Control theories in sociology

Sociologists use negative feedback loop systems to explain identity processes, interpersonal behavior, crowd behavior, organizational behavior, social relationships, and the behavior of political systems. Control system models help us to understand how actors enact social roles with enough stability to preserve institutional arrangements, while still demonstrating remarkable creativity in unusual circumstances. These theories take us away from an oversocialized view of the actor, without relegating us to exclusive reliance on grounded theory. They provide a foundation for several generative theories of adaptive, goal-seeking behavior on the part of social actors and institutions. This chapter begins by tracing the history of control theorizing in sociology, then describes several contemporary theories that rely on control imagery, reviews the empirical support for these theories, describes some of their significant points of overlap and departure, and examines some of the key tested and untested implications of a control system approach in sociology.
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