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  • 1. Law is a mechanism of formal social control that comes into play when other forms of social control are weak, ineffective, or unavailable.
  • 2. Mechanisms of social control through external pressures may be formal and informal, and include both negative and positive sanctions. Informal social controls tend to be effective when there is intense social interaction on an intimate face-to-face basis, normative consensus, and surveillance of the behavior of members of the community. Formal social controls are characteristic of more complex societies with a greater division of labor and different sets of mores, values, and ideologies; these social controls arise when informal controls are insufficient to maintain conformity to certain norms.
  • 3. The social control of criminal and delinquent behavior represents the most highly structured formal system used by society to attempt to control deviant behavior. The goals of legal punishment include retribution or social retaliation, incapacitation, and both specific and general deterrence.
  • 4. Legal punishment is more likely to have a deterrent effect in situations that involve low-commitment individuals who engage in instrumental crimes.
  • 5. Formal control of deviant behavior is not limited to criminal sanctions. The use of civil commitment as a mechanism of legal control is rather common and involves few or no procedural safeguards available for defendants, who include alcoholics, drug addicts, sex offenders, and troublesome teenagers.
  • 6. The United States invests enormous resources in controlling victimless crimes. The legal control of victimless crimes, such as drug addiction, prostitution, and gambling, tends to be generally expensive, and ineffective and often leads to the corruption of law enforcement agents.
  • 7. White-collar crimes constitute a greater threat to the welfare of society than more traditional kinds of crime. In general, laws dealing with corporate crime are ineffective, and the sanctions are insufficient to act as effective deterrents. Corporations tend to consider law violation and the resulting fine as part of their regular business expenses.
  • 8. Many governments use the law and other means to control dissent. In both the recent and more distant past, the U.S. government has relied on the operations of various intelligence agencies to create a system of institutionalized social control of dissent.
  • 9. Control through administrative law is exercised in the context of licensing, inspection, and the use of publicity as a threat.
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