design of the product and how it is produced are determined, not by the producers who make it, nor by the consumers of the product, but by the Capitalist class (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 2).
Marx (Bratton and Denham 2014: 120) also argued that the dominant class creates a belief of a way of life that, in turn, leads to its domination. Similarly, he claims that the class holding the means of production also controls the ntellectual production of people in its society (Bratton and Denham 2014: 121). Further, Marx (Bratton and Denham 2014: 136) states that the dominant class controls the demand of the market in terms of what is being produced as well as how much and, as a result, controls society.
Emile Durkheim shared Karl Marx belief on divisions of labour; however, in a different light. Durkheim views divisions of labour as the source of social solidarity (Bratton and Denham 2014: 163). In other words, his thoughts on the division of labour stem from a moral perspective which emphasizes an interaction between people hat results in social order (Bratton and Denham 2014: 163). Durkheim (Bratton and Denham 2014: 163) views societal stability from two forms of social solidarity.
The first, mechanical solidarity refers to a system in which harmony is due to resemblance or a lack of individual distinction (Nakhaie 2016: Feb 25). In contrast, organic solidarity creates stability due to the dependence of people on one another (Bratton and Denham 2014: 165). In this case, division of labour promotes interaction between people who depend on one another’s speciality (Bratton and Denham 2014: 165). The difference between these two is the principles which govern them.
Durkheim (Bratton and Denham 2014: 166) states that mechanical solidarity is governed by religious rules, whereas organic solidarity is based on moral nature. The specialized systems of organic solidarity found in capitalist industrial societies have steadily grown, and mechanical solidarity has become more hidden (Bratton and Denham 2014: 166). The increase in division of labour caused for a loss in individuality and, as a result, increasing interdependence and interaction among people in society Bratton and Denham 2014: 167).
Durkheim calls this outcome an increase in moral density (Bratton and Denham 2014: 167). Therefore, in contrast to Marx, increase in volume and division of labour causes for less social control due to the difficulty of influencing a larger population. As a result, there is more space for individual variation (Bratton and Denham 2014: 167). Max Weber’s philosophy resembles that of Karl Marx’s on a number of levels. Although he criticized Marx’s perspective on socialism, arguing that bureaucracy is the problem and not capitalism Bratton and Denham 2014: 280), he agrees with his outlook on social class.
Consensus is reached as Weber notices the exploitation of the working class in capitalist societies, as they’re forced to sell their labour power to employers in order to live (Bratton and Denham 2014: 255). Like Marx, he recognizes the fate of the industrial worker in the loss of control and input into their work process (Bratton and Denham 2014: 283). Weber’s views on social control are through a bureaucratic lens of dominance, power, and authority. The three theories of uthority that Weber uses for classification are traditional, charismatic and legal-rational (Bratton and Denham 2014: 261).
Traditional power is based on age old ideologies of rules and power (Nakhaie 2016: Mar 17). Patriarchy, a concept that gives ruling power to the father, is among the most pure forms of traditional authority (Bratton and Denham 2014: 261). Traditional authority differs from Weber’s explanation of charismatic authority. Charismatic authority refers to an individual who possesses authority equivalent to having supernatural powers (Nakhaie 2016: Mar 17). Religious leaders nd dictators are both examples of charismatic authority (Bratton and Denham 2014: 261).
Finally, legal-rational authority found in modern times that consist of rules and laws governed through enforcement agencies (Nakhaie 2016: Mar 17). These laws differ from the other two types of authority as leaders are subject to the same body of laws as citizens (Bratton and Denham 2014: 261). More importantly, legal-rational authority is what Weber refers to as the bureaucracy that holds us like an iron cage (Bratton and Denham 2014: 280). human societies govern the behaviour of people across all pochs.
Each epoch has its own set of complex foundations that, in turn, results in social changes that effect the population as a whole. These social changes do not come without conflict, as conflicts are what cause people to rise and fight for change. However, as discussed by all three canons, social change does not come without consequence. The collapse of one system paves the way for another, as was the case in the transition from slavery to feudalism and from feudalism to capitalism. Regardless of the social system in place, social control will find its way to the surface.