Social Structure Concept - Essay Example

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Sociology The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical discussion on the topic of social structure. The format that this paper will utilize is to first provide a clear definition of what social structure is. After this point a discussion will be conducted as to why this topic is important followed by highlighting the basic “Building blocks” or elements of social structure…
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Sociology The purpose of this paper is to provide a critical discussion on the topic of social structure. The format that this paper will utilize isto first provide a clear definition of what social structure is. After this point a discussion will be conducted as to why this topic is important followed by highlighting the basic “Building blocks” or elements of social structure. After this point a critical examination as to how these concepts present themselves in everyday life as we present ourselves to others will be highlighted. In its broadest terms a social structure is in sociological terms a stable arrangement in which people interact in a society (Encyclopedia Britannica, 2011). From this perspective one could make the argument that this discipline speaks to a number of different sociological concepts such as predicting the actions of actors within this social structure, the structure of different classes within the structure, the connection between individuals and broader organizations (Companies, governmental institutions etc.) In regards to why social structure is important as a sociological institution pertains to wider societal interactions. According to a paper by Stott & Drury (2004) it was argued that one of the fundamental elements of studying social structure is the fact that the structure itself has a direct impact on levels of collective conflict and in theory, understanding it could bring about techniques/processes that could minimize conflict. Moreover the paper identified that there is a relationship between social structure and group processes which means that having a better understanding of this process would provide a better understanding into human behaviour. What makes the discipline so interesting is the fact that social structures are constantly in a state of flux insofar as every individual within the pattern is constantly changing and with this means eventual change for the wider society. In its broadest sense, there are a number of basic building blocks that play an integral role in social structure. One such building block of social structure is the normative structure which pertains to the norms of individuals that operate under various social strata. What this can relate to is the various accepted behaviours within the wider spectrum of a social class or organization, which would dictate an individuals actions in public and how they affix importance to these norms. In terms of how this presents itself to everyday life one could make the argument that in western society we affix such norms on an individual's age. For example young people should be attending school, middle aged people should be working, elderly people should be retired etc. By affixing these norms on different groups we then can identify whether or not somebody is operating within or outside of our collective norms. A second building block of social structure is position system which is the general stratification of individuals. From this perspective one of the most important elements of this section would be the assigning of roles to individuals based on their capabilities within the organization or wider society. It could be argued that properly aligning peoples abilities with their role in society is responsible for ensuring many of the desires as well as expectations of actors within an organization or wider society are met. In terms of how this presents itself to everyday life, on a micro scale this might mean aligning a persons job role within an organization based on his or her ability to fulfil that job function. When completed properly for example, having a computer programmer working with computers instead of some other discipline helps ensure better workflow for both the organization and the individual. On a macro scale when a person assumes a certain role within a society, it is important for both the society and individual's expectations are met. A further building block of social structure is the proffered mode of interaction structure. This discipline dictates the forms of communication different people of different backgrounds choose to communicate with each other. In terms of how this presents itself to everyday life for example what language is used, what type of language is used, what non verbal cues are used. One prime example of this would be the varying dialects of the city of London, England. When a person communicates with what is considered a posh accent this indicates a tremendous around of information about the individuals background and gives a current snapshot of the individual's status. However when a person starts speaking with cockney slang she or he will be identifying an equal amount of information about where they sit on the social structure. This concept can be expanded to include how people dress, how people carry themselves, what gestures are used etc. One final building block of social structure would be the 'ideal' structure. This discipline pertains to the relationship between the beliefs and views of individuals and the wider society. This represents a wide spectrum for all of society insofar as belief systems are quite varied. Common examples of this would be religion, governance, understanding of stereotypes, educational expectations and many more. What makes the discipline so interesting is the fact that varying groups within a society have varying ideals, for example a particularly religious individual may have different goals or expectations than an individual who is vehemently atheist, moreover a staunchly communist person may have vastly different expectations of a government than a libertarian, moreover a highly educated individual may have different goals than an illiterate individual. In conclusion, social structure is a complex study owing largely to the fact that it seeks to understand such a wide spectrum of issues. It is for exactly this reason that the discipline may be considered so interesting insofar as it is constantly in flux. References Encyclopedia Britannica, Social Structure Defined. [online] Available at Accessed on October 19th 2011. Stott, C & Drury, J (2004) The Importance of Social Structure and Social Interaction in Stereotype Consensus and Content: Is the Whole Greater than the Sum of its Parts. European Journal of Social Psychology 34, 11-23. [online] Available at Accessed on October 19th 2011. Read More
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