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What Is "Social Structure" in the Context of Sociology?

The Macro Level of Society

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.

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What Is "Social Structure" in the Context of Sociology?

What Is "Social Structure" in the Context of Sociology?

https://www.thoughtco.com/social-structure-defined-3026594

thoughtco.com

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Key Ideas

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.

The Macro Level of Society

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

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.

Micro-Level of Everyday Life

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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SIMILAR ARTICLES & IDEAS:

Anthropology

It is the study of humans and the ways they live. The goal is to understand human diversity and cultural differences. The four primary sub-fields:

  • Archeology focuses o...
Sociology

It studies the ways groups of people interact with each other and how their behavior is influenced by social structures, categories, and institutions. It has many tenets:

  • Individuals belong to groups, which influence their behavior.
  • Groups have characteristics independent of their members.
  • Sociology focuses on patterns of behavior among groups (defined by gender, race, class, etc.)
Anthropology and sociology careers 

Anthropology and sociology degrees can lead to a career as a teacher, public sector employee, or academic. The degree can be a stepping stone to a career in politics, public administration, or law.

Non-academic careers for anthropologists include public sector research at organizations like the World Bank or UNESCO, or working as freelance research consultants.

Sociologists who have a PhD can work as analysts in public policy organizations, or as demographers, non-profit administrators, or research consultants.

Network Effects

Network effects are the unseen forces that are guiding our destiny and exerting a powerful intervention on our lives, creating energy that escorts us down a path that is not always fully our intent...

Zipf's Law

Zipf's law is a mathematical probability that states that in a given set, the most frequently used data value (or word) is used twice as often as the next most common value. This is true in various statistical sets like income distribution in companies, internet traffic, phone calls received, and language.

One of the implications of this law is there are unconscious network forces and mathematical patterns governing our lives, with human beings just being nodes exchanging information.

Dinner Party Mathematics

When six to eight people are conversing at a dinner party, it is easy to focus on one conversation, but if the number is higher (say 15), then two-way conversations are more likely.

When groups get larger, the change is exponential, not linear, affecting one's social experience.

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A network is more than just a group of individuals
A network is more than just a group of individuals

In addition, a network has ties between people.

The connections between individuals are what changes a group to a network.

Social networks have a strong effect on our ideas

You may think it was your idea to keep your desk neat or speak up in a meeting, but your behavior was likely influenced by those in your network.

Once we understand social networks, we can use its power to shape workplaces for the better. You can turn an unhappy team into an innovative, collaborative one.

We naturally copy others

Your experiences in the world is not only a product of your own desires, actions, and thoughts, but also a product of the desires, actions, and thoughts of people around you.

The things that are seemingly personal to you are actually very strongly influenced by similar traits in other people. You do have agency. You can choose what to do. But you're also affected by what others are doing. Both are true.

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