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Social Organization 5

Social Organization 5

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Published by lp3893
chapter 5
chapter 5

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Categories:Types, Research, Science
Published by: lp3893 on Mar 15, 2010
Copyright:Attribution Non-commercial

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06/06/2010

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 1
Introduction 
 
Humans are highly social animals. Normally we live in groups all of our lives.It is extremely unusual for us to be in total isolation from other people forlong. You may personally enjoy being alone. However, your voluntaryisolation probably does not last more than a few hours or days at most. Ourstrong emotional need for social contact makes it possible to use solitaryconfinement as an effective punishment in prisons. The threat of socialostracism can also be an effective way of curbing potentially deviantbehavior. Those who act "badly" run the risk of being rejected by othermembers of their social group or community.
 
When we are deprived of human social contact, we often seek it in substitutessuch as radio and television shows, and books. Pets also are common socialsubstitutes for other people. This is particularly true of dogs and otheranimals that enjoy interacting with us in a friendly way.
 
Dogs in the Western Worldoften become substitutesfor human companions.
 
The need for human social contact and the rewards that it can bring lead mostpeople to become members of numerous social groups. In fact, we aremembers of many groups at the same time. We may be family members,employees of companies, citizens of towns, states, nations, and members ofethnic groups. In addition, we often are members of clubs, vocationalassociations, political parties, and religious groups.
 
The most important kind ofsocial groups in small-scalesocieties are families.This picture shows membersof an extended family in theHuili Tribe of New Guinea
 
Our behavior is adjusted to and by the various groups of which we aremembers. For instance, we usually act differently when we are with friends incontrast to family members or business associates. You might share a crude
 
 2
sexual joke with a good friend of your own age and gender,but you probably would not do it with your grandparents or teachers. Likewise, wheninteracting with your children you most likely will act in a responsible, nurturingleadership role that would be inappropriate when you are talking with yourparents or your boss, since you are likely to have an inferior social statusrelative to them.
 
In this picture, who do yousuppose feels like they arein a superior status? Whatare the clues? Look closely.How is this difference instatus likely to effect theirinteraction?
 
Our individual identities are greatly defined by the groups to which we belongand by our positions within them. Think about the last time that you met astranger at a party or at some other social gathering. You probably asked aquestion to determine what group they belong to and what they do within it. InNorth America, the typical question in this situation is "what do you do." Inother words, are you a student, a doctor, a lawyer, etc. If the strangeranswers "I am a student," the common follow-up questions are "what schooldo you go to" and "what classes are you taking" or "what is your major."In small-scale societies that are primarily organized around kinship,the common equivalent first question for a stranger would be something like "whois your father." In other words, what is your family or clan identity.
 
What do you think thesetwo North American couplesasked each other when theyfirst met on this vacation?What were they trying tofind out about each other?
 
People around the world create social groups based on two broad criteria:kinship identity and non-kinship factors. Which of these is most importantdepends greatly on the scale of the society. As societies grow in size tohundreds of thousands of people, the non-kinship factors usually becomeincreasingly important and the kinship ones less crucial. However, even in thelargest industrialized nations today, we still use kinship for creating somekinds of social groupings, but kinship has become much less important as afoundation for membership in educational, business, and government
 
 3
organizations. Kinship will be explored in the next tutorial of this series, whilenon-kinship factors are considered in this one.
 
Functions of Social Groups and Institutions
 
In studying any society, we can observe various social groups and institutions,each with its specific functions. It does not matter whether the institutions arerelated to business, religion, the legal system, or families. They all havefunctions. For instance, the primary function of a legal system is likely to bethe maintenance of the social order in society. The functions of differentinstitutions may overlap and are likely to be interrelated in complex ways.Complicating our understanding of them is the fact that any institution is likelyto have multiple functions, some of which are more obvious than others. Intrying to discover and understand them, it is useful to think of some of thefunctions as being manifest and others latent.
Manifest functions
are thosethat are obvious and easily discovered even by strangers. In contrast,
latentfunctions
are those that are less apparent and more difficult to uncover. Ifyou ask people what the functions of their institutions are, most will describethe manifest ones. They may not have even thought of all of the latent ones.However, to get a full understanding of a society and its culture, it is essentialto comprehend the latent functions as well. In order to discover them, it isoften necessary to observe their effects because people are often unaware ofthem.
 
Let us see how good you are at comingup with the functions of a common NorthAmerican icon -- the Golden Gate Bridge.What is the manifest function of thispublicly funded and owned bridge?What are some possible latent functions?
 
Click the button to seehow well you did.
Golden Gate Bridge(San Francisco)
 

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