Sociology Index

Social Structure

Social structure is the patterned and relatively stable arrangement of role and social status 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 social 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 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 Structure - Abstracts

Social structure and ethnicity - Sociologie Romaneasca, 2001, 1-4

Abstract - The paper attempts a theoretical and empirical evidence analysis of the relationship between ethnic affiliation, social stratification and ethnic attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe, and in Romania in particular. In the first part of the paper I examine the main theoretical constructs involved in explaining the relationship between stratification and ethnic affiliation, ethnic stratification and class stratification, and the role of market mechanisms in the dynamics of social and ethnic stratification. The analysis of empirical data at the national level suggests that a homogenous ethnic composition of a country determines a global orientation of the population towards a less tolerant ethnic attitude. A homogenous ethnic composition at the level of historical regions in the case of Romania is also a favorable environment for ethnic intolerance.

Ethnic intolerance tends to be higher in the lower social strata. The relationship between one's social position in the stratification space and one's attitude of ethic intolerance is not a linear one. Regions, types of local and residential communities, and also human and material capital variables emerge as being relevant predictors of ethnic intolerance.

Kin Groups and Social Structure - by Roger M., Keesing
Abstract - This text examines the evolution of kinship and social structure. Keesing considers the importance of patrilineal descent and the permutations of descent systems, matrilineal and double descent, alliance systems, cognate descent and bilateral kinship as organizing principles. Relevant analogies and examples are used throughout.

Cross-national Research on Social Structure and Personality.

History, social structure and individualism: a cross-cultural perspective on Japan. International Journal of Comparative Sociology; 2/1/1998; Schooler, Carmi
This paper explores how history and social structure affect individualism in Japan. It integrates a variety of cross-cultural studies comparing Japan with the West whose methodological approaches vary considerably. Its historical comparisons point to many parallels between Japan and the West and reveal similar links between economic development and individualism. Sociological surveys demonstrate that similar environmental conditions, particularly environmental complexity, have similar effects in the two settings and provide evidence of a growth in individualism in Japan resulting from an increase in such complexity. Anthropological and developmental psychological studies demonstrate how maternal behaviors reproduce cultural norms about appropriate levels of group interdependence and suggest that maternal behavior is becoming more individualistic in Japan, most probably as a result of changing socio-environmental conditions. Reported findings on how the institutionalization of values such as individualism or interdependence lead to such values' continued acceptance provide an indication of why the values embodied in cultures and social structures often seem to change more slowly than do values of individuals.

Social structure, political institutions, and mobilization potential.
Social Forces; 12/1/1995; McVeigh, Rory
Social movement theorists in the U.S. have focused considerable attention on the question of how a collectivity, given a common interest, organizes in pursuit of a collective good. Meanwhile, their European counterparts have primarily focused on group grievances and on the way in which structural change generates new mobilization potentials, that is, on groups of individuals sharing common interests that could be potentially activated by social movement organizers (see Cohen 1985; Klandermans 1984).
Renewed interest in group grievances and interest formation can be attributed to the increasingly diverse set of issues that form the basis of both traditional and nontraditional political activity. Many contemporary movements, such as those promoting women's rights, the environment, gay rights, and pro-life and pro-choice concerns, are not strictly engaged in distributive battles, but instead are promoting values or a collective identity. I explore the role of social structure in the promotion of interest distributions, which refer to how political preferences on various issues are distributed within a given community. I argue that some forms of structural differentiation within a community promote interest distributions where nonmaterial interests cannot be effectively channeled into established political institutions. The argument is tested through an analysis of party voting and voting on ballot initiatives concerning social or cultural issues in Colorado from 1980 through 1990.

Social Structure Journals

The Journal of Social Structure (JoSS) is an electronic journal of the International Network for Social Network Analysis (INSNA). It is designed to facilitate timely dissemination of state-of-the-art results in the interdisciplinary research area of social structure. It publishes empirical, theoretical and methodological articles. Articles are accepted only after peer review. Comments, rejoinders and extensions on already published articles will be peer-reviewed and if accepted will be attached via a hyperlink to the previously published piece.

All published articles and comments (including embedded data, graphics, algorithms and simulations) are permanently archived by the library at Carnegie Mellon University.

Social Structure - Syllabus


This is a course which investigates the relationship between one's place in the social structure and one's own, individual personal growth. The basic premise of this course is that people must learn how to be members of society. In that vein, 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. Part of our analysis will focus on this socialization process. Beneath this grand design, however is a gnawing awareness that is disquieting: something is basically wrong. As people experience the life course, they realize (even if they do not admit to others) that they have neither a strong sense of personal identity nor a feeling of involvement in their social roles. Although society seems to be progressing in its development, it appears to do so only at the expense of the well-being of many of its members. We will begin by examining some of the theories of personal growth developed by sociologists, including those pertaining to early socialization in childhood. We will examine the development of the individual from infancy through adulthood, the impact of family, school, occupation, and social class on personal growth and social opportunities for advancement. We will study the social antecedents to alienation.

Books On Social Structure

Social Structures Book by John Levi Martin - John Levi Martin closely examines social structures..

Social Structure & Mobility in Economic Development Neil J. Smelser, Seymour Martin Lipset

The Social Structures Of The Economy Book by Pierre Bourdieu

Transition from School to Work: Individual Life Courses Within Social Structures (Issues In Education) Book by Chew Siew Ghee

Marginality, Power and Social Structure : Issues in Race, Class, and Gender Analysis (Research in Race and Ethnic Relations) Book by Rutledge Dennis

Change And Stability: Cross-national Analysis Of Social Structure And Personality Melvin L. Kohn

The Social Structure of Postindustrial Societies : From Classes and Strata to Social Milieus and Lifestyles Book by Stefan Hradil

Human Behavior and the Larger Social Environment : A New Synthesis Book by Miriam McNown Johnson, Rita Rhodes

Social Structure and Party Choice in Western Europe : A Comparative Longitudinal Study Book by Oddbjorn Knutsen

Drug And Alcohol Consumption As Functions Of Social Structures: A Cross-cultural Sociology (Mellen Studies in Sociology) Book by James E. Hawdon, James Hawdon

Inequality: Structures, Dynamics and Mechanisms : Essays in Honor of Aage B. Sorensen (Research in Social Stratification and Mobility) Book by Arne L. Kalleberg, Stephen L. Morgan, John Myles, Rachel A. Rosenfeld

The Stag Hunt and the Evolution of Social Structure Brian Skyrms' study of ideas of cooperation and collective action.