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The genesis of the study of social conformity or stability is the assumption that there is order in nature and it can be discovered, described and understood. Applying this analogy to society what sociologists aim is to discover, describe and explain the order which characterizes the social life of man.

It is justifiable search because members of any large society perform millions and billions of social acts in the course of a single day. The outcome of such social activity is not chaos but rather a reasonable approximation of order. Sociology is concerned with an explanation of how this wonder comes about. In doing so, sociologists talk of social system which means that the coordination and integration of social structure which ends in order rather than in chaos. It is also to be borne in mind that when sociologists study social conformity, it is not their business to condemn or justify it. Logically, sociologists do study social stability in totalitarian societies too.

The means by which individuals or groups are induced and/or compelled to confirm to certain norms and values are numerous. The most obvious and uniform manifestations of social control are found in social institutions. Some of the prominent ones are law, government, religion, marriage, family, education and social classes. Also, caste distinctions and classes provide effective control over the behavior of individuals. These work in two ways. These distinctions create patterns of behavior within limits which govern each class in its relation with other classes. The importance of these patterns largely depends on the social setting of a potent means of enforcing conformity, but it would be of little importance in enforcing conformity in the impersonal life of an American metropolis.

In studying the values and norms that contribute to the order or conformity of society, sociologists select only those of the social facts which are of sociological value. One's conscience, too, can be regarded as a power that restrains and inhibits, but this cannot be a subject-matter of sociology since it relates only to individuals. Hence the first pre-requisite for any social fact to be regarded as one that has a bearing on social order is that it should affect every member of society in one way or other.

Social decontrol or disorder is a part and parcel of the study of social control and conformity. No social system is perfect in the sense that it is very orderly and stable. Social decontrol is endemic in social life, as some norms are not followed, some values are not fulfilled, and some goals are not attained. And in some societies the majority violates socially and/or legally defined standards and value of life. Almost all societies experience riots, civil war, mob violence, terror, crime and general disorganization, whether for short or long periods. It should also be kept in mind that social disorder does not necessarily mean chaos.

All social groups show some absence or uniformity both in standards and effectiveness of social control. There are always some mal by adjustments and conflicts, as illustrated psychopaths, eccentrics and criminals. Moreover, in times of rapid social change the deviations may be numerous and wide spread so as to be characterized as social disorganization. When pre-literate people come under domination of a complex civilization the old norms and/or controls may become weak so as to destroy all incentive for ordinary activities of life apart from zest of living.

The order of any social system consists of both regularized patterns of action and institutions that control and channelize the conflict produced by persistent strains. The coordination that exists in a society at a single point of time is perhaps miraculous. More wondrous is the fact that system persists over relatively long periods of time. However, societies do change. And when they change, certain amount of disorder creeps in. The concept of control and conformity, therefore, includes the efforts to retain it and the departures from it.


In our times state is the sole upholder of social control and conformity, and the principal means at its disposal is law. Since law is enforced by State, force is present. Roscoe Pound explains law as social control through systematic application of the force of a politically organized society. In a lighter vein Bertrand Russell remarks that the good behaviour of even the most exemplary citizen owes much to the existence of a police force. Much earlier, Durkheim was the first sociologist to show that law is the means to enforce the collective conscience or collectivity which makes society an entity by itself, almost God.

Law is closely associated with morality and religion. Legislation always rests on social doctrines and ideals which have been derived from religion and morality, and judicial decisions always rely on the fundamental moral ideas of society expressed as reason, natural law, natural justice,

and equality and, in more recent times, as public policy or public interest litigation as in India.Law, therefore, rests upon moral sentiments derived from religion and is influenced by institutional arrangements of society; and it brings about, by its precision and sanction, such a degree of certainty in human behaviour that cannot be attained through other types of social control. On occasions, law enforces social attitudes and contracts which initially were those of a small minority of reformers. In Russia, law has established new morals of behaviour which were originally the aspirations of small group of revolutionaries. In democratic societies, too, social reformers played an important part in influencing social behaviour, later on approved by law.

One more characteristic of law is the changed outlook towards punishment. As societies are becoming more confident of their powers to maintain order as a result of rising material standards, declining class differences and spread of education and extension of rights, more and more stress is being laid on the willing cooperation of people with state and its law. This development has been further augmented by studies in sociology and psychology which have shown that crimes are projection of society rather than the results of individual violation. That is why the new discipline, called criminology, has developed as an applied branch of sociology.

Lastly, law as it is today, does not primarily deal with individuals alone. Very often it regulates conflicts between individuals and groups as well as between individuals and large organisations whether public or private. The role of property in social life has been modified by the changes that have accrued in the relations between the employer and the worker through the abolition of the crime of conspiracy, the recognition of collective bargaining, social security and direct limitations on the use of private property, all through legislation.

The law as it exists today partly contributes to social change. As already remarked above, the change in the role of property has led to a great social change in man's social behavior. Secondly, individual initiative is no longer on the premium in modern societies. Mammoth organizations and corporations undertake the vast socio-economic activities of modern times. Taking into account these changes, American sociologists have introduced expressions such as the 'Other-directed man' and the organization man. As the social complex of modern communities is transforming itself, law, too, is keeping pace with them in making the interaction between the other direct man and the mammoth organizations or the corporations to be smooth and efficient.

In developing societies the role of law in contributing to social change is much more. In all countries there is a continuous rationalization of the existing law by modification, introduction of foreign codes, and systematic legislation in relation to customary and traditional law. The Indian Constitution is an embodiment of such monumental change. The philosophy governing social changes, implied as well as explicitly stated in the Constitution, is governed by the principles stated in the Preamble which are entirely secular and which bear the imprint of the leading minds of the world like the 18th century French philosophers, liberal thinkers of the 19th century, the Fabian socialists of the 20th century, and individual thinkers like Thoreau, Tolstoy and Mahatma Gandhi.

Although law has an important role in maintaining social order or conformity, there are a few weaknesses in the existing law. It no longer has charismatic qualities which it earlier had, although our courts resound with expressions like the Majesty and the sanctity of law, your Lordships and so on. Second, people do not feel collectively and directly involved when any law is violated. It is more in the form of keeping each individual in his limits. Lastly, law does not enable the criminal to be finally reconciled to society. Modern Law, as it has developed, is increasingly being separated from custom and religion. It is only when legislation and litigation, the two processes concerned with law, are harmonized that they take their appropriate place in social control.

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Once a habit is established, it becomes a role or norm of action. Customs often involve binding reciprocal obligations. Also, custom supports law, without which it becomes meaningless. In the words of Maclver and Page, custom establishes a social order of its own so that conflict arising between custom and law is not a conflict between law and lawlessness, but between the orders of reflection (law) and the order of spontaneity (custom).

In general, customs regulate the whole social life of man. Law itself cannot cover the whole gamut of social behavior. It is the customary practices that contribute to the harmonious social interactions in a society which normal times of peace and tranquility. The influence of custom, at times, extends beyond one's own community. In certain communities custom determines the relations between two communities at war. The Bedouins of the African desert will never destroy a water-well of the enemy.

Some of the customs do not play any role in social control. They just exist because of their ancient nature just as all people bathing in an unhygienic tank or a lake just because of an established religious custom. Even the custom of performing Shradha in India has no meaning if people do not know how to respect what the past has given us as well as accept our moral obligation to the future generations. However, in most of the traditional societies the customary practices are all emptied of their meaning.

In brief, although custom is regarded as one of the less formal types of control like public opinion, its influence on social life is very significant as it alone contributes to the textual part of social behavior.


This term is used to describe both the process of contacts between different cultures and also the customs of such contacts. As the process of contact between cultures, acculturation may involve either direct social interaction or exposure to other cultures by means of the mass media of communication. As the outcome of such contact, acculturation refers to the assimilation by one group of the culture of another which modifies the existing culture and so changes group identity. There may be a tension between old and new cultures which leads to the adapting of the new as well as the old.


Integration is defined as a process of developing a society in which all the social groups share the socioeconomic and cultural life. The integration of the communities is facilitated by the factors that help assimilation. Alcott Parsons defined integration as a mode of relation of the units of the system by virtue of which on the one hand they act collectively to avoid disrupting the system and making

it impossible to maintain the stability and on the other hand to cooperate to promote its functioning as a unity. He believed that the kinship group, family, profession, the state and religion are visible social structures and these perform the function of integration in various forms.

Social Distance

Bogardus developed the concept of social distance to measure the degree of closeness or acceptance we feel toward other groups. While most often used with reference to racial groups social distance refers to closeness between groups of all kinds. Social distance is measured either by direct observation of people interacting or more often by questionnaires in which people are asked what kind of people they would accept in particular relationships. In these questionnaires a number of groups may be listed and the informants asked to check whether they would accept a member of each group as a neighbor, as a fellow worker as a marriage partner and so on through a series of relationships. The social distance questionnaires may not accurately measure what people actually would do if a member of another group sought to become a friend or neighbour.The social distance scale is only an attempt to measure one's feeling of unwillingness to associate equally with a group. What a person will actually do in a situation also depends upon the circumstances of the situation.

Some of terms and the theorists

  • Animism- Tylor
  • Animatism- Marett
  • Anomie- Durkheim, Merton
  • Achieved and Ascribed role- Linton
  • Barbarism- Morgan
  • Cultural lag- Ogburn
  • Cultural Relativism- Herskovitz
  • Cultural reproduction- Bourdien
  • Culturalization - Kluckhon
  • Ethnocentrism-Sumner
  • Ethnology- J.S Mill
  • Essentialism- Karl Popper
  • Eugenics- Francis Galton, Karl Pearson
  • Gesselschaft and Gemeinschaft- Earl Bell
  • Quasi Group- Ginsberg
  • Primary and Secondary group- Cooley
  • Positive and Negative Group- Newscomb
  • Membership& Non- membership group- Merton
  • Marginal Man- Adorno
  • Status situation- Lockwood
  • Status Symbol- Pack and Bourdien
  • Structuralism- Levi Strauss
  • Structuration- Anthony Giddens
  • Status Set- Merton
  • Status sequence- Merton
  • Relative Deprivation- Stouffer, Merton
  • Role Distance- Goffmann
  • Roleset- Merton
  • Patterns of culture- Ruth Benedict
  • Ethos- Kroeber
  • Primary and Secondary deviance- Lemert
  • Theory of Moral development- Piaget
  • Social distance- Bogardus
  • Social Position- A.R.Brown
  • Societal System- A.G Keller
  • Sociography- F.Tonnies Sociometry- J.L Moreno
  • Spiralist- Bell
  • Social Character- Eric Fromm
  • Social Fact- Durkheim
  • Differential Association Theory- Sutherland

Points to Remember

  • Mores is to the folk society what law is to the modern society.
  • Maclver characterized caste as a closed status group.
  • Durkheim pioneered the method of multivariate analysis in sociology.
  • Bernstein distinguished two patterns of speech naming them elaborated and restricted codes.
  • Boas hold that there is not the slightest scientific proof that race determines mentality but there is overwhelming evidence that mentality is influenced by traditional culture.
  • Brown was associated with the concept of Interaction process analysis.
  • Marx and Althusser put forward the materialistic variant of the evolutionary theory.
  • Parsons argued that societies developed from organizational forms where relationship was based on status to those based upon contract.
  • Brown gave the concepts of external and internal systems.
  • Burgess classified societies according to their volume and density.
  • Comte saw society as a social organism possessing a harmony of structure and function.
  • Simon distinguished between three stages of mental activity- the conjectural, miconjectural and the positive.

  • Durkheim for the first time used the concept of social structure in sociology.
  • Promordial collectivities are another name given to ethnic group.
  • Thurstone,Likert and Guttman were associated with sampling procedures.
  • Lundberg codified cultural items into universal, alternatives and specialties.
  • The term group dynamics refers to adjustive changes in small groups.
  • To Robert Merton dysfunction is an activity that lessens the adoption or adjustment of the unit to its getting.
  • To Durkheim altruistic type of suicide is characterized in modern societies.
  • According to Durkheim the nature of solidarity of a society can be indicated by the nature of economy.
  • Merton believed that a political ideology as communism could provide a functional alternative to religion.
  • According to Malinowski elements of institutions included personnel, charter and norms.
  • Brown held that functionalism represented a triple alliance between theory, method and practice.
  • The tendency of the person to reject the culture of his own group is called lenocentrism.
  • The orientation that emphasizes individual choice and decision-making in determining behaviour is called altruism.
  • The phase psychic unity of mankind is associated with evolutionism.
  • A totem acquired significance because of social acceptance.
  • The superorganic view of culture has given by Darwin.
  • Sociology is confined to the study of forms of social relationship in their abstract forms is held by Idealistic school.
  • Thurston scale is type of attitude scale.
  • Morphology refers to the objective, scientific study of society for the purpose of pure knowledge and theoretical advancement.
  • Sumner has divided sociology into systematic and general sociology and historical sociology.
  • Max Weber defined sociology as a branch of study attempting the interpretative understanding of social action.
  • C.Wright Mills advocated the inverse deductive method in sociology.
  • T.Stuart Chapin was a pioneer in measurement of attitude.
  • The theory of relationship was propounded by Won Weise.

Important Concepts

  • Affluent worker - Goldthorpe, Lockwood
  • Alienation- Hegal, Marx
  • Anomie - Durkheim used it suicide and later developed by Merton
  • Anticipatory socialization- Merton
  • Atomistic family- Zimmerman
  • Bureaucracy- Weber explained it as ideal type
  • Citizenship - T.H Marshall
  • Concentric zone theory- Burgess
  • Conurbation- Patrick Geddes
  • Conspicuous consumption- Thorstein Veblen
  • Cross cousin- Taylor
  • Cultural lag - Ogburn
  • Cultural reproduction- Bourdieu
  • Differential worker- Lockwood
  • Deschooling society- Illich
  • Dialectical materialism- Hegel and later Marx

  • Classificatory and descriptive system- Morgan
  • Division of Labour- used by Adam Smith later developed by Durkheim
  • Dysfunction and function- Merton
  • Emergent properties - Talcott Parsons
  • Ethnomethodolgy - Schutz and Harold Garfinkel
  • Ethnology - J.S Mill
  • Ideal Type- Max Weber
  • Little tradition - Robert Redfield
  • Internal colonialism- Gramsci,Lenin
  • Leisure class- Veblen
  • Labeling theory- E Lemart later discussed by Becker
  • Marginal Man- Park
  • Nuclear Family- Murdock
  • Organizational man - Whyte
  • Positivism- Auguste Comte
  • Folkways - Sumner
  • Grand theory- C.W Mills
  • Frankfurt school - Adorno
  • Oriental despotism- Karl Wittfogel
  • Asymmetric society- James S Coleman
  • Teknonymy- Taylor
  • Relative deprivation- Stouffe in "American soldier" ,later developed by Merton
  • Post Industrial society- David Bell
  • Pattern variables- Talcott Parsons and Shills
  • Reciprocity - Mauss
  • Role distance- Goffman
  • Social distance- Bogardus
  • Sociometry- Moreno
  • Sponsored mobility- Turner
  • Rationality- Max Weber
  • Styles of life - Robert Redfield
  • Status inconsistency- Lenski
  • Social Darwinism - Charles Darwin
  • Sociology- Auguste Comte
  • Utilitarianism - Bentham and Mill
  • Verstehen -Max Weber
  • Sib - Murdock
  • Total institution - Erving Goffman
  • Social circle- Zenienki
  • Hermeneutics - W Dilthey, Later Mannheim Gouldner and Schultz

Sociology Of Media

We can understand the social impact of the development of new networks of communication and information flow only if we put aside the intuitively plausible idea that communication media serve to transmit information and symbolic content to individuals whose relations to others remain fundamentally unchanged. We must see instead that the use of communication media involves the creation of new forms of action and interaction in the social world, new kinds of social relationships and new ways of relating to others and to oneself. When individuals use communication media they enter into forms of interaction which differ in certain aspects from the type of face to face interaction which characterizes most encounters of daily life. They are able to act for others who are physically absent or act in response to others who are situated in distant locales. In a fundamental way the use of communication media transforms the spatial and temporal organization of social life creating new forms of action and interaction and new modes of exercising power, which are no longer linked to the sharing of a common locale.

The development of communication media has not only rendered power visible in new ways, it has also rendered it visible on an unprecedented scale. Today mediated visibility is effectively global in scope. This circumstance is the outcome of a complex process of globalization whose origins can be traced back at least as far as mid- 19 century.

Cultural theory

Three traditions of thought are relevant. One is the tradition of critical social theory stemming from the work of Frankfurt school. The early writings of Horkheimer, Adorno and Marcuse their critique of what they called 'the culture industry' were too negative and was rooted in a questionable conception of modern societies and their developmental trends. But Habermas's early accounts of the emergence and transformation of the public sphere is a work that still merits careful consideration.

The great strength of Habermas's early work is that it treats the development of media as an integral part of the formation of the modern societies. He argued that the articulation of critical public opinion through the media was a vital feature of modern democratic life. The vision which lies behind Habermas account is one that continues with some justification to command our respect. The second tradition stemmed from the work of so-called media theorists. The most well-known of these theorists was Marshall McLuhan but the most original and insightful was probably McLuhan's compatriot and mentor Harold Innis.

Innis was one of the first to expose systematically the relations between media and communication on the one hand and spatial and temporal organization of power on the other. His theory of the bias of communication simply put that different media favored different ways of organizing political power whether centralized or decentralized extended in time or space and so on was no doubt too crude to account for the complexities of the historical relations between communication and power. But Innis rightly emphasis the fact that communication media as such are important for the organization of power, irrespective of the content of the messages they convey. This approach has been taken up and dev eloped by others by McLuhan but also by more recent theorists like Joshua Meyrowitz who insightfully combines an analysis of electronic media inspired by McLuhan with an account of social interaction derived from Goffman.This tradition is less helpful however when it comes to thinking about the social organization of the media industries ,about the ways in which the media are interwoven with the unequal distribution of power and resources and about how individuals make sense of media products and incorporate them into their lives.


It is a tradition concerned with the contextualized interpretation of symbolic forms. Among the recent contributions the works of Gadamer, Ricoeur but also the more ethnographically oriented writings of Clifford Greetz.It highlight the fact that the reception of symbolic forms including media products always involves a contextualized and creative process of interpretation in which individuals draw on the resources available to them in order to make sense of the message they receive. It also calls for our attention to the fact that the activity of appropriation is part of an extended process of self formation through which individuals develop a sense of themselves and others of their history their place in the world and the social groups to which they belong. By emphasizing the creative, constructive and socially embedded character of interpretation. Hermeneutics converges with some of the recent ethnographic work on the reception of media products while at the same time enriching this work by bringing to bear on it the resources of a tradition concerned with the link between interpretation and self formation

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