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Conformity

The genesis of the study of social conformity or stability is the assumption that there is order in nature and it can be discovered, described and understood. Applying this analogy to society what sociologists aim is to discover, describe and explain the order which characterizes the social life of man.

It is justifiable search because members of any large society perform millions and billions of social acts in the course of a single day. The outcome of such social activity is not chaos but rather a reasonable approximation of order. Sociology is concerned with an explanation of how this wonder comes about. In doing so, sociologists talk of social system which means that the coordination and integration of social structure which ends in order rather than in chaos. It is also to be borne in mind that when sociologists study social conformity, it is not their business to condemn or justify it. Logically, sociologists do study social stability in totalitarian societies too.

The means by which individuals or groups are induced and/or compelled to confirm to certain norms and values are numerous. The most obvious and uniform manifestations of social control are found in social institutions. Some of the prominent ones are law, government, religion, marriage, family, education and social classes. Also, caste distinctions and classes provide effective control over the behavior of individuals. These work in two ways. These distinctions create patterns of behavior within limits which govern each class in its relation with other classes. The importance of these patterns largely depends on the social setting of a potent means of enforcing conformity, but it would be of little importance in enforcing conformity in the impersonal life of an American metropolis.

In studying the values and norms that contribute to the order or conformity of society, sociologists select only those of the social facts which are of sociological value. One's conscience, too, can be regarded as a power that restrains and inhibits, but this cannot be a subject-matter of sociology since it relates only to individuals. Hence the first pre-requisite for any social fact to be regarded as one that has a bearing on social order is that it should affect every member of society in one way or other.

Social decontrol or disorder is a part and parcel of the study of social control and conformity. No social system is perfect in the sense that it is very orderly and stable. Social decontrol is endemic in social life, as some norms are not followed, some values are not fulfilled, and some goals are not attained. And in some societies the majority violates socially and/or legally defined standards and value of life. Almost all societies experience riots, civil war, mob violence, terror, crime and general disorganization, whether for short or long periods. It should also be kept in mind that social disorder does not necessarily mean chaos.

All social groups show some absence or uniformity both in standards and effectiveness of social control. There are always some mal by adjustments and conflicts, as illustrated psychopaths, eccentrics and criminals. Moreover, in times of rapid social change the deviations may be numerous and wide spread so as to be characterized as social disorganization. When pre-literate people come under domination of a complex civilization the old norms and/or controls may become weak so as to destroy all incentive for ordinary activities of life apart from zest of living.

The order of any social system consists of both regularized patterns of action and institutions that control and channelize the conflict produced by persistent strains. The coordination that exists in a society at a single point of time is perhaps miraculous. More wondrous is the fact that system persists over relatively long periods of time. However, societies do change. And when they change, certain amount of disorder creeps in. The concept of control and conformity, therefore, includes the efforts to retain it and the departures from it.