Social scientists should give no policy advice, but should rather point out, publicly, the shortcomings of policies- Morton A. Kaplan [and Philip Green] et al., Strategic Thinking and its Moral Implications, University of Chicago Center for Policy Study, 1973, p.67.
Social defence in common parlance means the protection of society against crime through a systematically organized and coherent action by both the State, civil society people’s group. Though this term has long been in use in the criminological and penological literature, the modes and modalities of achieving its inherent objective have been shifting with the advancement in social sciences and behavioural disciplines. Even today, because of the complexity of issues involved, it has not been possible to evolve a wholly satisfactory theoretical framework for policy formulation and programme development in this field.
Whereas the initial interpretation of the notion of social defence implied the protection of society through the repression of crime, its modern conception visualizes a system that emphasizes control of crime through social defence. Therefore social defence not only endeavours to perfect the system that protects society against criminal acts but also goes much beyond the ambit of criminal law in extending measures to forestall criminogenic situations and to treat offenders through appropriate remedial, educational and rehabilitative services.
Apart from its meaning in criminology as a strategy for crime prevention and control, the term has now a wider meaning and social defence refers not to an elaborate school of thought but to a vigorous movement sustained by a variety of organizations sharing certain values and methods in dealing with phenomena of crime, in wisely dealing with a dangerous offender, or the efficient protection of society accomplished without persistently violating the offenders’ rights. Hence social defence has acquired a paradigmatic character over a period of time. It connotes several meanings and denotes several names. It has the narrow and the broad definitions.
In a narrow sense social defence is a nonviolent alternative to military defence. It is based on widespread protest, persuasion, noncooperation and intervention in order to oppose military aggression or political repression. It uses methods such as boycotts, refusals to obey, strikes, demonstrations and setting up alternative government. Social defence is nonviolent defence of the vital features of society — including human rights, local autonomy, and participation - against all oppressive forces. There are actually several different names that all mean about the same thing. The main ones are social defence, nonviolent defence, civilian-based defence and civilian defence.
In a broad sense social defence is nonviolent community resistance to aggression. This includes defence against exploitation, injustice, subjugation and discrimination like defence against male violence against women. Social defence often refers to nonviolent defence based on grassroots initiatives. Those favouring the broad definition can readily provide examples from struggles by feminists, environmentalists, peace activists, minorities and umpteen others.