Social Institutions

Understanding the Term   

Social institution refers to a group of social positions, connected by social relations, performing a social role It can also be defined in a narrower sense as any institution in a society that works to socialize the groups or people in it Common examples include education, governments, families, economic systems, religions, and any people or groups that you have social interaction with

Studying Social Institutions 

Functionalist View  

One way to understand social institutions is to see how they fulfill essential functions Five major tasks or functional prerequisites that a society must accomplish if it is to survive    

Replacing personal-immigrations, sexual reproduction, acquisition of personalslaves etc Teaching new recruits-formally through schools or informally recruitsinteraction of family and peer groups Production and distribution of goods and service- must follow a set serviceof rule for allocation and distribution of goods and services Preserving order- protect themselves from outside attacks orderProviding and maintaining a sense of purpose either religious or patriotism

Functionalist Perspective
Replacing Personal

Five Major Functions 
Family Government

Related Social Institutions


Teaching new recruits 


(basic skills) Economy (occupational) Education (schools) Mass media Religion (sacred teachings) 

Production and distribution of goods and service Preserving order

(food preparation) Economy Government (regulations) Family (child birth) Government Religion (morals) Government (patriotism) Religion

Providing and maintaining a sense of purpose

Conflict View    

The present organization of social order is not an accident Most institutions help maintain the status quo of the powerful elites in the society From a functionalist perspective social change leads to instability But according to a conflict view, why should we preserve the existing structure if they are unfair and discriminatory?

Interactionist View 

Social institutions affect our everyday behavior Our social behavior is conditioned by the roles and statuses that we accept, the groups to which we belong and the institutions within that we function

The Family- A Global View Family

What is family? 

Nuclear Family Extended family Monogamy Polygamy Polyandry Its culturally learnt Bilateral decent Patrilineal Matrilineal 

Kinship patterns- to whom we are related? patterns   

Religion as a Social Institution      

For close to 2000 years Christianity has provided a moral and spiritual framework for western development The church usually surpassed monarchs and government in the political power and the wealth they accumulated The priesthood maintained a monopoly over the skills of literacy , scholarship and learning With the advent of industrialization the churches and religious bodies lost much of its secular power Government took over many of the tasks previously managed by the church Scientific thought and technology increasingly challenged religion Secularization describes the process whereby religion looses its influence over various spears of social life

Marx, Weber and Durkheim on Religion  

Marx, Weber and Durkheim together comprise the historical core of the sociological tradition While they each come from very different perspectives and offer profound contributions to the field, they each have tried to address problems associated with the advent of modernity

Marx and Religion     

Karl Marx attempted to examine religion from an objective , scientific perspective According to Marx, religion is an expression of material realities and economic injustice Religion is like other social institutions in that it is dependent upon the material and economic realities in a given society. It has no independent history; instead it is the creature of productive forces As Marx wrote, The religious world is but the reflex of the real world. Marx s opinion is that religion is an illusion that provides reasons and excuses to keep society functioning just as it is

Marx Criticism of Religion   

religion is a delusion and a worship of appearances that avoids recognizing underlying reality religion negates all that is dignified in a human being by rendering them servile and more amenable to accepting the status quo Religion is meant to create illusory fantasies for the poor. Economic realities prevent them from finding true happiness in this life, so religion tells them this is OK because they will find true happiness in the next life.

Durkheim and Religion     

Durkheim s work , the elementary forms of religious life is one of the most influential study in the sociology of religion Also like Marx, Durkheim sees religion as a reflection of society and not a depiction of an external supernatural reality Durkheim defines religion as a unified system of beliefs and practices relative to sacred things, that is to say, things set apart and forbidden beliefs and practices which unite into one single moral community called a Church, all those who adhere to them Ceremony and rituals are essential for binding the members of group together Religion has both manifest functions (give meaning to divine) and latent functions

Weber and Religion 

Weber did a massive study of religions work-wide workIn the Sociology of Religion, Weber lays out his thesis Religion, that people pursue their interests, and that religious leaders and structures help people achieve those goals Weber argued that religion was one of the non-exclusive nonreasons for the different ways the cultures of the Occident and the Orient have developed Weber maintained that Calvinist (and more widely, Protestant) religious ideas had had a major impact on the social innovation and development of the economic system of Europe and the United States

Influence of religion 

Religion and social support 

Religion encourages us to view our personal misfortunes as relatively unimportant in the broader perspective of human history. E.g. death of a loved one Protestants favored rational pursuit of economic gain and worldly activities which had been given positive spiritual and moral meaning Like Durkheim, Weber demonstrated that religion is not solely a matter of personal belief but rather collective nature of religion has social consequences for society as a whole 

Religion and social change  

Religion and Social Control-Conflict ControlPerspective    

Karl Marx thought religion impeded social change by encouraging oppressed people to focus on other-worldly concerns rather than on othertheir immediate poverty or exploitation religion plays an important role in propping up the existing social structure Religion s promotion of social stability only helps to perpetuate patterns of social inequality Dominant religion reinforces the interests of those in power By inducing false consciousness amongst the disadvantages religion lessens the possibility of collective political action which can end capitalist oppression and transform society

Education: Schools as formal organizations 

schools do not operate autonomously: they are influenced by the market of potential students Max Weber noted five basic characteristics of bureaucracy, all of which are evident in the vast majority of schools 

Division of labor-specialized experts teach particular level and specific laborsubject Hierarchy of authority- each employee of the school system is authorityresponsible to a higher authority Written rules and regulations-teachers and administration should regulationsconform to numerous rules and regulations in performance of their duty ImpersonalityImpersonality- university has been portrayed as a giant faceless bureaucracy that cares little for the uniqueness of the individual Employment based on technical qualifications-the hiring of teachers and qualificationscollege professors is based on professional competence and expertise

Different Views  

Functionalist take a positive view of the bureaucratization of education in contrast conflict view argues that the trend towards more centralized education has harmful consequences for disadvantaged people In view of the conflict approach, low-income and lowminority parents will have even less influence over citycitywide educational administrations than they have over local school officials

Student Subculturs  

One of the latent function of education relates directly to student life: schools provide for students social and recreational needs Four types of sub-cultures that comes out of their subanalysis:    

The collegiate subculture focuses on having fun and socialization Academic subculture- identifies with the intellectual concerns of subculturethe faculty Vocational subcultures- is primarily concerned with career subculturesprospects nonconformists subcultures- hostile to the college environment subcultures-

Government: Power and Authority   


Someone or some group makes important decision about how to allocate resources the struggle for power and authority inevitably involves politics-who politicsgets what, when and how Power is the heart of political system Max Weber-power is the ability to exercise one s will over others WeberThree basic sorces of power 

Force Influence Authority 

Traditional authority LegalLegal-Rational authority Charismatic authority

Who rules USA?  


Do the people we elect rule the country or is it ruled by small elite Power elite model Mills Model Domhoff Model Pluralist Model

Economic System  

Both capitalism and socialist economic system conform to certain ideals such as private or collective onership, however hardly do we find a more capitalist or a pure socialist economy Capitalism 

Means of production is largely in the hands of private owners Main incentive for growth is profit LaisserLaisser-faire economy Today's capitalism features extensive government regulation of economic relations It tolerates monopolistic practices Reflected in the writings of Karl Marx Socialism aims to eliminate economic exploitation The means of production and distribution is done collectively and not privately owned A central government representative of the people makes all the imp decisions 


Economic Change 

The face of the workforce Deindustrialization E-commerce Contingency workforce

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