(This naval formation exemplifies one kind of group that sociologists call a formal organization).
Links to related web sites:
· City Net
Sociologists define the concept, "society" as a group of interacting individuals who share the same territory and participate in a common culture. As we have already seen, "interaction" is a process by which communicating individuals influence each others' thoughts and activities. All of this interaction must be ordered or organized some way; according to some framework--- We refer to this frame work as social structure.
Social structure is the organization of
social positions and the distribution of people in them. Our text defines
social structure as "the way in which a society is organized into
It's important to realize that we
are not concerned with personalities but positions; e.g., faculty
member; short stop; half-back; President of the U.S., etc. (This is not as easy
as it seems--- Think of the President. What thoughts fill your
mind? Now think of the president who served before
The basic components of social structure are: Statuses; Roles; Groups; and Institutions. We've already discussed six basic social institutions:
1. FAMILY-- caring for the young
2. EDUCATION-- transmitting cultural knowledge from one generation to the next
3. RELIGION-- reaffirming the values that bind people together
4. POLITICS-- governing people, maintaining order
5. ECONOMY-- providing food, shelter, and necessary services
6. RECREATION--entertainment/ recreation/ relaxation
There are two levels of social structure: 1.) Micro level: small, interpersonal level-- dorm life; organizational network in the office. 2.) Macro level: the "Big Picture" how does it fit into society? (The relationships between components of society -- education in American Society).
Example: The Prison
Micro level: Look at a prison. We see that it's comprised of administrators, guards, and prisoners. There's also an elaborate set of rules governing the relationships between the three. But when we look deeper we find more. There's an informal network among the prisoners and they divide themselves into many different categories and these categories describe what they do in the prison. Here are some of the positions in prison argot: (Sykes and Messinger)
toughs: those who quarrel easily and fight without cause
gorilla: those who use violence to obtain their goals
merchant or peddler: buys and sells goods; exploits fellow prisoners by manipulation, not force
wolf or fag: prisoners who enter into homosexual relationships (label applies to the role they take) [Tusk hogs at Richmond State Pen.?]
square John: they conform to the values of the greater society (in effect, support prison officials)
rat or squealer: informers
real man or right guy: quiet; doesn't talk; doesn't push people around, but can handle the toughs and the gorillas; doesn't let other prisoners down--- i.e. the Clint Eastwood type
The importance of this is that some prisoners assume much admired roles-- the real men; while others are considered scum-- the rats. The problem for prison administrators is to maintain order and control when they are in the minority--- more prisoners than guards. Prisoners certainly don't obey from love or respect. They are at the legal limits of coercion. How do they do this, then? They allow the breaking of trivial rules in exchange for cooperation. They allow an "informal social structure" to develop where prison leaders (prisoners, themselves) have a say in what goes on. In May, 1980 very violent riots took place in the New Mexico State Pen. Why? The informal structure was disrupted. Cries of political corruption booted out leaders to other prisons and left the prisoners without leaders. As a result, the toughs and gorillas took over-- macho contests. A riot ensued: When the authorities tried to negotiate, they found that they had to deal with several different groups of prisoners.
The Macro Level: Here we wouldn't focus on the internal workings of a particular prison, but rather how prisons fit into the larger society.
· What is the purpose of prisons (containment and isolation; punishment; retribution; rehabilitation)?
What percent of the
· What types of prisons are there?
· What are the characteristics of prisoners-- age, sex, religion, race?
· Are prisons overcrowded? (From 1993 World Almanac: It is estimated that state prisons were 16 to 31 percent above their capacities in 1990.
status: refers to a position in the social structure; Each person possesses several statuses, age, sex, race, occupation, nationality, son, daughter, mother, father, etc.
master status: This is the basic one in giving you a sense of who you are. Think of the question, "Who and what are you, what do you do?" (Usually its a job).
ascribed status: This one has been assigned or given to us and we can't change it easily-- race, sex, age, etc.
achieved status: It is earned by us; Doctor, Lawyer, college graduate, etc.).
social class: Roughly a social class consists of people who occupy the same status in society. (Marx -- depends on relationship to the means of production (job); Weber-- status group, people who share similar interests, atti tudes, likes, and dislikes). (College professors can have different life-styles; one goes to bars and basket ball games while the other goes to fancy restaurants and classical music concerts). According to Weber garbage collector and factory owner can both belong to the same status group if they both like Mozart and have similar likes and dislikes.
are socially prescribed ways of acting in a particular status. They involve
certain behavior patterns, obligations and privileges. We play a different role
for each of the different statuses we occupy. Usually one status (say President
role set: Each status usually has several roles attached to it-- Doctor as medical professional; Doctor as nurse supervisor; Doctor as instructor to other Doctors; Doctor as medical researcher; Doctor as hospital administrator; Doctor as surgeon.
role model: A person who occupies a status and plays the roles associated with that status in the way that we would like to play them. (Sort of an ideal). Be able to hit the ball like Ted Williams or Mickey Mantle.
role expectations: social norms that define how a role should be played. (What is an English Profes sor supposed to teach? How are children expected to behave in front of company?)
role performance: actual role behavior--- how well we actually play the roles we have.
role strain: difficulties that result from the differing demands and expectations associated with the same social position (status). The Captain of a Navy ship has many roles. One of them is to maintain high morale among the officers and crew. Another is to accomplish the assigned mission or task. Often these two are incompatible, and it's hard to meet role expectations.
conflict: Difficulties that occur when incom patible expectations arise from two or more social
positions (statuses) held by the same individual. For example; a priest hearing
confession--- a man comes in and confesses to killing the President of the
groups: A group is a number of people (three or more) who interact together in an orderly way on the basis of shared expectations about each other's behavior. Note the distinction between group and category. The latter are people who share the same characteristic-- red hair, for example. Note that a group is more than a simple aggregate-- people who happen to be at the same place at the same time.
primary group: relatively small number of people who interact over a relatively long period of time on an intimate, face-to-face basis. These groups are the building blocks of social structure families, roommates, husband and wife, peer group, small town, or neighborhood.
secondary group: relatively large number of people who interact on a temporary, ananymous, and impersonal basis. Formal organizations like Ford Motor Company, IBM, DuPont; they exist to serve a purpose.
associations and institutions: What's the difference between the terms "association" and "institution?" An institution is a stable cluster of values, norms, statuses, roles, and groups that develops around a basic social need. Simply stated--- an organized procedure-- an established way of pursuing some basic social need. On the other hand an association is any organized group, large or small that; has structure; has continuity; continues beyond the individuals that start it; has an identity (name)
religion Greek Orthodox Church
govrnment Richmond City Council
What are some of the characteristics of
institutions? They are inherently conservative. we
say that patterns of behavior become institutionalized. By this we mean that
they become fixed, rigid, traditional. It's difficult
to change and innovate. Education; stop the experimenting--- get back to the
basics. Religion; bring prayer back into the schools. Recreation; Until recently, refusing to change the criteria for amateur
status in the Olympics, (Why not let the pro's participate? What took them so
long to allow women to run the marathon?) Economy; In the U.S. we're afraid of
socialized medicine when it would provide better care for the poor. Government;
campaigning takes more and more time from the presidency, yet people resist
implementing 1 six-year term. Institutions are closely linked within the
social structure. Religion, politics, recreation, economy, family, education all are compatible and interrelated within a given
society. If not, the society would disintegrate. (Witness the tremendous strain
Catholicism places upon the government in communist
Functions of institutions: There are two kinds (from Robert Merton): manifest and latent. Manifest functions are those that are intended. Latent functions are hidden and unintended. What is the manifest function of education, for example? -- Education is intended to provide training which enables individuals to function in society. --It is intended to teach the youth. What is a latent function of education? It gets the kids out of the home and frees up mothers from baby sitting so they can get into the labor force.
Hunting/Gathering Pastoral Horticultural Agricultural Industrial
Societies world wide, in the present and the past display general patterns of characteristics which are based upon the complexity of their social structures. These patterns have been gathered into five different types:
Hunting and gathering:
o very small scattered groups
o high level of equality
o no material wealth
o no division or specialization of labor
o little or no warfare
o status based upon sex, age, or kinship
o religion is simple. No gods-- just unseen spirits that must be taken account of not worshiped.
(subsistence strategy based on the domestication of animals)
o larger population possible
o some stratification from wealth possible
o nomadic, material possessions few in number
o develop trading and barter
o warfare and slavery exist
o belief in gods
Horticultural Societies: (gardeners cultivating donesticated plants by hand-- slash and burn technology)
o large populations possible
o stratification by wealth and power is possible.
o Hereditary chieftanships develop.
o specialization and division of labor possible
o warfare is common-- cannibalism, head hunting, human sacrifice
o belief in gods
o permanent settlements and elaborate cultural artifacts
Agricultural Societies: (6000 years ago the plow was invented. It greatly improved the productivity of the soil; brings surface nutirents that have sunk out of the reach of the roots of the plants).
o land continually cultivated-- permanent settlements emerge
o food output increased greatly--- substantial surpluses.
o much greater population size possible
o more highly refined division of labor
o first time cities appear
o power is in the hands of one individual, hereditary monarchies develop
o inequality of wealth
o religion becomes a separate social institution
o economic institutions more complex, more elaborate trade; money developes
o almost always at war
o permanent armies
o system of writing developed
o efficient transportation system is developed.
o many more cultural artifacts
(originated in the industrial revolution in
· technological innovation is swift
· continuous, rapid social change
· very large populations, 100 million or more
· highly complex division of labor
· family and kinship become less important
· influence of religion weakens
· wide diversity of values and beliefs
· importance of science as institution increases
· education becomes distinct institution
· mass literacr (requires formal education)
· reduction in inequality
· incidence of warfare decreases
· more and more social life occurs in secondary groups
· problems with pollution, resource depletion, social disorganization
GESELLSCHAFT (Ferdinand Tonnes)
MECHANICAL SOLIDARITY ORGANIC SOLIDARITY (Durkheim)
FOLK SOCIETY URBAN SOCIETY (Robert Redfield)
Groups are important to sociologists because most of our day-to-day activities are spent in the company of other people in a group; whether it be at home, at school, or at work. There are virtually countless groups in society. They vary in size, but almost everybody belongs to a large number of them. For example, you may think that it would be difficult to name 25 groups that you belong to. But VCU students have easily provided the following:.
VCU Student Body
Class of 2000, etc.
High School Class
Auto Club (AAA)
Auto Insurance Co.
College Meal Plan
Peer Group (Friends)
Most of our socialization occurs in groups. In groups we learn to enact various roles and most roles have meaning only within the context of groups. Example:
A group is simply a collection of people who: 1.) Interact on a fairly regular basis; 2.) occupy specific status's and know the roles expected of those status's; 3.) Show general agreement on goals, rules, values; 4.) Have a sense of shared identity.
Classification of Groups:
Primary Group: The primary
group is very important to the development of the human as a social being. It
is the locus of our socialization. Some of the characteristics:
Examples of primary groups:
Secondary Group: The secondary group reflects characteristics that are the opposite of the above. It is large, formal and impersonal group that does not display social intimacy. Key attributes:
Examples of secondary groups:
In-groups and Outgroups: (This concept was first developed by William Graham Sumner when he spoke of "we" and "they" feelings. The "in-group" is the group that we belong to (or feel that we belong to). The "out group" is one that we feel we don't belong to, (and act as if we wouldn't want to belong). In-group feelings promote group solidarity and, in some cases, group superiority. I know a Virginia Tech graduate whose license plate reads: "NOT UVA". (U.Va. graduates will chide their Tech friends with comments like; "Joe didn't go to college, he went to Tech."
Reference Groups: A reference group is any group of people that individuals use as a standard for evaluating themselves and their own behavior (Schaefer). The term "reference group" was coined by Herbert Hymen in 1942 in a study of social class. Hymen discovered that what people perceived their social status to be could not be predicted solely from factors of income and levels of education. A person's self evaluation depended upon the groups used as a framework for judgment. In many cases individuals modeled their behavior after groups to which they did not belong. Reference Groups can be primary or secondary groups:
Reference Groups fall into three categories:
Reference groups may vary from
situation to situation. Example: You got a "C" on your last test. So
what? Is that good or bad. What class was it?
Subdivisions of reference groups:
All groups (primary and secondary) tend to have leaders-- people who are able to influence the behavior of others consistently.
What makes a leader? It's difficult to say what specific personal characteristics are important. The argument that "leaders are born not made" doesn't hold water, but there are some physical characteristics that seem to emerge often among leaders: (Of course, there are numerous exceptions to the following):
The situation is very important in
determining leadership. Usually by this we mean what the purpose of the group
is (what it does) and the skills that the leader has.
A good example of this is Capt.
John Smith and the situation involving the
Small group research has shown that there are two types of leaders:
Usually, when a group is formed, both these functions are assumed by one person, but as time goes on they split and a new person usually emerges to take over the maintenance. One reason for this is that the instrumental leaders tend to lose popularity they tell everybody what to do and give them a hard time if it's not done.
Styles of leadership: Usually, you'll find that leadership has been divided into three separate kinds:
TWO PERSON GROUPS OR "DYADS"
Perhaps one of the most important
characteristics of a group is its size. Size determines the kind of
interaction that occurs within a group-- basically how the group works. The smaller the group, the more intense the interaction.
Group conformity is very strong in a small group.
A German sociologist, Georg Simmel (1858-1918) is perhaps the first to emphasize the importance of interaction processes within groups. He pointed out that as a group grows in size, it must develop "forms and organs which serve its maintenance and promotion." These forms and organs are things that a smaller group doesn't need. On the other hand, small groups have qualities that disappear when groups grow larger. (Schaefer, 1983).
The smallest group is the dyad, (a two person
group). Here the emotional level is very intense because the two people in
the group depend on each other for existence of the group. One reason for this
is that you can't hide responsibility for things that occur within the confines
of the dyad. (It's either you or me, and I know I didn't do it). Simmel pointed out that the thought of termination of the
group hangs over a dyadic relationship perhaps more than any other type of
relationship. (Schaefer, 1983).
THREE PERSON GROUPS OR "TRIADS"
In Triads or three person groups, many of these qualities change. In many respects, a whole different world exists. ("If it's not me, it's gotta be you!" no longer exists).
Small Groups: When we refer to "small
groups," we mean that there are sufficiently few members that all members
can relate to each other as individuals According to Theodore Caplow, the upper limit of such groups is about 30 people.
(Our text seems to imply that 20 people is the largest
a primary group can become).
Why do groups form in the first place?
How does a group define its own boundaries so that it can distinguish itself form the surrounding population or other groups? In some cases it's easy as the groups adopt badges, emblems, uniforms, etc. which they wear or display and serve to distinguish them from the surrounding population. (Fire Department, Police, Military, all are good examples). In other cases, the differences are not as obvious and we have to spend a little more time studying a group before we can tell what characteristics its members have adopted to distinguish itself from the surrounding world. Here are some examples:
By establishing norms of physical appearance groups reinforce their boundaries and develope a sense of "we" (the in-group) and "they" (the out-group).
There are also other ways that group identity is
reinforced. "Rites of passage" are special ceremonies that
emphasize the importance of joining or forming a group. Special holidays
and "anniversaries" (Independence Day or July Fourth, for example)
reinforce group identity. The wedding ceremony is one "rite of
passage" that marks the formation of a new group in our society. At
another level, to become a citizen when you're born outside the
Which is better at making a
decision-- a group or an individual? Research on this question indicates
that the answer depends on the kind of task that is involved: Tasks
can be divided into two different kinds: determinate and indeterminate:
The Risky Shift: Groups tend to make riskier decisions than individuals. It is hypothesized that when in a group, responsibility for the decision is "diffused" among the members. Individuals are more visibly accountable for the decisions that they make alone. Thus, individual decision-making tends to be more conservative.
Group Think: Inside the group, there is
normative pressure to conform and produce unanamous
decisions. This pressure may cause people to ignore or play down
information that goes against group norms guiding the decision process.
"Don't rock the boat" is a good example of this. Group Think
can have disasterous consequences. (Some
writers have pointed to
As we've seen, in a two person arrangement (a dyad), the members are totally dependent on each other, but in a triad, alliances can form and an individual can benefit from a disagreement between the other two members.
As group size increases, the total number of possible relationships increases from
R = ((3n 2n+1) + 1) / 2
When a group starts getting up
beyond seven members, leaders start dominating communications and the group's
procedures become more formal. When a group starts getting very large,
certain things start happening. It tends to become less less cohesive and there is an
increase in internal conflict. Of course there are exceptions to this.
A formal organization has been
commonly defined to be a large social group that is deliberately and rationally
formed to achieve specific objectives. Private compamies like IBM or public agencies like the
Internal Revenue Service are good examples. Generally, formal
organizations share the following characteristics:
Formal organizations can be voluntary (People join of their own will-- political parties, churches, etc.); coercive (People are forced to join the draft, attend schools or some alternative form of schooling); or utilitarian (People join for practical purposes work ing for IBM).
Bureaucracy: When we speak of formal organizations we usually think of bureaucracy and the work of Max Weber. Bureaucracy is the part of a formal ogranization responsible for planning, coordinating, and supervising work. Essentially, it is the formal organization's administrative arm.
Common sense may tell us that bureaucracies are inherently inefficient but Weber points out that overall, they are very efficient in doing what they're supposed to do-- distrributing vast amounts of information and material across a large area. Still, we are all aware of bizzarre things that can happen in bureaucracies: The Department of Defense has come under intense scrutiny for $2000.00 toilet seats and $500.00 hammers, for example.
Max Weber applied his concept of "ideal type" to the study of bureaucracy and found that the typical bureaucracy has the following features:
1. Clearly defined and specific purposes with associated rules and regulations which govern the behavior of officials.
2. A well defined division of labor with people assigned to do different tasks.
3. Offices and authority arranged in a hierarchy. (Pyramidal authority).
4. The members of the bureaucracy are personally free. That is they are contractual workers and are paid for their work. (They can quit the job if so inclined).
5. People are promoted (or moved up) based upon seniority, performance, or both. Initially they are hired on basis of technical competence in the particular job they seek.
6. Workers perform their job in a disciplined and impersonal manner tend to treat people as cases.
7. The bureaucracy maintains a set of detailed written records or files.
8. Individuals are committed to their "office." Example; an artist is committed to his craft a bureaucrat to his desk.
Dysfunctions of Bureaucracy: