Social Control by Law

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TOPIC- Social Control by Law

Law is the most powerful formal means of social control in the modern society. Laws appear only in societies with a political organisation that is a government. The term ‘Law’ has been defined in various ways. J.S. Roucek opines that “Laws are a form of social rule emanating from political agencies”. Roscoe Pound says that “law is an authoritative canon of value laid down by the force of politically organised society”.

The main characteristics of law are:

  • Laws are the general conditions of human activity prescribed by the state for its members.
  • Law is called law, only if enacted by a proper lawmaking authority. It is a product of conscious thought, deliberate attempts and careful planning.
  • Law is definite, clear and precise.
  • Law applies equally to all without exception in identical circumstances.
  • Violation of law is followed by penalties and punishments determined by the authority of the state.
  • Laws are always written down and recorded in some fashion. Hence they cannot appear in non-literate society.
  • Laws are not the result of voluntary consent of persons against whom they are directed. Law is derived from various sources. As J.S. Roucek has pointed out, “All social rules including political rules, or laws, originated first in custom or folkways of long standing and are based upon existing conceptions of justice and right in a given community”.

It is true that “in all societies law is based upon moral notions”. Laws are made and legislations are enacted on the basis of social doctrines, ideals and mores. It does not mean that the domains of law and morals are co-extensive.

Still it can be said that the maintenance of legal order depends upon the moral climate of a society”. (Bottomore). The effectiveness of legal regulation never rests solely upon the threat of physical sanctions. It very much depends upon a general attitude of respect for law, and for a particular legal order. This attitude itself is determined by moral approval of law as containing social justice.

Law requires enforcing agencies. Laws are enforced with the help of the police, the court, and sometimes the armed forces. Administrative machinery of the state is the main law-enforcing agency.

Increasing complexity of the modern industrial society has necessitated enormous growth of administrative agencies. Law is, in fact the control of administrative power which is vested in the government officials.

Law as an instrument of control performs two functions: (i) It eliminates and suppresses the homicidal activities of individuals, (ii) Law persuades individuals to pay attention to the rights of others as well as to act in co-operation with others. In this way law tries to protect the individuals and society and promotes social welfare.

It is almost impossible now-a-days to conceive of a society of any degree of complexity in which social behaviour would be completely regulated by moral sanctions. Law has thus become inevitably a pervasive phenomenon.

Contemporary international relations would reveal the importance of law in social control. It may be true that the moral unity of the mankind is now greater than ever before. But moral sentiments alone are not enough today to regulate relations. They are by necessity supplemented by the law.

Social Control by Law

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