Social Control

The idea of social control is nearly as old as the discipline of sociology itself. Yet throughout that history, the concept has come to convey different meanings and to be used in different ways to understand religion. More than a century ago, the pioneering American sociologist Charles A. Ellwood insisted that “it is time that the scientific world realizes the part which religion plays in social life, particularly as a means of social control” (Ellwood, 1918, pp. 335–336). But shared definitions of social control and agreed-upon views of its actions were at that time scarce.

“In the most fundamental terms,” Morris Janowitz has written, social control “referred to the capacity of a society to regulate itself according to desired principles and values.” Nevertheless, he explains ...

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