Slide 1

Social Structure and Society
Social Structure
Social structure - the underlying pattern of
social relationships that persist over time.
 Sociological Significance of Social Structure
◦ Guides Our Behavior
◦ Behavior Decided by Location in Social Structure
◦ Example: Social Class Divides People by…
 Income
 Education
 Occupational Prestige
Status – a position that a person occupies within a
social structure.
Individuals in interrelated statuses usually behave in
orderly and predictable ways.
Status helps us define who and what we are in
relation to others within the same social structure.
Statuses may be assigned or earned.
Types of Status
A status set is all the statuses that an individual
occupies at a particular time
◦ Individuals occupy many statuses at once as well as
throughout their life course.
Ascribed status – inherited at birth or receives
involuntarily later in life.
◦ Examples: race, social class of parents
Achieved status – earned, accomplished, or involve at
least some effort or activity on the individual’s part
◦ Examples: college president or bank robber
Types of Status
Master status –
affects/influences most
other aspects of a
person’s life.
Cuts across all other
statuses that an
individual occupies.
The Interrelationships of Social
Roles - culturally defined behaviors, rights,
obligations, and priveleges attached to social
statuses; the expected behaviors attached to a
Role sets – all of the roles that are attached to a
single status.
 As you can see, the structure gets complex, as a
person can have many role sets that are
associated with the many statuses of their status
Role Conflict & Role Strain
Role conflict occurs when the
expectations attached to one status are
incompatible with the expectations of
another status – in other words, conflict
between roles.
 Mom & doctor
Role strain occurs when the roles of a
single status are inconsistent; conflict
that someone feels within a role.
 Example: Student with multiple tests
Role Strain
Role Conflict
Roles are an essential component of
culture because they lay out what is
expected of people, and as individuals
perform their roles, those roles mesh
together to form a society.
Types of Society
Society – composed of people living within
defined territorial borders, sharing a common
Societies become more complex as the means
for solving subsistence problems improve.
Major types of societies are hunting and
gathering, horticultural, pastoral, agricultural,
industrial, and postindustrial.
Comparison of Major Types of
Society: Hunting and Gathering
Pastoral and Horticultural
The Social Transformations of Society
Differences between Preindustrial
and Industrial Societies
Tönnies (1887) distinguished between:
gemeinschaft, based on tradition, kinship,
and intimate social relationships,
gesellschaft, based on weak family ties,
competition, and less personal social
Durkheim (1893) also identified two types of
society by looking at their social solidarity.
Mechanical solidarity – foundation for social unity;
achieves this through a consensus of beliefs, values,
and norms; strong social pressures for conformity
and dependence on tradition and family.
Organic solidarity – achieves social unity through
complex specialized statuses that make members
interdependent. Dependence and need for
cooperation replace the homogeneity of beliefs,
values, and norms characteristic of simpler societies.
Robert Redfield (1941) made a distinction between folk
society and urban society.
Folk society – rests on tradition, cultural and social
consensus, family, personal ties, little division of
labor, and an emphasis on the sacred.
Urban society – social relationships are impersonal
and contractual; the importance of the family
cultural and social consensus is diminished;
economic specialization becomes even more
complex; and secular concerns outweigh sacred
Major Features of Postindustrial Society
Economic base is grounded more in service industries than
in manufacturing. Relies on expertise in production,
consumption, and government.
Bell (1999) identifies five major features of
postindustrial society:
1. Majority of labor force is employed in services rather
than agriculture or manufacturing.
2. White-collar employment replaces blue-collar work.
3. Theoretical knowledge is the key organizing feature.
Through new means of technological forecasting,
society can plan and control technological change.
Intellectual technology dominates human affairs.
Modernization and the Theoretical
Modernization – entails the broader
social changes that accompany
economic development based on
According to modernization theory, the
changes associated with modernization
are the result of an evolutionary process
by which societies become increasingly
Modernization and the Theoretical
Broader societal changes that accompany modernization:
◦ population growth
◦ life expectancy increases
◦ death rate declines
Modernization brings an expanded upper and middle classes,
with more emphasis placed on personal achievement.
Modernization promotes political democracy.
Modernization transfers education from the family to formal
Modernization affects family life.
Advocates of convergence foresee
the development of social and cultural
similarities among modernizing
◦ This leads to the creation of a global
culture – a homogenized way of life
spread across the globe.
Supporters of divergence see the
persistence of cultural differences
among modernizing societies as a
result of intervening idiosyncratic
social and cultural forces in the move
toward modernization.
Globalization is the process by which
increasingly permeable geographical
boundaries lead different societies to share in
common some economic, political, and social
What is it?
 Increased movement
 Interconnectedness
 Technology
 Political—One idea system
 Process—Not new
Globalization (cont’d)
3 Factors to consider:
 Capitalism
 Imperialism
 Industrialization
New Concepts:
◦ Global Citizenship
◦ Global Awareness/Consciousness
World-System Theory
World-system theory – the pattern of
a nation’s development hinges on its
place in the world economy.
World Systems Theory
According to world system theory as espoused by Immanuel
Wallerstein, countries are politically and economically tied
together; argued that colonial powers created a world economic
system that enriched the core nations at the expense of the
periphery (their colonies) and that this world system continues to
have a wealthy core supported by a poor periphery
1. There are four groups of interconnected nations: (1) core nations, where
capitalism first developed; (2) semi-periphery (Mediterranean area), highly
dependent on trade with core nations; (3) periphery (eastern Europe), mainly
limited to selling cash crops to core nations, with limited economic
development; (4) external area (most of Africa/Asia) left out of growth of
capitalism, with few economic ties to core nations.
2. A capitalist world economy (capitalist dominance) results from relentless
expansion; even external area nations are drawn into commercial web.
3. Globalization (the extensive interconnections among nations resulting from
the expansion of capitalism) has been speeded up because of new forms of
communication and transportation. The consequence is that no nation is able
to live in isolation.
Postmodernism contains within it a critique of
modernism on the grounds that its benefits are
enjoyed by some to the detriment of others.
Postmodernism questions the key assumptions of
Postmodernism emphasizes the domination of the
weak by the strong.
Postmodernism questions the existence of an
ultimate truth.

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