SOCY 507: Sociology of Social Control

A course taught by Dr. Mathieu Deflem at the University of South Carolina.


The objectives of this course are to engage students in the sociological study of social control, i.e., the definition of and response to crime and/or deviance. The course primarily deals with the official treatment of crime through a formal system of criminal justice, especially from a historical viewpoint as well as with respect to a variety of comparative and international developments. The course is online (asynchronous).

The themes of this course involve a selection of topics in the sociology of social control. First, the course provides an overview of relevant sociological theories and traces the history of the concept of social control in American sociology. Second, we discuss the perspective of discipline and its relevance for the study of social control. Third, attention goes to contemporary forms of surveillance. Fourth, a section will be devoted to police and policing. And, fifth, we will analyze in some detail various aspects of counterterrorism, both at home and abroad.

Upon successful completion of this course, students should be able to: Demonstrate knowledge of the manner in which sociologists study various important structures and processes of social control; Explain the main concepts and propositions of sociological theories of social control; Apply the sociological perspectives taught in this course to the empirical study of social control in a variety of social settings; Additional Graduate Student Outcome: Apply insights from the course to write a paper that conforms to the format and style of a journal publication. The learning outcomes in this distributed-learning course are equivalent to the face-to-face version of this course. 

Consult the academic calendar for important dates. Useful information is also provided by the Office of Student Conduct and Academic Integrity, such as its integrity policies (including the Honor Code and the Student Code of Conduct). Information is also available online about academic regulations and the Student Success Center.

This course is offered fully online via Blackboard. SOCY507


I. Sociological Theories of Social Control
II. Discipline and Punishment
        1. The History of Punishment
        2. The Birth of the Prison
        3. Disciplinary Power
        4. The Culture of Incarceration
III. Surveillance
        1. Characteristics and Technologies
        2. The Fear of Counterterrorism
        3. Popular Culture and Surveillance
        4. Censorship and Music
IV. Police and Policing
        1. History and Organization
        2. International Policing
        3. Policing the Pandemic
        4. Police Killings
V. Terrorism and Counterterrorism
        1. Perspective
        2. Policy and Law
        3. Policing Terrorism
        4. Comparative Cases
Conclusion: Justice and Accountability


Students are expected to conduct all readings as specified in the Schedule. The instructor will provide regular announcements and send emails that will guide students on the readings and course assignments at least once or twice a week. A review of student’s individual study by means of a written summary of key points of the course materials at the end of each chapter is encouraged.

Articles & Chapters: There is no textbook for this course. Instead, a number of articles and book chapters are posted as the primary readings to provide in-depth explanations and illustrations of the course materials. It is students’ primary individual responsibility to conduct the readings on the basis of the Schedule below.

Course Notes: A set of Course Notes are posted to review the key points of the readings. These notes do not substitute for students' individual readings of the articles and chapters, but offer a review of the issues along with extended analysis.

Illustrations: Videos and other illustrations are provided in the Module folders on Blackboard.  
Registered students can access all course materials on Blackboard.


While identical in thematic coverage concerning the course subject matter, course activities and assignments for graduate students taking this class are specific to their advanced standing and will be taken into account in the following three ways:  
     1) Activities: Graduate students need to fulfill all assignments and course activities and follow the course policies listed in this syllabus for undergraduates with the exception of the quizzes and the Final Exam.  
     2) Readings: Graduate students will need to complete additional readings, specifically several research monographs, as specified in the list of readings below.
     3) Assignments: The assignments will be evaluated and weighted differently for graduate students, mostly by requiring a higher standard of sophistication and additional requirements, which minimally implies that the Forum Posts should be developed in more depth. Additionally, in lieu of the quizzes and the Final Exam, graduate students need to write a 15- to 20-page Final Paper that provides a sociological discussion on any aspect of social control of their own choosing written, in its style and presentation, in the form of a manuscript for journal publication. The instructor will provide guidance on the selection of the paper topic and its structure by email to the graduate students at least one month before the paper’s due date (at the time the Final Exam is scheduled for the undergraduate students).

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