Tuesday, December 3, 2013

#337 / Social Control

One of the courses I am teaching at UCSC is called "Introduction To The Legal Process." The textbook for this course is Law, Justice, and Society, A Sociolegal Introduction. Chapter 9 in the book got me seriously bent out of shape, when I read the authors' statement that "law has one overriding function; it is social control." The authors went on to define social control as "any action, either deliberate or unconscious, that influences conduct toward conformity." [See Page 225]

In other words, this textbook wants me to tell the students in my class that the function and purpose of law is to induce members of society to conform, and that this function of law is its "overriding" purpose. 

In fact, I told the students in my class something completely different. 

In our human world, the world in which we make the laws ourselves, our "laws" are the written down instructions that we provide to ourselves, to tell us what we think we ought to do. In the World of Nature, "laws" are descriptive, because they describe exactly what must happen. Check out the Law of Gravity sometime. That's how laws work in the Natural World. 

In our human world, however, the world we create, the "laws" we promulgate are not descriptive. They don't describe what we must or will do. Human laws are prescriptive. Just like a doctor's prescription, our laws tell us what we should do. They are not an mechanism of "control." They are a statement of mutual aspiration. 

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  1. Laws were generally there for the purpose of establishing order in a society. It was meant as a protection from chaos for upstanding citizens. It is my opinion that many lawmakers have become power hungry. Opting to make laws that don't protect anyone, but rather dictate how they believe their citizens should live.
    As we have seen time and time again, the laws meant to protect our citizens fail in protecting everyone. You cannot eliminate human nature. You cannot wipe out freewill. That's why many "laws" can be viewed as merely tools to ease civil unrest.

  2. Thanks for this comment, with which I am in general agreement. Still, I wish you had been taking that course I taught! I think I might have been able to change your idea that laws are "merely tools to ease civil unrest." Quite a bit more, in my view!


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