Social Structure of the Society

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  • Topic: Sociology, Social status, Social position
  • Pages : 18 (6275 words )
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  • Published : April 12, 2010
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Belarus State Economic University


Minsk 2008
What is social structure of the society?
Any object has its structure. As the noun “structure” is rendered as “строение, расположение, порядок”, structure is defined as functional interdependence of elements constituting the carcass of an object. The society has social structure. The concept of social structure was pioneered by G. Simmel, then developed by K. Marx, E. Durkheim but became most known due to T. Parsons who created structural functionalism. There are various approaches to studying social structure of the society but they didn’t avoid influence of structural functionalism in any way. Due to the functionalist perspective, social structure is the carcass of a social whole (society or its part) the elements of which are invariable in time, interdependent of each other and largely determine the functioning of the whole in general and its members in particular. The focus is made on both interdependence – it’s like a house: take some brick off the wall and the whole building may ruin, and function – take a log: it can be burnt to get warm or used as construction material to build a house. In other words, structural functionalism analyzes parts of the society in terms of their purpose within the whole. It’s clear that social structures of ancient and modern societies differ from each other. This difference is caused by diachronic changes taking place in the society: although the structure presents a stable carcass, it is stable or invariable only for a definite period of time, and historically it changes. Social structure is qualitative certainty of the society which means that change in structure leads to radical, qualitative change in the society. Structure ensures stability required for the functioning of associated social elements which accumulate quantitative changes up till the moment when they turn to quality, and a need for structural changes in the social object rises. For instance, development of the bourgeoisie and proletariat as classes and formation of new relations of production lead to a bourgeoisie revolution and change of the socio-economic system. Social structure is characterized by the following main attributes: hierarchy – vertical and horizontal arrangement of structural elements which is based on their unequal access to authority, income, social prestige etc.; interconnection of structural elements which is realized through exchange of resources, information, sharing values etc.; differentiation into the smallest elements and their integration into the whole; flexibility, capacity to change so it is an important part of the management. Traditionally, theorists identify the following types of social structure: socio-demographic, socio-class, socio-ethnic, socio-professional, socio-confessional etc. No doubt, any social object has its structure. For instance, at analyzing a labour collective we may consider employees within the socio-professional structure: those who got secondary, vocational and higher education, scientific qualifications, representatives of various professions, specializations, their levels of qualification. The socio-demographic structure suggests analysis of employees according to the age and gender: the young up to 30, middle-aged, those of pre-pension and pension age, males and females. There are different types of social structure. A famous Russian theorist M. N. Rutkevich identifies three basic types. The first one characterizes the process of historical development of mankind, i. e. a global structure of human society consisting of nations, states and their various associations. The second type comprises relations between various spheres or subsystems of social life. The third type comprises relations between social groups and other communities of people. The last two types reflect some settled approaches to...
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