circles (tribe)

We begin by examining the macro (larger) social evolution of society and how such change has affected the social dynamics of social life. Society has undergone four distinct stages of development. Each of these stages was affected by the rate of mobility of interaction. Because movement across land or water was slow and primitive, interaction between groups was somewhat limited. Perhaps mountain ranges and large bodies of water separated social groups and thus hindered interaction between geographically isolated groups.

As mobility changed, however, and groups began to interact (ships were built, railroads were carved out, cars were developed, and airplanes made giant leaps in mobility), groups that had once been isolated began to interact. This presented the groups with a problem; how to socialize the persons that comprised the society. As groups began to splinter further into specific regions (NE, SE, NW, W, etc), each regional culture brought with it some specific social customs. Thus social control of the larger group (e.g. the entire US) became problematic. The development of MASS MEDIA helped with social control. However, as the mass media developed even further (television having 500+ channels and the development of the internet), no longer did any one group have control over the media and its mainstream message. Each sub-group and subculture began to take on characteristics unique to its viewpoint. Conservatives, feminists, mobsters, potheads, religious fundamentalists, etc. all began to exist within the framework of the larger group. Today we are fractured into such a splintered social existence, social control is at time virtually impossible. Let’s look at each of these stages in more detail.




The first stage was a phase in which social life was dictated by the rhythms dictated by nature. People got up with the sun and went to sleep with the moon. Societies planted during the warm climate seasons and stored food (or moved) during the colder or darker seasons. This type of social life existed for thousand s of years. Change was extremely slow and thus this agricultural-based social lifestyle was somewhat conservative. This stage lasted until the beginnings of the industrial revolution.

During this stage, groups realized that individuals had a desire to belong to the group and to help out in its survival. But some individuals may have figured that they could “muscle” other members of society into complying with whatever it the stronger individual was demanding. Thus, as a group, the rulers devised a MECHANISM OF SOCIAL CONTROL (MSC) which served as a way to limit or thwart any individual(s) from failing to comply with group norms and perhaps even threaten the group’s existence or survival.

The MSC during the first phase was SHUNNING or failing to acknowledge the violator’s social identity. This is a powerful social control mechanism when there is limited mobility. Where is the violator supposed to go to interact with others if the main core of the group refuses to acknowledge them? This MSC was designed so that the violator would repent and mend their ways. If the violator repented and mended their ways, their social identity would be restored.

Once a MSC was developed and instituted, it could exist forever in some manner. Thus, these mechanisms of social control are additive. Today it is possible to get or give the “silent treatment.” Many of you are experts at this and use it as a social control tool with parents, boyfriends / girlfriends or anyone else who needs to mend their ways.

West Point used to use this MSC. It was very powerful. The code of cadets said that a cadet should not lie, steal, cheat nor tolerate any other cadet engaging in such behaviors. If a cadet was found guilty of such an infraction, they would be called in front of the corps of cadets and stripped of their patches, pins, medals and any other accouterments that denote military social status. After such a degradation ceremony, the corps of cadets would line up on two side facing inward. The guilty cadet would walk through the formation and as the violator passed the cadets, they would do an “about face” and turn their backs on them. This was a powerful ceremony that was designed to make anyone witnessing it think thrice before engaging in behavior that threatened the survival of the cadet social system.

A good example of this was evident in the movie GOODFELLAS. During a social gathering, one of the Godfathers asks Henry Hill if he is getting involved with cocaine dealing. Henry lies to his face and tells the Godfather that he is in fact NOT having anything to do with the cocaine trade. Later it is Henry Hill is charged with being a cocaine dealer and approaches the Godfather. The Godfather looks Henry in the eyes and tells him that he has to cut him loose; that is, he must turn his back on Henry. Henry is crying and pleads with the Godfather not to do so. “You’re all I have. What am I supposed to do?” Henry asks. The Godfather tells Henry that’s no longer his concern. He tells Henry that he dishonored him and that such a punishment must be enacted. The Godfather, feeling somewhat sympathetic, gives Henry a wad of Hundred-Dollar Bills. The Godfather never talks to Henry again. Later on, feeling no sense of belonging to the mob, Henry turns state’s evidence and testifies against the mob.

As society began to change (due to increased mobility), shunning no longer had the same effect as it once did. As two groups interacted, those controlling either group could no longer threaten to ignore the violator. The person committing the infraction could join the other group which may or may not have the same feelings about such social behavior.

circles ABC

Once the groups had permanent interaction, socialization would present a problem to those agents of socialization such as parents, friends, politicians etc. A common reply to any child asking “Why?’ would have been “Because we’ve always done it that way.” (Group A or B) But Group C cannot make such a statement. Social life was novel in the sense that it was a new fashion for living; a new blueprint for social life. With the existence of Group C types, social life would change dramatically.


TRADITIONAL-DIRECTED SOCIETY:  tradition dictates social life (slow change, conservative)

Mechanism of Social Control (MSC): shunning / silent treatment.




The second stage of macro social development consisted of solving the problem posed by the increased land mobility. Ships and Railroads made it possible to overcome some of the geographical dividers that once hindered or even prevented social interaction between social groups.

With the advent of a Group “C”- one that had no established traditions, social control could no longer count on the “traditions” instilled and legitimizing through generational repetition. A new form of social control would have to be developed; one that would take into account the relatively rapid change taking place in any given area of society. This new type of social control would not rely on tradition, but would instead use a form of control based on generalities. What I mean by generalities is that “rules” would be very broad and general as opposed to social scene-specific. For example, if the “rule” said NO SEX BEFORE MARRIAGE, that would mean it applied to young people, old people; it meant all people. It didn’t matter how much someone was in love, or how romantic the situation was, no sex before marriage meant just that.

The mechanism of social control (MSC) during this period could no longer be shunning or ignoring someone. Since society was expanding at a relatively fast pace, the person violating the rule may be shunned, but such action may drive the violator to another subgroup that existed within the larger social scene. If group A shunned someone, group B may not shun them. And then there was the possibility that group C would actually condone the behavior that group A and/ or group B would detest and sanction negatively.

Thus, the MSC would also have to be “general.” Instead of relying on tradition for “direction,” the direction would have to come from within, from an “inner” aspect of the person’s social conditioning or socialization and subsequent conditions of association. The general rule would be taught to the person, and then if any person violated the rule, they would be made to feel GUILTY. The person violating would think about how their loved ones or clan, or extended family would feel if they knew what type of activity was taking place. The feeling that they would let down those whom they cared about would outweigh any possible positive aspects of engaging in that behavior.

How many people are good at giving a guilty trip? How many people have been the victims of a guilt trip? Catholics are notorious for using guilt for guilt trips. Organized religion makes a big splash during this period.


Think about the turn-of-the-century (1900). Inner-Directed society was well develop das a big part of the population migrated to the urban areas. During WWI, the recruiting posters were full of guilt themes. “Uncle Sam Wants You.” (see above)


“On What Side of the Window Are You?” (draft dodger, or “slacker” denoted by the white pacifist armband – comfortable watching the soldiers marching off to war)

dog enlist


“Even a Dog Enlists, Why Not You?” (Red Cross dog with a war-torn city burning in the background)

Guilt is still an effective mechanism of social control. Yet so is silent treatments. And sometimes these two types of MSC can be combined into a silent guilt trip!


Inner-Directed Society:  general rules guide social behavior. General rules are overarching and all encompassing. (e.g. no sex before marriage)

Mechanism of Social Control: guilt.


Other-Directed Society


In order for our commanders to plan and fight World War 2, they had to be able to communicate with the commanders in every theater of operations. Thus, after the war, a system of communication was in place on a global scale. Back here in the states, radio was well-developed, and by the early 1950s someone figured out that we could have pictures ride the airwaves and not just sound waves. Thus, the MASS MEDIA was instituted on a scale never seen before in the US. With the advent of mass television broadcasts (hence the term broadcast), INNER-Directed society was about to change.

“Keep up with the Jones”


Rather than certain geographical areas having specific cultural nuances, the over all US culture changed from one of instilling (socializing) a moral gyroscope to one that provided an example thru the television. Rather than guilt driving the culture, CONFORMITY was the name of the game.

Slogans such as “Keep up with the Jones,” and “Be the first on the block to ______” became the types of mantras of the period.  The television could be the agent of socialization. And it could be the main agent of socialization on a scale never before imagined. People could travel far and wide in the US and still recognize the mainstream culture because of what they saw on TV. Now geography mattered, but not as much as before.

The mechanism of social control them became ANXIETY. People were anxious to show their level of conformity to the prevailing standards. Thru the boob-tube, information could be disseminated on a grand scale. And now, “authorities” could speak to the nation. Scientists in lab coats and politicians in suits could directly address the citizenry. The “official version” or formal version could be produced and legitimized on a grand scale. “Authorities” would show the way. “Authorities” would define the scene and tell you what needed to be done.

With this period then, people began to present symbols denoting their conformity.

Korea CIB

Also, conformity was directed at some cause. The picture you see showing a soldier holding a rifle which says, “The Mark of a Man” features a Combat Infantry Badge; a badge given to soldiers who fought in battle. This badge had a huge symbolic value and was worn ONLY by infantrymen who had served in combat. Amongst soldiers, it was perhaps the highest badge. Even to this day the badge is held in high esteem. The poster says it all. Wear this badge and you will show that you are a man. Prove it! Men would enlist for combat duty to have themselves “validated” by being able to wear the badge of a man!

This period lasted from the 1950s until the mid 1960s. The anti-Vietnam protests, the hippie movement, and the Civil Rights Acts helped change this period. Other-direction didn’t completely disappear, as did any of these additive stages. People now wear their brand name “stuff” with huge logos denoting what they believe, what they can afford, and what they want others to think about them.


Other-Directed Society: is a society that is conformity conscious. People want to have their “selves” socially validated and wear outwardly symbols of their levels of conformity.

Mechanism of Social Control: anxiety (people are anxious to conform and to display their level of conformity)



SELF / EGO-Directed Society.


The forth stage of development that society has undergone is one that is difficult to accurately describe. The reason it is difficult to describe is because this stage is a hodgepodge of all the other stages combined, and at the same time, it stands alone in its manner of dealing with deviance.

circles A thru F

During the Traditional-Directed period, threats of shunning of labeling a deviant as persona-non-grata were developed in hope that anyone thinking of acting in a deviant manner would consider the social consequences and decide against such potential actions.

During the Inner-Directed period, a moral gyroscope was instilled through the socialization process. This morality was general in nature and yet was all-encompassing. Actions were either right or they were wrong: period! The mechanism of social control was guilt. People were “guilted” into compliance.

During the Other-Directed period, the inner moral gyroscope was replaced by the television and mass media. The TV provided an authoritative example of what was expected of people. The authorities featured in these pictures had credentials and dressed the part they held. Elected officials, scientists and other authorities helped legitimized what was expected of people and provided them with a script of how to comply in the “race to conform.”

The Self-Ego Directed phase is different, Rather than conforming to the larger values of the society, individuals (“selves”) pick and choose which group or subculture they wish to identify with and then attempt to construct an image of conformity within that specific sub-group. Blacks, women, potheads, sex freaks, skaters, mobsters, rappers. . . . all  chose who they want to APPEAR as and then try and show off the social symbols necessary to pull off their image.

Logo-michael-korsPOLO-RALPH-LAUREN-LOGOecko-logoharley logodickies-logo1ranger tab

This change came about after the 1960s. The Blacks got the Civil Rights Act of 1964. The Chicanos got in on the changes at Delano. The women got the Women’s Movement, and the list goes on. Gays, druggies, children. . . . all have separate and distinct identities. This is what the rainbow was supposed to represent: a social societal salad so-to-speak. But perhaps we got a bunch of distinct subgroups that want to be socially validated and then pretty much want to be left alone?

Think of cable television. How many channels are there? How many channels are targeted to the separate and distinct subgroups? The outdoor channel; NFL channel; The Logo channel. Etc. etc. If this is the case, that the general overarching values of mainstream society have been subverted by the values of the distinct subgroups, then what type of mechanism of social control is possible?

The ARMY changed their catchphrase to reflect the “ME” decade:




Self-Ego-Directed Society: a society in which individuals choose the subgroup they wish to identify with and then attempt to conform to their sub cultural values and norms (as opposed to attempting to conform to the larger societal value system).

Mechanism of Social Control:   ? ? ? ? ? ? ? ?



Dad & Sophie in Santa Fe (shut up and eat)

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