Social Structure vs Social Interaction

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Which is more important in shaping individual identity: social structure or social interaction.

Social Structure and social interaction both have an equal importance when shaping an individual’s identity and presents itself in our lives at different times and under different circumstances. This essay will explore the argument of nature, a persons physiology vs nurture, a persons socialisation and what has more of an influence and importance when shaping an individuals identity.

George Ritzer (2011, p 159) refers to social structure as “patterned relationships, roles, rules governing individuals and behaviour and informal or formal agreements affecting individuals in groups.” Workplace, family, education, politics and the government are all examples of social structures which assist in shaping individual identity. Structure may refer to both material (economies) and cultural (customs, norms, ideologies.) and can be separated into different levels, guided by the underlying structures in the social system, this is known as social stratification. Family is the first social structure that is encountered in life and is one of the biggest influences when shaping individual identity as it instils norms, beliefs, traditions and values. There are factors that can influence this social structure including socio-economic status, family cultures and class, these factors then go on to shape an individuals identity. For example, middle class and working class families tend to have different expectations when raising their children, this then puts a presumption on how the child’s individual identity will develop.

Emile Durkheim’s theory that both structure and hierarchy are essential in the existence of society is seen in the social structure of the workplace, that has a great influence when shaping an individuals identity. People are inclined to include their occupation when describing themselves to others as their occupation generally gives a good visualisation of...
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