Methods of Social Control Through Law: Top 6 Techniques

Methods of Social control through Law: Law is one of the instruments by which social control is maintained in the society. In this role, it is assisted by other instruments of social control such as public opinion, education, custom and religion etc. It, however, remains the most formal and deliberate means of social control. In its duty to control the society it applies certain accepted techniques or methods. Some of these techniques includes: the penal technique, grievance remedial technique, private arranging technique, the administrative regulatory technique, constitutive technique, the conferral of social benefit technique and the fiscal technique.

In this article, I will be giving a deep explanation of the various methods of social control through law and how they all play in our modern society. It is therefore imperative to read this article carefully if you want to understand the techniques of social control through law.

Methods of Social control
methods of social control through law

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Top 6 Methods of Social Control Through The Law

1. Penal Technique: This technique is achieved by the use of criminal law. It involves the use of rules prohibiting certain deviant behaviors and providing punishments for non-compliance. Further more, the maintenance of the police force for crime detection, prosecution and a system of courts to adjudicate on questions of criminal liability, are all part of this technique. Other parts of the technique includes the maintenance of prisons, custody centers and other such places. All these are part of the criminal justice system, which was specifically created for the purpose of applying the penal technique. The existence of the technique incurs to the benefit of the society in two ways:

(1) It deter persons from committing crimes: Some are deterred by the public enactment of penal rules, others by public announcement by law enforcement agencies that offenders will be brought to trial and punished, and yet others by the physical presence of the police and law enforce agencies.

(2) It rids the society of deviants with criminal behavior who are kept away in police cells and prisons. The society thus remains safe from such deviants. There are also attempts in the reform homes and prisons to reform the deviants and teach them different trades. The alternative to the penal technique will be as follows:

(a) In those days when there was no formal legal system, the victims of deviant behavior might be left alone to seek vengeance if he wished. The consequence might be anarchy and family feud or violence.

(b) In the present formal system, the victim may decide to sue for compensation for the injury or damage caused by the deviant. In this case, he may make use of the grievance-remedial technique or agree with the deviant for compensation using the private arrangement technique.

2. Grievance-Remedial Technique: This Technique defines remedial grievance, specifies remedies and provides for enforcement of remedial awards. It involves a statement of substantive legal rules, principles and standards which creates rights, duties and remedies to back up those rights. It further involves the existence of civil courts to process claims and establish remedies. The technique is most visible in the area of the law of tort.

Its alternative is penal technique, which can be employed in matters relating to public order. Parties may also, in the alternative, provide their own private systems to deal with disputes such as liquidated damages which in an agreement to pay specific sum as damages should a right be breached and arbitration both of which come under the private-arranging technique. Some matters under the grievance-remedial technique are now directly regulated by government under the administrative regulatory technique.

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3. Private-arranging technique: This is the exact opposite of direct governmental action. All the law does, using this technique, is to provide a framework of rules for determining the legal status of arrangements or agreements between persons or among persons. The arrangements or agreements are left to individual discretion or initiative but the law determines whether they are valid.

The law also provides for methods of enforcement of the transactions and the determination of liabilities under them. Private-arranging technique is most visible in the areas of the laws of marriage, sales and purchases, gift, wills, contracts generally and formation of clubs, associations and companies.

As society becomes more and more collectivist, there is a movement towards direct governmental interference in the private-arranging area. The law has come to interfere in areas such as the welfare of children, regulation of consumer transactions to achieve fair-trading, and land control. This it achieves by the use of the administrative-regulatory technique.

4. Constitutive Technique: The method closely resembles the private-arranging technique. Under this technique, the law recognizes a group of people as constituting a legal person separate and district from its constituent members called “corporation“. This is advantageous in a number of ways. The corporation has perpetual succession, and it enables ownership to be separated from management.

Further, members can escape bankruptcy on the corporation failing. It thus encourages forms of business enterprise. The most common forms of business enterprise today are the limited liability companies constituted by the Companies and Allied Matters Act. Governments also set up some corporation by law such as the Nigeria electric Power Authority, Nigeria Ports Authority and so on. These laws and complex system of case-law regulate and govern the constituted bodies.

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5. Administrative-Regulatory Technique: This system exist to regulate wholesome activities rather than prohibit anti-social behavior which the penal technique tasks care of. Its aim is not to punish offenders but to regulate trade, services and distribution of scarce resources.

Under this technique, officials adopt regulatory standards, communicate these standards to those subjects to them and take steps to ensure compliance. The steps may include a system of licenses, disqualifications or suspensions, and the bringing of administrative proceedings, litigation or criminal prosecution as a last resort. Regulatory bodies include the Joint Admission and Matriculation Board (JAMB), National Universities Commission, Securities and Exchange Commission, and the Standards Organizations of Nigeria.

This technique is different from the grievance remedial in three basic ways. First, it operates preventively, not curatively. Secondly, Its enforcement is by government (not the court) on the initiative of the aggrieved. Thirdly, it need not identify a victim, as the rules are applied without waiting for a complaint.

6. Fiscal Technique: Government needs money to finance its spending to enable it raise the money, it adopts a technique called the “fiscal technique” which, especially, means the use of law to impose a variety of taxes and levies and to establish taxes such as personal income tax, and company tax, are direct and fall on all natural and legal persons respectively.

Some are indirect and fall on property while some are based on consumption of goods and services like the Value Added Tax and import duties. The bodies set up by law to enforce the tax laws include the Customs service, the income Tax Board and the Federal Inland Revenue Service.

Above are the major methods of social control in our modern society according to the law. So far, i believe this article has substantially explain the topic in question. Nonetheless, If you have any question on this, don’t hesitate to drop your question in the comment section below.


Nigerian Legal Method, Social control through law, T.R Ikpotor (2003)

Companies and Allied Matters Act, 2020

Nigerian Legal Method, Dr. Mrs. Ochiabutor, University of Nigeria.

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