Social structure

Social structure is the organized set of social institutions and patterns of institutionalized relationships that together make up a society.

Social structures are not immediately visible, but they are always there and affect all dimensions of our experience. They operate on three levels: macro, meso, and micro levels.

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The major social institutions include family, religion, education, media, law, politics, and economy. These are separate institutions that are interrelated and interdependent. Together they form the overarching social structure of a society.

There usually is a hierarchy to these relationships, which results in a power differential. The organization and operation of these social institutions result in other aspects of social structure, including socio-economic stratification.

The meso level can be seen in the social networks that are organized by social institutions and institutionalized social relationships.

Our social networks also show up in social stratification, where relations are structured by class differences, differences in educational attainment, and differences in levels of wealth. In turn, it may shape the kinds of opportunities available and foster behavioral norms that determine the direction of our lives.

Social structures are expressed at the micro-level by the interactions we have with each other in the form of norms and customs.

We see it in the way it shapes our interactions within the family or education and the way institutionalized ideas about race, gender, and sexuality shape our interaction and expectations.

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