Criminologist Thomas Ugelvik came out with the book last month Social control. The theme though, the book is not a fire torch in the debate over whether the big brother should get a glimpse into even more of our private hides and estates. But it is probably the first book in Norwegian that gives a unifying presentation of this always socially relevant topic, and in that case it is time.
If there is such a thing as a Cardamom Act for control, it must be developed by the Norwegian criminology's nestor and thus by one of Ugelvik's best-known predecessors in the field of criminology, Nils Christie, but in this case from the police chief Bastian and not Aunt Sofie's point of view. This slightly nostalgic notion of a soft but minimal control society that is based on the informal control of a well-functioning local environment – and extrapolates this model to the surrounding social environment – stands strong in Norwegian canon. By the way, Christie is constantly emerging as a reference point in this book.
For many of Ny Tid's readers, our notions of social control are, on the contrary, fraught with a number of negative associations, derived from centralized and more general forms of control, where monitoring and identification of suspicious deviations, with associated punitive or disciplinary measures, is the order of the day.
The book contains seven chapters, where the basic theme is first systematically elucidated, with an elaboration and specification of the concept of control, then historically, then in conclusion about exercised control in various contexts, at the micro and macro levels. Social control can be formal and informal, primary or secondary, as in the family of children or the school, reactive or proactive, as in the police or fire department's preventive activities. It can be exercised directly, through physical violence or intervention, or indirectly, through real and symbolic fences and through other forms of exclusion / inclusion. Architecture controls behavior in indirect ways, by shaping terrain or urban space, while the kitchen culture in the nightlife is regulated in a similarly invisible way, through imposed norms of order and regulated interaction.
Ugelvik has a mild fascination for the irreversible advancement of technology.
Each of the chapters begins with a living example, where the informal social control is described in its changing forms, in the span from Vinmonopolet's sober kitchen culture to Goodfarenthe films 'presentation of the honor codes' silent but asymmetrical exercise of power. In the texts, we encounter everything from traffic lights to right-hand rules, small and large signs that we automatically comply with or break with – with the costs it can entail.
Moreover, the mother's imperceptible hint to the child during the world's first restaurant visit, perhaps given exclusively through emphasis on the child's name. Or the tiny signals we send out to avoid collisions in a busy pedestrian street on Saturday morning. All are examples of the informal control we constantly surround ourselves with.
It is often a matter of keeping the mask on or avoiding losing face while constantly being observed by neighbors in the local community or on the common scene of working life. There is also a lot at stake in the micro-arenas, where mechanisms in a small way contribute to maintaining status relations and mutual balance. Social control is thus also a game for and about power.
Formal social control has also changed, but here the picture is probably more complex. Hot communitarian trends locally can go hand in hand with the development of spider-like surveillance institutions or fence-building nationally and internationally and further contribute to a division of society, with the exclusion of more and more people. The so-called crime migration policy, the way we control, exclude and criminalize refugee and immigration groups in Norwegian society, is one example of such a negative trend, and it is highlighted in the book.
This book works for its primary purpose: sensitizing. We become seriously aware of how fundamentally dependent a society is on social control, in order to both exist at all and in the next round reproduce itself. One further effect that can come out of the reading is how politicized the question of social control really is, although the more principled lines of conflict are seldom sufficiently clarified.
Social control is exercised everywhere, but in no way causes nostalgia or paranoia for power under Ugelvik's glasses. Social control is the glue in society, in the city, but also nationally between citizens and the state, local communities and central power. Some principled opposition to control finds little support in this text, although power-oriented control theories are by no means absent. In any case, this is a readable and important book.
The book offers, through its broad-spectrum approach to a seemingly unmanageable and all-encompassing theme, first and foremost a toolbox for a possible critique. In line with its stated purpose, the text has a sensitizing effect on this reader, but paradoxically also contributes to a revision of my fundamentally skeptical attitude towards control. Social control appears in the text's searchlight as a modern Leviathan, the mythological sea monster who in the 1600th century gave name to Thomas Hobbes' famous book of the same name, where he seeks to justify the state and autocracy as a counterweight to the animal and thus irrational sides of the masses. and behavior.
As I read the book, the author has little faith in the fruitfulness of a conflict perspective on social control, which at times has strange consequences. In his concluding future scenarios on digital technologies and surveillance, he emphasizes that various digital dippers, such as heart rate monitors, pedometers or intelligent household appliances for that matter, were not originally created to exercise social control. This seemingly self-evident statement covers something far more important, and which escapes Ugelvik in his mild fascination with technology's irreversible advancement in the field of everyday life. To paraphrase Foucault, it is not the actual exercise that constitutes the core of power, but the can not be purchased, the fact that the very unlimited potential for social control also makes it total and thus more real. One should not look far before it turns out that privatization of the control device also makes it profitable to redefine these dips to instruments for monitoring, of course only if it pays off – but it usually does.