Social Control can be classified into two major types on the basis of the means of social control that are employed.
(i) Formal control, and
(ii) Informal control.
1. Formal Control:
The state makes use of law, legislation, military force, police force, administrative devices, etc., for the purpose of social control. Similarly, different political, religious, economic, cultural and other associations and institutions also institute formal control over the behaviour of the members. Formal control is deliberately created.
Various rules are laid down to make it specific. The necessity of following formal control or rules is clearly stated by associations and institutions. Violators of formal control are given punishments depending upon the nature and type of violation.
The organisation that makes use of formal control may even create a body of officials vested with power to enforce control as we find it in the case of state which has established the police, military force, etc.
In brief, an association, whether it is a state or a bank, or an army, or a factory or anything has its own norms through which it controls the behaviour of the members. All these come under formal control. Formal control has become a necessity in the modern complex societies in which interaction is mostly impersonal in nature.
2. Informal Control:
Informal Control includes gossip, slander, resentment, public opinion, sympathy, sense of justice, folkways, mores, customs, religion, morality and such other agents. These are not purposefully created. Nothing could be said with certainty regarding their origin. They arise on their own way and in course of time gain currency and popularity.
They become deep-rooted with people in their practices. No specific punishment would be given to the violators of informal control. Still they are more effective than the formal control. They do not require any extra staff to enforce them as it is so in the case of formal control. They do not have the physical force to enforce conformity to them.
Hence, people may not observe them or go against them without being physically punished for the same. Faith in religion, moral convictions, public opinion, artistic standard, and the general state of enlightenment are found to be more important in informal control.
Informal control is more effective in primary social groups such as family, neighbourhood, tribe, rural community where interaction takes place on a personal basis. Whenever the group or the society becomes larger (in terms of population) and more complex, the informal devices of control become less effective.
Simple gossip and slander and censure can correct an earring retaliate but not an urban citizen. The anonymity of city life which has added to the confidence of the individual that he could commit an offence without being noticed or caught by others who are mostly engaged in their own business, contributes to the non-effectiveness of informal control.
Hence informal methods have given place to the formal ones such as law, education, coercion and codes, though less effective informal control also functions along with formal control in urban areas in regulating people’s activities.