Lecture _8, Part I.doc - SOC 101 Principles of Sociology...

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SOC 101 - Principles of Sociology Lecture Notes #8 - Part I Social Structures: Social Interaction, Groups and Organizations 1)) Introduction Social Structure or society means the collective social reality that exists independent of individuals or groups who created it. Society is independent of the individuals or groups that created it. Social structure forms the context in which people interact, (cf. Emile Durkheim's conscience or social/moral facts speak to this fact). It defines cultural ways people use to relate to one another in order to achieve individual and societal or collective goals. Social structure is made up of social institutions or institutional spheres such as family, education, economy or politics (i.e. political institutions). (Each one of these is discussed separately in this course.) All social institutions are characterized by norms and values and beliefs that make up the collective social reality. 2) The Importance of Social Structure. Through norms, values and beliefs, social structure makes human behavior or actions both orderly and predictable. In this way, social structure makes culture and society possible. Social structure links individual to society and by doing so, it challenges the American ideal/ethos of individualism and the claim that goals are achieved solely through individual effort. Because the social structure links individuals to society, there are important implications for individual-society relationships: a. First, the idea of social structure as an external, limiting reality on individual behavior or actions challenges the American ideal of individualism and the claim that goals are achieved only through individual effort. (Explain.) 1
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b. Second, in reality and to a very large extent, structural factors (e.g. one's race, class, gender or employment opportunities) determine a person's life chances and opportunities in American or even other societies. Personal agency versus structural forces. In real life situations, a person's life chances and choices are determined by the interaction between social structure (or structural forces) and personal action (or personal agency). Personal agency refers to the ability or potential to have an impact or effect on one's own environment. For example, securing and advancing on the job may be a function of one's skills, education and hard work (i.e. personal agency); but continued employment may depend on the condition or health of the economy (i.e., structural forces beyond the control of individual employees and even employers. 3) Components of Social Structure. Components of Social Structure exist on two levels: a. The level of institutional structure (i.e. the institutional level) or macro- sociological level. This level consists of organizations, groups, statuses (social position) and roles. (These are considered separately.) b. The normative level , i.e. the level of institutionalized moral beliefs and behavioral rules known as the micro-sociological level. These beliefs and rules
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Lecture _8, Part I.doc - SOC 101 Principles of Sociology...

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