Sociology and External Control Essay

Submitted By linhvutieu
Words: 1336
Pages: 6

LaTasha Anderson
SOCY2500: Social Problems, Professor Miller
March 11, 2015
“A Discourse on Social Disorganization Theory”

Bedford Stuyvesant in Brooklyn, NY is a rapidly gentrifying neighborhood. I’ve been living in this neighborhood since I was born, and I’ve watched it change dramatically over the past seven years. Along with the shift in racial and socio-economic demographics, there has been a significant increase in the amount of formal control, and a decrease in external control. Social Disorganization theory attributes community problems to the neighborhood rather than the individuals who reside in them. This is supported further by the assertion: “Poverty, residential mobility, ethnic heterogeneity, and weak social networks decrease a neighborhood’s capacity to control the behavior of people in public, and hence increase the likelihood of crime” (Kubrin and Weitzer 2003). Based on my personal experience as a resident of a neighborhood that has faced both sides of the spectrum, (from poverty to an upgrade, ethnic homogeneity to heterogeneity, etc.) I would have to disagree with this statement. I will expand more on this later. The focus of this paper will be the various mechanisms of surveillance, control and policing, how they affect my neighborhood, and how depending on the neighborhood, one form may be more or less helpful than the other. Formal control, or also known as formal social control are, “practices of the authorities to maintain order and enforce legal and regulatory codes” (Kubrin and Weitzer 2003). Examples of formal control are state laws; such as obeying the speed limit, school rules like No running in the hallway and No fighting, or having to sign in with state identification when entering federal buildings (you must do this or else you won’t get in!). If a person does not follow the rules, there are consequences, penalties and fines assigned to each law broken. This is how state and government attempt to formally control individuals behavior. Informal control or also known as informal social sanctions are, “based on the usually unexpressed but widely known rules of group membership” (Dalton Conley, 2011). Examples of informal control are looks of scowl and disgust toward a person who belches without covering their mouth during a meeting, or the way people stare with disdain at an individual who is eating a full course meal with their fingers on the train. During winter when there is heavy snowfall, my neighbors keep each other in check by calling authorities to report that other neighbors have yet to shovel their snow; homeowners who do not shovel in front of their property are liable to pay a fine. These covert gestures of contempt are ways that people police each other informally on a day to day basis. Internal mechanisms of surveillance, control and policing, I would argue, are the “invisible” ways in which individuals are being watched by authorities, and ultimately controlled. For instance, Google records (keeps track of) your search history, and internet surfers therefore receive pop-up ads of things comparable to what they’ve entered into the search engine in the past. The internet can be an internal mechanism of surveillance primarily, because individuals do not physically interact with it, yet it is “watching you”. Another example is cell phone GPS. If this option is active on a person’s phone, one can easily be located by a phone company and the authorities if desired. External mechanisms are most likely the overt ways in which individuals are controlled and policed. An interesting example of this is the Panopticon. It is a model for prison that, “is a circular building composed of an inner ring and outer ring” (Dalton Conley, 2011). The inner ring is the guards’ tower, and the outer ring is the jail cells; which are made up of large clear windows in the front and back allowing for clear view into each cell. Guards can see into each cell at any given moment, and prisoner’s