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The Coersive Power of Social Structures over Individuals - Essay Example

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Running Head: Structure versus Agency The coercive power of social structures over individuals The coercive power of social structures over individuals Introduction The debate between structure and agency in sociological contexts has been raging for years…
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The Coersive Power of Social Structures over Individuals
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Download file to see previous pages A society is like an organism, and it will fight to thrive to the point of coercive measures in conforming the behavior of members toward the betterment and support of the group. In creating a stronger social structure, coercive power within the group will help to force the individuals towards making decisions that fall within the boundaries of the group. Social Structures Social structures are constructions of groups of people in which common elements have created some sort of connectivity between individuals. According to Martin (2009), social structures “come from the crystallization of relationships” (p. 2). One can turn to Georg Simmel for his theories on social structures in which the relationships formed a web in which connections were made between individuals that were tied by a common thread. Society is then identified as a “set of permanent interactions” (p. 2). In looking at the combined theories of both Simmel and Durkheim, it can be said that while society seems like something that is outside of the individual, in truth, it is the “aggregate of our actions” (Martin 2009). Social constructions are the systems through which society is enacted. The social structures that are built within a society are strong and can hold a great deal of power over the individuals within those societies. The nature of a social structure is to be defined by the ways in which it creates rules for the individuals within the group to live. Those rules are defined by a set of different ideas, such as law, social conformity, social appropriateness, and religious constraints. The rules that are developed are dependent upon the purpose and the focus of the social structures. Conformity, even when non-conformist ideas are a part of the structure, is almost universally accepted as the way in which to get along with the group as a whole, rather than to set oneself outside of the social structure. The way in which a group has decided to define themselves is crucial in understanding how to be a part of that group. Clay-Warner (2008) describes the intense shared emotions that a social group will have as “collective effervescence”, a concept that was defined by Emil Durkheim (p. 1). This is accompanied by rituals that will define the sacred from the profane, creating structures from which the definitions for the group are created. Hochschild defined the nature of emotions as they relate to social structure as: feeling rules, emotional labor, surface acting, and deep acting (Clay-Warner & Robinson, 2008, p. 3). These aspects of social structure help to define roles, provide social exchange, and shape the way in which the structure is created. Kemper argued that two-dimensions of social structure are universal, that of power and status. Through power and status, members are able to create a much more defined position within the social structure and influence the direction in which the structure will continue to grow. It is the nature of a social structure to shift, move and change. Within this structure is found an unspoken truth about the structure that allows for all of the members to follow the same line of thinking and conform to an unspoken set of rules that are not to be broken if one wants to stay within the group. Coercion from the social group will take many forms. The forms of pressure that will emanate from the group will create a coercion in ...Download file to see next pagesRead More
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