Flashcards for Social Control
Topic 2:  Law
(15 cards)

Select the "Next Card" button to see a card. Select it again to view the answer.
"Delete Card" allows you to eliminate a card from the stack during this session.
Copyright © 2004 by Dennis O'Neil. All rights reserved.

common law

A law that has evolved over time and is part of the cultural tradition rather than being created through enactment by legislatures or rulers. In large-scale societies, many laws derive from old common laws but have been formalized by being written down in penal codes. Virtually all laws in small-scale societies are unwritten common laws.

“reasonable man” standard of law

The idea that legal judgments should be made based on what would be acceptable to a reasonable man in the society. Jury systems in the Western World are based on this assumption.

negative sanction

A punishment for violations of social norms.

positive sanction

A reward for appropriate or admirable behavior that conforms to the social norms. Common positive sanctions include praise and granting honors or awards.

informal negative sanction

An unofficial, non-governmental punishment for violations of social norms. Informal negative sanctions usually are in the form of gossip, public ridicule, social ostracism, insults, or even threats of physical harm by other members of the community.

The kind of society or social setting in which informal negative sanctions are most effective in controlling behavior.

Small-scale societies (foragers, pastoralists, and horticulturalists), small towns, and sub-groups of cities (e.g., a family, work group, church, or club).

The general term for a deviation from the social norm that is of such magnitude as to go beyond what would be considered bad manners or odd behavior.


The most serious crimes in pedestrian foraging societies.

Failure of an individual or family to freely share food with others who need or want it and disputes over mates (i.e., sexual competition) that leads to violence.

How the Inuit people of Alaska, Northern Canada, and Greenland traditionally resolved difficult to settle quarrel.

With a "song duel" in the presence of the entire community. The disputants took turns singing and drumming mocking songs for hours until one of them gave up or the audience decided that one of the men was a better song composer and singer. Guilt or innocence was not at issue.

How the Ju/'hoansi people of Southwest Africa traditionally resolved difficult to settle quarrels.

If a settlement could not be arrived at peacefully by the members of the families involved, the rest of the community expressed its strong disapproval by publicly talking about the "bad behavior" and shunning the individuals involved. If this failed to resolve the situation, the adults of the community came together and openly discussed it. From their perspective, the most important thing was to find a solution that would reduce tension and return the community to reciprocity rather than "punish" the wrong doers.


(Hint: this is a legal term.)

Blood money—i.e., the material payment that a murderer must pay to the relatives of his or her victim as compensation for the crime. Once the weregeld has been paid, the crime is essentially expunged and there is no other punishment. Weregeld is often applied to crimes other than murder as well.


(Hint: this is a legal term.)

A crime against individuals or their property rather than against the society as a whole. In modern Western societies, torts are settled in civil courts rather than criminal ones. Torts include any damage or injury done willfully or negligently that harms another individual.

A category of crime that is found in rich settled fishing, advanced horticultural, pastoral, and large-scale agricultural societies but generally not in pedestrian foraging societies.

Property theft or destruction

The common methods that non-Western settled fishing and small-scale farming societies traditionally used to resolve disputes.

Gossip, public ridicule, and social ostracism. If these fail to bring relief, witchcraft is often the next solution. Because it is possible to use magic in secret, it can be used to get revenge without being found out. The fear that witchcraft might be used against you is often enough to prevent deviation from the social norms. Another common method for dealing with crime within these societies is to shift the blame to people in other communities or even other societies. By accusing outsiders rather than a neighbor, the local community is not forced to deal with a potentially divisive conflict.

The kinds of societies that are most likely to use police, courts, lawyers, and jails to control crime.

Large-scale, advanced agricultural societies