Social Control: Definition, Ingredients, Purpose Custom and Means !
- Essay on the Definition of Social Control
- Essay on the Ingredients of Social Control
- Essay on the Purposes of Social Control
- Essay on the Custom of Social Control
- Essay on the Object and Purposefulness of Custom
- Essay on the Social Role of Customs
- Essay on Major Social Codes
- Essay on the Social Role of Fashion
Essay # 1. Definition of Social Control:
To quote Park and Burgess, “What we ordinarily mean by social control is the arbitrary intervention of some individual official, functionary or leader in the social progress.”
In this connection Brearly writes, “Social Control is a collective term for those processes and agencies planned or unplanned, by which individuals are taught, persuaded or compelled, to conform to the usages and life values of the groups to which they belong.”
According to Maciver and Page, “By social control is meant the way in which the entire social order coheres and maintains itself how it operates as a whole, as changing equilibrium.
Ogburn and Nimkoff say, “The pattern of pressure which a society exerts to maintain order and established rules is known as its system of social control.”
In the words of Gillin and Gillin, “Social control is that system of measures, suggestions, persuasions, restraints and coercion by whatever means including physical force by which a society brings into conformity of the approved pattern of behaviour a subgroup or by which a group moulds into conformity its members.”
To put it in the words of Paul H. Lands, “Social control is a series of social processes by which individual is made group responsible, by which social organization is built and maintained… by which personality is formed through socialization.”
The view of R.G. Smith is “Social control is the attainment of ends through collective conscious adaptation of means to those ends.”
Mannheim defines social control as, “the sum of those methods by which a society tries to influence human behaviour to maintain a given order.”
Roucek has used the term ‘social control’ “for those processes and agencies, planned or unplanned by which individuals are taught, persuaded or compelled to conform to the usages and life values of groups.”
Lunderg has defined, “Social control as designating those social behaviours which influence individuals or groups towards conformity established or desired norms.”
Thus in view of these definitions social control may be defined as any influence which the society exerts upon its members for the purpose of providing the welfare of the group as a whole. It operates on three levels group over group, the group over its members and individuals over their fellows.
Essay # 2. Ingredients of Social Control:
When the working of the process of social control is taken in view, it unfolds a number of its elements.
There are broadly speaking three main elements of this process. Social control is an influence, the influence is exercised by society and it is exercised for common good. This fact will become clearer by examining these points in greater detail.
Firstly, as has been said above social control is an influence. The influence may be exerted through a number of agencies and means; which are commonly known as the means and agencies of social control. These include public opinion, coercion, social suggestion, religion, appeal to reason or any other method. There occurs a variation in the extent of these forces of social influence. But at all times some of these are certain. Other means of similar kind keep on operating for exerting social influence on the individuals.
Secondly, the influence is exercised by society. It means that group is better able to exercise influence over the individual than individual. This group may be the family, the church, the State, the club, the school, and the trade union-variable factors. Sometimes the family may exercise more effective influence than the State and sometimes it may be quite otherwise. Similarly, the influence of the club may be more effective than that of the church. There are innumerable agencies of social control and the effectiveness of each agency depends largely upon the circumstances.
Thirdly, the influence if exercised for promoting the welfare of the group as a whole. The person is influenced to act in the interest of others rather than in accordance with his own individual interests. Social control is exercised for some specific end in view. It is not aimless. The aim is always the welfare of the whole.
The individual is made conscious of others’ existence and their interests. He is made to adhere to the appropriate social ways. Due to inadequate socialization he behaves in typical ways; he is bound to conformity with the typical by the pressures of social control. In a word, he is made social.
According to Gurvitch and Moor, “Social control can be defined as tire sum total or rather the whole of cultural patterns, social symbol, collective spiritual meanings, values, ideas and ideals, as well as acts and processes directly connected with them whereby inclusive society every particular group and e very participating individual member overcomes tensions and conflicts within themselves through temporary equilibrial and take steps for new creative efforts.”
Essay # 3. Purposes of Social Control:
The purposes of social control according to Kimball Young are- (i) to increase the regularity of human behaviour and (ii) to make possible greater predictability, stability, and continuity of social life. These purposes may possibly guide unselfish social scientists, but most men who endeavour to control their fellows indicate little altruism or perspective in their efforts.
Often they merely struggle to increase the acceptance of the modes of conduct that they themselves prefer. This preference may be based upon childhood training insight derived from life experience or the desire to exploit others in order to gain power, economic, personal or political.
Social control it is true, often perpetuates the accumulated wisdom of men long gone, but only rarely are living men and women cognizant of the significance of the cultural patterns they transmit or modify. Some reformers and exploiters do seem aware of their purposes and aims, but most of them either lack insight or conceal their true motives by good reason in the form of altruistic rationalizations. Examples of such rationalizatians may easily be observed in radio or newspaper advertising.
In longtime perspective of course, the social scientist can note that the efforts of men to obtain greater acceptance of their own values and patterns of living do result in a greater regularity and predictability of social behaviour. The assumption, however, that men in general are concerned with the advantages of regularity or predictability of conduct is difficult of acceptance without also assuming that the average man possesses a high degree of insight and social understanding.
As a matter of fact, it is difficult to know and classify the motives of the agents of social control, for example, it is difficult to understand the motives of parents who endeavour to train their children in outmoded patterns of conduct. It may be either because of unfamiliarity of the new patterns of conduct or it may be because they think that what proved good to them will also prove good to their children or they may be acting primarily from habit or distrust of the new modes.
Likewise, it is difficult to ascertain the motives of a teacher who makes an attack upon the prevailing folkways and life-values. Thus, classification of the motives or purposes of the agents of social control is not easy. However, these purposes may be roughly classified as- (i) exploitative, motivated by self-interest (ii) regulative, based upon habit and desire for behaviour of the customary types and (iii) creative or constructive based upon social benefit.
Essay # 4. Custom of Social Control:
Custom is one of the most powerful and most common means of social control. It has existed at all times and in all societies dedicated to the task of maintaining social order. Shakespeare has called custom “a tyrant”, Montaigne “a violent school mistress,” and Bacon “the principal magistrate of man’s life.”
All these utterings serve to indicate the control potential of custom. Disobedience of custom brings social disgrace. Custom has great utility from the social standpoint. It is a kind of social necessity. Several sociologists have given their observations about the term custom.
According to Maciver, “The socially accredited way of acting are customs of society.”
Bogardus, writes, “Customs and traditions are group accepted techniques of control that have become well established, that are taken for granted and that are passed along from generation to generation.”
In the words of Ginsberg, “Custom has usually been interpreted in accordance with the psychological laws of habit. It has been regarded as a way of behaviour which has become general in the community and has come by frequent repetition to be performed quasi-automatically.”
To quote Davis, “Custom is a broad term embracing all of the norms classified as folkways and mores. It connotes long established usage and is, therefore, frequently contrasted with what is new.”
Custom refers primarily to practices that have been oft- repeated by a multitude of generations practices that tend to be followed simply because they have been followed in the past. The term is, therefore loser to folkways than to mores, but it tends to convey the traditional, automatic, mass character of both of them.
Nature of Custom:
It is generally seen that underlying and sustaining the more formal order of institutions and associations there exists and intricate complex of usage or modes of behaviour. Thus there are accepted procedures of eating, conversing, meeting folks, wooing, training the young, caring for the aged, almost infinitum. The socially accredited way of acting are the customs of society.
We conform to the customs of our own society, in a sense “unconsciously” for they are a strongly embedded part of our group life. They are so strongly embedded, indeed, that we frequently make the error of identifying our particular customs with the only correct ways of doing this or that or even with human nature itself. This situation throws up a large number of problems, which demand the attention of all the sociologists.
Distinction of Institution and Custom:
The difference between a social usage or custom on the one hand and an institution on the other is essentially one of degree. Institution implies a more definite recognition. We would call the marriage feast an institution, but various courtship practices are better named customs. Marriage itself is an institution and not a custom.
Institutions have external insignia, marks of public recognition, which customs as such do not require. We sometimes hear that our institutions are being undermined, but this charge is rarely made with reference to our customs.
This suggests another difference. The term “institution” stresses the impersonal factor in social relationships. When we speak of customs we think of the accepted ways in which people do things together, in personal contacts. When we speak of institutions we think rather of the system of controls that extends beyond personal relations. This system of controls is the bond between the past and the present and between the present and the future, linking men to their ancestors, their gods, and their descendants.
Thus we do not usually become too seriously concerned with say, the changing customs of courtship or dress or recreation But consider how some persons are disturbed by what may appear to be threats to “property” or “marriage” or “free enterprise” the institutions which ramify into the greater organizations of political, economic, and religious life.
Interrelation of Customs and Habits. In common parlance custom is often used as coterminous with habit, but there are vital differences between the two habits is personal phenomenon while custom is a social phenomenon. A custom is formed on the basis of habit gaining the sanction and influence and therefore the social significance, which is peculiar to it. Customs are social habits, which through repetition become the basis of an order of social behaviour.
In this connection Ginsberg write, “Custom in fact is not merely a prevailing habit, but also a rule or norm of action. The rule is supported on the emotional side by two sets of forces. There is, firstly a sentiment or group of emotional disposition attaching to custom as such, and condemning its breach. In this sentiment there is a rational element, the recognition, however vague of the importance of order, and the necessity of knowing what to expect and what is expected in given situation. Round these there cluster the social feelings; and the obedience of customary rules is one of the most elementary ways in which the individual responds to the cell of social life and realizes his dependence upon the group.”
Customs are the long established habits and usages of the people. Wherever there is a widespread habit there is a corresponding custom as well. According to Lundberg, “They are those folkways that persist over relatively long periods of time so as to attain a degree of formal recognition and so as to be passed down from one generation to another.” Habits precede and create customs, though there may be certain customs which presuppose no habit, for example, the custom of forming the queues and the custom of widows wearing weeds as a sign of morning for their husbands do not have any habit to serve as their basis.
On the other hand, many customs may give rise to habits and be supported by them; thus the custom of taking meals at a certain time may create the habit of eating only at the appointed time even when one is alone. Thus customs create habits and habits create customs. The two though distinct are indirectly related in social life. This process of customs determining the habits and the habits in turn determining customs is a significant aspect of social organization.
Some thinkers who feel that customs have no purposefulness. They attach element of irrationality to them and look upon them as the agent of conservative thoughts and practices. Emphasising this fact Mc. Dougall writes in these words, “The ends and purposes of many customs are lost in the mists of antiquity. In some cases perhaps, the ends have been never clearly defined in anyone man’s mind. The custom may have arisen as a compromise of fusion between diverse customs, or through some purely institutive mode of reaction or through some perverted imitation of some foreign model. But however and for whatever purpose instituted, a custom once established, the practice of it always becomes in some degree an end in itself and men are prepared to maintain it, often at great cost of effort or discomfort, long after it serves any useful end.”
But it is not fight to express this outright opinion about toe customs that they are meaningless and they serve no useful purpose. If we go deep into the genesis of the customs we would find that the charge of irrationality to them is not valid. It may be admitted that there are some customs and practices adopted by men, which cannot be justified on any utilitarian or ethical grounds. In India a number of such practices may be seen among all the communities. Thus sprinkling water on some stone or any other inanimate object or giving food to it, offering ‘Shradhs’ to dead, giving up journey because a cat has crossed the path and such many other practices may be said to be irrational but all of the customs cannot be said to be irrational. The root of the difficulty is that modern minds consider only those acts rational, which can be logically proved and are calculated acts.
In this connection mention may be made of the customary acts like man saluting the flag of his country, the son touching the feet of his parents in the morning the people entertaining their relatives and friends on a festival, the Hindu woman taking meals after the husband. If one gets psychological satisfaction or social praise by following a custom, these are sufficient rational grounds for following it.
The prevailing beliefs and the realities of life lead us to the conclusion that no single rule can be laid down about the origin and existence of custom. Many customs have taken birth and survive to satisfy the fundamental needs of man, especially those connected with his self-preservation, tendencies, sex life, procreation and the like. Some of the customs have been learnt by imitation from other people and many of them came as adjustments to changing situations.
Many a custom still remain even though their usefulness has long ceased to exist. They are obeyed more spontaneously prevail, they are the strongest ties in building up a social order. But it must be noted that customs, which appear to be irrational are sometimes reformed or even abolished due to the deliberate thought of the people concerned. In India many customs of Hindus have been abolished by statute while others have been greatly reformed as a result of preaching of our social reformers.
Today the educated class also of Indians does not follow many customs of the ancestors. Owing to the women’s emancipation movement in India there is a growing tendency among the women to give up many of the customs followed by them previously. The result is that the customs, which were once very prominent are no more in use.
While assessing the utility of customs we must keep in view certain basic facts. Thus as Gisbert writes, “In custom, like in any other norm, we must, distinguish the content from the form. The content consists in the things that are prescribed; the form in the way in which they are prescribed, or in the sanction attached to them. Thus what is peculiar to custom is that the matter prescribed has a social interest that concerns the community at large and is upheld by its members even by coercive means. But as to the matters prescribed there is a great deal or variety. Religious rites, economic operations, moral precepts, magical actions, and purely social observances connected for instance, with marriage ceremonies or Public festivals have unequal value before the human mind and their violation weighs quite differently on man’s conscience. Certain rules have no religious sanction attached to them; no fear of punishment visits their breach; the stigma of public opinion or moral blame falls only lightly on the transgressors.”
These facts point to the truth that social life is unthinkable without customs. They are the warp and the woof of social life. Customs are the channel through which social life flows. The life of the primitive people in particular is custom-ridden. Ginsberg aptly portrays the place of customs in these words, “The obedience of customary rules is one of the most elementary ways in which the individual responds to the call of social life and realizes his dependence upon the group. Long before kings started making laws, they ruled their people in accordance with customs. Custom is not only the king of men, it is also the king of kings.”
According to Maciver, “Custom is a group procedure that has gradually emerged, without express enactment, without any constituted authority to declare it, to apply it, to safeguard it.” Common acceptance sustains custom. The social character of custom is revealed by those customs, which cannot be practised but collectively, for example, the various celebrations on the occasion of birth, marriage and death when people come together and by participating in a common occasion stimulate the social consciousness of one another.
It is in this way clear that, on the whole, the customs are neither irrational nor purposeless. They are a great social force, which help in the regulation of social lire. They have been proving useful in the primitive as well as modern society.
It is undoubtedly true that custom is most genuine channel along which the flow of social life runs especially among preliterate peoples. This requires that certain actions, thought to be conducive to the good of the group, be performed by all, or at least by large numbers of individuals. This is what gives to custom that degree of presumptive goodness on account of which it is followed by everybody with a certain degree of spontaneity strengthened by the habits which have been built round it.
This assumed goodness confers on custom that emotional value whose force is mostly felt when custom is broken. Such a violation is taken as an insult and offence against the group whose outlook on life, its hopes, and ideals are reflected in its custom, especially when these take upon themselves a religious or sacred character. The violation in this case is not only a challenge or a crime, but also a sacrilege calling upon the people the vengeance of the gods.
The giving and taking in which social life consists is characteristically expressed in the ambivalent character of custom made up of spontaneity and coercion. Spontaneity or agreement with the group, hardly offers any serious problem for the individual but when the performance of a custom becomes difficult for him or he has a judgement of his own as to the functions that it performs, or the greater good that it prevents, then the painful giving of social life weighs heavily on him as when the modern Indian, who no longer believes in caste taboos, if often made to observe them by social or family pressure.
Habit, being an individual affair, is free from this predicament; but the life of society cannot be ruled by habit alone. If man were not social, this would suffice, but as he demands by nature the company and co-operation of his fellowmen, custom must be present with all its assets and liabilities the former preponderating over the latter.
Referring to the social value of customs McDougall beautifully writes in these words, “The first requisite of society and the prime condition of social life of man, was in the words of Bagehot, a hard crust or cake of custom. In the struggle for existence only those societies survived which were able to evolve such a hard crust of custom, binding men together, assimilating their actions to the accepted standards, compelling control of the purely egoistic impulses and exterminating the individuals incapable of such control.”
It is thus clear that custom is an important means of controlling social behaviour. They regulate social life especially among illiterate people to a great extent and are essential to the life of a society. Custom is obeyed more spontaneously because it grows slowly.
Another function of custom is that it is the repository of our social heritage. The language, which the infant unconsciously endeavours to utter, the songs with which he is daily lulled, his ways of reacting to events, the occupations with which he later on grows familiarized his recreations and games, the mythology and forms of worship that he follows- all are offered to him in and through customs. The power of developing culture is inborn in man, as mind or the power of thinking is but its accomplishments and varieties are not born with him. They are acquired and transmitted from generation to generation through custom or tradition.
It may also be said in this connection that customs are universal and they are not confined to any particular area or a set of people. There is no country or community wherein customs are not found. In some communities they are regarded so sacred that their violation cannot be even thought of. The society wishes us to follow them. In primitive society adherence to custom was the general rule and so it is even today among the aboriginal-tribes.
Even though in India with the spread of western education the observance of customs has loosed, still the old women folk of the country continue to observe them. They weep when they meet their relatives after a long absence and weep at the time of the departure of their daughters, during marriage ceremonies. The Morries of New Zealand rub noses with each other as an expression of their love and the women of Pulawat Caroline Island walk in a stooped position in the presence of men.
i. Social Life is a Complex Affair:
A large number of problems and issues are involved in it. It is not easy to conduct and regulate it. The problem of human relationship is especially intricate one and it needs some definite ways and rules for its regulation and keeping in order. There is a great need of enforcing social conformity among the members of society. This work is done by the social codes. The term social code is a very wide phenomenon and it includes both legal and social rules. The important social codes which are used as the means of social control are folkways, mores, customs traditions, conventions, religion and morality.
These means can suffice for simple and traditional societies. But with the dawn of modern complex society these means have to be supplemented by the laws. Therefore law has also become a part of social code. In the modern times the legal rules along with customary rules do the job of maintaining social order and conformity.
It has been admitted at all hands that in modern civilized societies customs tend to loosen their hold. The result is that laws are enacted by the state to control the individual. The transition from custom to law is just a part of the general rationlisation in modern society.
According to Malinowski, “The fundamental function of law is to curb certain natural propensities to hem in and control human instincts, and to impose a non-spontaneous, compulsory behaviour—in other words, to ensure a type of cooperation which is based on mutual concessions and sacrifices for a common end. A new force different from the innate spontaneous endowment must be present to perform this task.” Law is endowed with compulsory character and this attribute of it is the result of several causes.
Firstly, there is the Let fact law is a social rule and like all social rules it has at times and aspect of compulsion.
Secondly, there is the influence of the growth and expansion of society. As the members multiply, the problems, which confront society increase in magnitude and complexity to such an extent that it becomes no longer possible for the average citizen to encompass all their aspects and to perceive the justice of the measures or decisions taken.
This is usually left to specialized bodies, which are thought competent to decide on the merits of a case. Meanwhile it is only left to the ordinary man to obey the law, taking for granted that it is sufficiently justified and worth of inconvenience that its observance brings with it.
Thirdly, it consists in the further complication of social relations, which takes place in an industrial society because of the growing division of labour, differentiation of functions and expansion of communications with other communities.
Finally, there is the growth of individualism by which men do not assent to law unless the reasons for it are sufficiently apparent to them, but as these are hardly ever so, especially in times of emergency when secrecy and swiftness of action are required, the law which bas to be observed and has behind it the compulsory machinery of the State takes upon itself more than ever a strong compulsory character.
This was long ago referred to by VICO when he wrote, “The certainty of laws involves an obscuring of reason, in so far as in them reasons supported by authority. And this makes us experience the laws as hard to obey, and yet we are constrained to obey, because of their being certain.”
Meaning of Law:
The term law has been variously defined by the eminent thinkers.
Kant defined law as “a formula which expresses the necessity of an action.”
In the opinion of Duguit, “Laws are the rules of conduct which normal men know they must observe in order to preserve and promote the benefits derived from life in society.”
In the words of Krabbe, “Law is the expression of one of the many judgments of value which we human being make, by virtue of our disposition and nature.”
In this connection Mannheim writes, “Law is a body of rules which is recognised, interpreted and applied to particular situations by the courts of the State.”
Ross opines, “Law is the most specialized and highly furnished engine of social control employed by society.”
Austin defined law as, “the command given by a superior to an inferior.” He says, “Laws properly so called are a species of command. But being a command, every law properly so called flows from a determinate source or emanates from a determinate author.”
To quote Maciver and Page, “Law is the body of rules which are recognised, interpreted and applied to particular situation by the courts of the State.
Thus it can be said in view of these definitions that law means the code upheld by the State, which because of its inclusive applicability, is thus a guardian of society itself.
In the light of foregoing facts two views can be taken of law. In a wide sense, it includes all the rules of conduct observed by men as a matter of habit. In a narrow sense, it may mean the body of rules, which are recognized or made by the State and interpreted by the courts of the land. Custom becomes law when the State is prepared to enforce it as a rule binding on citizens. To avoid the confusion between custom and law we should use the term ‘law’ in the narrow sense. It stands for rules enacted or at least interpreted and enforced by special agencies of the State and such a meaning of the law points to a number of its basic features.
Firstly, laws are the general conditions of human activity prescribed by the State for its members.
Secondly, law is law only if enacted by a proper lawmaking authority. It is a product of conscious thought; planning and deliberate formulation.
Thirdly, law is definite, clear and precise.
Fourthly, law applies equally to all without exception in identical circumstances;
Lastly, the violation of law is followed by penalties determined by the authority of the State.
Fashion is an important means of social control. It determines our speech, opinion, belief, recreation, dress, music, art and literature. Herbert Spencer regarded fashion as a leveler of custom. Maciver defined fashion as “the socially approved sequence of variation on a customary theme.” Gabriel Tarde described fashion as the, “imitation of contemporaries.”
According to Lundberg, “Fashions are folkways that survive for only a short time.” In the words of Ross “Fashion is a series of recurring changes in the choices of a group of people which, though they may be accompanied by utility, are not determined by it.”
Fashion implies certain habits upon which fashionable change flourish. It is a compromise between desire for novelty and desire for conformity. It is a transitory accepted change on a permanent line of behaviour. Thus wearing a nylon sari, putting on high heeled shoes, having, bobbed hair, playing cricket using painting to decorate the drawing room and going in pair are all examples of fashion. It is a characteristic feature of modern society and the people in general cannot escape its touch.
This term has been explained by Maciver and Page at length in these words, “By fashion we mean the socially approved sequence of variation on a customary theme. The variations of fashion occur in a more or less regular sequence— the ‘cycle of fashion,’ as it is sometimes called and fashion specially affects those aspects of the cultural factors which are regarded by the group as being in themselves relatively indifferent to basic values. Fashion applies to such matters as opinion, belief recreation, and dress, adornment of all sorts, house decoration and furniture manner of speech, popular music, literature and art. In these areas fashion does not wholly supersede custom, but rather supplements it. Thus there is in every period a customary type of dress, such as trousers for men, or of fiction, such as the novel, or of song writing, such as the ballad, on which fashion rings its changes. By its continuous of the type, fashion may, of course, undermine the customary factor and prepare the way for a new one. Moreover the attitude associated with fashion tends to weaken the attitude that clings to custom.”
Changing Nature of Fashion. When fashion is compared with custom its changeful nature becomes quite apparent. In this connection Maciver says, “Custom differs from law in the spontaneity of its origin and the immediacy of its sanction. Custom differs from fashion by reason of the more enduring character of its prescriptions, its closer relations to the intimate life and temperament of the group, and its traditional quality”.
Fashion is definitely anti-traditional. It controls those aspects, which are apt to escape from custom’s hold. The changefulness’ of fashion is illustrated in the extreme by facts and crazes that bring rapidly to forefront for a time a certain entertainer or a particular version of “the game” or a special mode of greeting one’s friends, only to be forgotten almost as quickly.
In the field of dress there are general types of garments, which are prescribed by custom for particular occasions, such as weddings or funerals or sports, or for particular seasons or for particular times of the day; while within these types the changing modes and styles are regulated by fashion. In recreation, certain games, such as football, basketball, tennis, baseball, and bridge, have become a part of our customs of recreation, but within each of them the fashions change from time to time and from place to place. So in numerous other areas of social behaviour, fashion determines the fugitive varieties of the custom-prescribed general type.
Sometimes, however, the trend of fashion exhibits continuously the same direction. In this case the influence of some underlying factors is revealed, and the fashion may at length undermine the custom which at first it merely variegated. Thus the long range trend in women’s fashion in dress has led to the obsolescence or disappearance of certain garments which were previously prescribed by custom—a reflection of major changes in the status of women, the sex, mores, and other factors.
The same influence have been at work in determining the direction of the fashion in sports, apparel, generally from more or less, which in turn has helped to bring about the change from “bathing” to swimming and that from “lawn tennis” to the modern vigorous game.
Creators of Fashion:
Manifold are the ways in which fashion originates. Sometimes it is the aristocracy or the selected few who start a ‘new look’ and others gradually follow suit. Sometimes it is a political or social movement, which starts a fashion, as the Gandhi cap or the wearing of Khadi in modern India. New fashions are also designed by agencies especially devoted to this as the Parisian centres for ladies dress fashion. On other occasions new fashions are artificially introduced by business firms in order to popularise a product by associating it, for instance with some famous personality or film-star until the public grows weary and another new fashion is started.
The flexibility and pervasiveness of fashion have also their limits and conditions of which the most important are the moral ideas and the material conditions of society. Thus a fashion, which makes light of certain values that are held high by people in general has no chance of success, it may even provoke vigorous reactions. Another by which its followers are exposed to the cold in winter and to the heat in summer can hardly make any headway unless it has some compensatory features as an increase in prestige or health.
Fashions are prone to take with the public in periods of optimism and prosperity, democracy and freedom as an outward expression of activity and life. On the contrary, poverty, depression, dictator regimentation tend to reduce the range and frequency of fashion. One of the most important functions of fashion is, that it facilitates social change by providing a transitional Stage from one custom to another. The cake of custom is hard to break, but the introduction of fashion tends to mollify its rigidity and the belief in its importance; while, at the same time, it prepares the minds for a change so that this may not come suddenly enough to disturb the social order.
It may finally be added that the social sanction of fashion is usually mild. By not following it one may be held as old fashioned or an old crumb. But it also has its counter-sanction as those who too readily take to fashion are liable to be dubbed as green and light-headed.
Social Role of Fashion:
A question is often asked as to what role fashions play in society. The question is important as we find people often groaning under the tyranny of fashion. Fashion promises no utility; it makes no appeal to reason and being a fugitive and transitory deviation has little effect on the major trends of social change, yet it has a strong hold over the people.