The Durkheim Theory of Social Control is a sociological perspective that attempts to explain how society maintains social order through various mechanisms. The theory was introduced by Emile Durkheim, a French sociologist who is considered as one of the founding fathers of modern sociology.

Background on Emile Durkheim

Emile Durkheim was born in France in 1858 and became interested in the field of sociology during his studies at the École Normale Supérieure. He believed that sociology should be treated as a separate science from other social sciences, such as psychology and economics. His theories and research focused on understanding how society works, how it evolves, and how social order is maintained.

The Durkheim Theory of Social Control

Durkheim’s theory of social control revolves around the concept of ‘anomie’, which refers to a state of normlessness or confusion that occurs when individuals are unable to find their place within society. According to Durkheim, anomie can arise when there is a breakdown in traditional norms and values or when there are rapid changes in society that make it difficult for individuals to adapt.

To counteract anomie, society uses various mechanisms of social control to maintain order and stability. These mechanisms include:

The Role of Religion in Social Control

Durkheim believed that religion played an important role in social control by providing individuals with a sense of belonging and shared values. He argued that religion acted as a social glue that held society together by promoting a sense of collective consciousness.

However, Durkheim also believed that religion could become dysfunctional if it was used to justify oppressive or unjust practices. He argued that religion should be used to promote social harmony and justice, rather than to reinforce existing power structures.

Critiques of the Durkheim Theory

While Durkheim’s theory of social control has been influential in shaping sociological thought, it has also been criticized for its narrow focus on formal institutions and its failure to account for the role of power and inequality in maintaining social order.

Critics argue that Durkheim’s theory ignores the ways in which marginalized groups are excluded from mainstream society and may be subject to different forms of social control. Additionally, some scholars have argued that Durkheim’s emphasis on collective consciousness overlooks the agency of individuals and their ability to resist dominant norms and values.


The Durkheim Theory of Social Control remains an important perspective in sociology, as it highlights the ways in which society maintains order through various mechanisms. While it has been criticized for its narrow focus on formal institutions and its failure to account for power dynamics, it continues to provide valuable insights into the workings of society. By understanding how society uses social control mechanisms to maintain order, we can better comprehend the complexities of human behavior and interactions within our communities.