THE BACKGROUND IN OUR SOCIAL AND POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS
RIVATE PROPERTY, INDIVIDUAL FREEDOM, AND SOCIAL CONTROL
1. Nature of Social Control. -- Social control refers to the influence of society over the thought and action of the individuals composing it. By the exercise of social control the activities of individuals are brought into conformity with the opinion of the group. An individual is restrained from actions which are regarded as unsocial and impelled toward those which meet with popular approval. An unsocial act is one which is regarded as inimical to the best interests and perpetuity of the group.
Social morality is an old problem, but it presents certain modern phases. In the first place, as was shown in the last chapter, the necessity for increased social control has been occasioned by the economic changes of the Industrial Revolution. Greater social control is now demanded by the interdependence and impersonality of modern economic life. In the second place, the character of social control has also been modified by the course of history. Civilization requires increased social control, but it also implies improved social control. Progress should be accompanied by a rational rather than an irrational control and by democratic rather than autocratic forms of social control.
Social control and group morality are very ancient. Various groups of people have evolved different codes of conduct, each of which has been associated with its own concept of social welfare, and each of which has been regarded by its own devotees as contributing to the longevity of that particular group. But these codes of social morality were rarely rationally determined. They contained blind superstitions and crude folkways, which were associated with social welfare only by illogical inference. Again, these codes of social ethics were often autocratically enforced by priests, elders, and kings who arbitrarily and severely punished individual derelictions.
The present problem of social control is to achieve a "scientific morality," that is, a code of social ethics which is rationally determined and which is sufficiently plastic to be modified as our social and economic organization changes. A scientific morality has been defined as that code of conduct, rationally determined, which makes for group longevity.1____________________