Sociology Index

Social Structure

Books on Social Structure, Social Class

Social structure is the patterned and relatively stable arrangement of roles and social statuses found within societies and social institutions. The idea of social structure points out the way in which societies, and institutions within them, exhibit predictable patterns of organization, activity and social interaction.

Stability of organization and behavior provides the quality of predictability that people rely on in every day social interaction. Social structures are inseparable from cultural norms and values that also shape social status and social interaction. One of society's major functions is to facilitate the assimilation of its constituents.

Successful assimilation serves two goals: it encourages the maintenance and growth of the social system, and it gives each person a sense of his or her location within the social structure.

In consequence, it is to the advantage of both society and the individual that the latter comes to adopt an understanding of the social system and one's place in it that is shared by all its members; this understanding not only includes a sense of personal identity, but also an appreciation of the roles one will take as a participating member of society. - Professor Gregory Elliott.

Social Institutions, Social Norms, Social Roles, Social Statuses and Social Values are intrinsic to social structure.

Social Institutions
A pattern of social interaction, having a stable structure over time. Institutions have structural properties and are shaped by cultural values. The ‘institution of marriage’ is structurally located in a cohabiting couple and regulated by norms about sexual exclusiveness, love and sharing.

Social Norms
Norms are culturally established rules which prescribe appropriate social behavior.

Social Roles
Role is a position within a social structure that is shaped by precise behavioural expectations or norms. The individual who is placed within a status in a social structure performs his role in a way shaped by normative expectations.

Social Statuses
A position in a social structure which is regulated by norms and very often ranked according to power and prestige held. It differs from class. It is a measure of a person's social standing or social honour in a community. Sociologists use the concepts of social class and and social status to describe the systems of social stratification.

Social Values
General cultural prescriptions of what is right, moral and desirable.