Saturday, January 28, 2012

Social Structure

Social Structure: Explanation


Social structure refers to the organized relationships between the basic components in a social system. The most important of the components are statuses, roles, groups and institutions. These concepts are of fundamental importance in sociology, and these basic components are found in all human societies, although their precise character may vary from society to society (Robertson, 1977).




A society consists of individuals. Socially defined position of each person in the society is termed as status.


A person can occupy several statuses simultaneously. For example, son, father, husband, chairman of a co-operative society, university professor, etc. All these statuses are occupied simultaneously by the same person.


Certain statuses are given to a person by the society by birth. One cannot determine his parents and relatives. Race also cannot be determined by a person. These statuses are termed as ascribed statuses. Certain statuses are earned by the individuals. Their job, friends, wealth, various hobbies are also choices and individuals and these statuses are termed achieved statuses.




Every status has one or more roles attached to it. Role refers to the part or parts that a person plays in society.


The distinction between status and role is one occupies a status and plays a role (Linton, 1936). Every position or status carries with it a set of expected behavior patterns, obligations, and privileges-in other words norms specifying how the role attached to the status should be played.




In a society, interaction takes place between individuals, but group formation takes and a lot of interaction takes place between individual with in a group. A group consists of people interacting together in an orderly way on the basis of shared expectations about each other’s behavior. A group has well defined or well understood interrelated statuses and roles.


Groups are categorized as primary and secondary. Primary groups consist of small number of people who interact over relatively long period on an intimate, face-to-face basis. Examples are family, kinship group etc. Secondary groups consist of people who interact on a fairly temporary and impersonal basis. An example could be a group of people attending a training program for five days.


Most social behavior takes place in groups. Groups are therefore a vital part of social structure and they have to be identified and studied in sociology.




Institutions are the stable clusters of values, norms, statuses, roles and expectations that develop around the basic needs of a society.


Examples are family, state, military etc. All of them take care of needs of society.







Linton, Ralph (1936), The Study of Man, Appleton-Century-Crofts, New York.


Robertson, Ian (1977), Sociology, Worth Publishers, Inc., New York.

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