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Basic Concepts of Sociology

By Aabigabi1 Oct 17, 2012 3075 Words
The term society is most fundamental to sociology. It is derived from the Latin word socius which means companionship or friendship. Companionship means sociability. According to George Simmel it is this element of sociability which defines the true essence of society. It indicates that man always lives in the company of other people. Man is a social animal said Aristotle centuries ago. Man needs society for his living, working and enjoying life. Society h as become an essential condition for human life to continue. We can define society as a group of people who share a common culture, occupy a particular territorial area and feel themselves to constitute a unified and distinct entity. It is the mutual inter actions and interrelations of individuals and groups.

Definitions of Society
1. August Comte the father of sociology- saw society as a social organism possessing a harmony of structure and function.
2. Emile Durkheim the founding father of the modern sociology- treated society as a reality in its own right.
3. Talcott Parsons- Society is a total complex of human relationships in so far as they grow out of the action in terms of means-end relationship intrinsic or symbolic. 4. G.H Mead - an exchange of gestures which involves the use of symbols. 5. Morris Ginsberg - a collection of individuals united by certain relations or mode of behavior which mark them off from others who do not enter into these relations or who differ from them in behavior.

6. Cole - the complex of organized associations and institutions with a community. 7. Maclver and Page- society is a system of usages and procedures of authority and mutual aid of many groupings and divisions, of controls of human behavior and liberties. This ever changing complex system which is called society is a web of social relationship

Types of Societies
Writers have classified societies into various categories Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft of Tonnies, mechanical and organic solidarities of Durkheim, status and contract of Maine, and militant and industrial societies of Spencer.

All these thinkers have broadly divided society into pre-industrial and post-industrial societies.
Sociologists like Comte based their classification of societies on intellectual development. Most of them concede the evolutionary nature of society- one type leading to the other. One more way of dividing societies is that of Marx. His class ification of society is based on the institutional framework of society as determined by a group of people who control the means of production. Marx distinguishes five principal types of societies: primitive, Asiatic, ancient, feudal and capitalist.

Following these classifications, sociologists often refer to societies as primitive or modern nonliterate or literate. A more recent kind of classification which is also used while distinguishing societies into types is the one between open and closed societies. A closed society is the one which is a traditional and simple society or a totalitarian State tends to resist change, while an open society admits change.

None of these classifications is accurate; for every major type have number of sub-types.

The family forms the basic unit of soc ial organization and it is difficult to imagine how human society could function without it. The family has been seen as a universal social institution an inevitable part of human society.

Burgess and Lock- the family is a group of persons unit ed by ties of marriage, blood or adoption constituting a single household interacting with each other in their respective social role of husband and wife, mother and father, brother and sister creating a common culture. G.P Murdock - a social group characterized by common residence, economic cooperation and reproduction. It includes adults of both sexes at least two of whom maintain a socially approved sexual relationship and one or more children own or adopted of the sexually co -habiting adults. Nimkoff - a more or less durable association of husband and wife with or without child or of a man or woman alone with children.

Maclver -a group defined by sex relationships sufficiently precise and enduring to provide for the procreation and upbringing of children.
Kingsley Davis - a group of persons whose relations to one another are based upon consanguinity and who are therefore kin to one another.
Malinowski- the institution within which the cultural traditions of a society is handed over to a newer generation. This indispensable function could not be filled unless the relations to parents and children were relations reciprocally of authority and respect. Talcott Parsons- families are factories which produce human personalities.

Main characteristics of family
Universality: There is no human society in which some form of the family does not appear.

Malinowski writes the typical family a group consisting o f mother, father and their progeny is found in all communities,savage,barbarians and civilized. The irresistible sex need, the urge for reproduction and the common economic needs have contributed to this universality. Emotional basis: The family is grounded in emotions and sentiments. It is based on our impulses of mating, procreation, maternal devotion, fraternal love and parental care. It is built upon sentiments of love, affection, sympathy, cooperation and friendship. Limited size: The family is smaller in size. As a primary group its size is necessarily limited. It is a smallest social unit.

Formative influence: The family welds an environment which surrounds trains and educates the child. It shapes the personality and moulds the ch aracter of its members. It emotionally conditions the child.

Nuclear position in the social structure: The family is the nucleus of all other social organizations. The whole social structure is built of family units. Responsibility of the members: The members of the family has certain responsibilities, duties and obligations.

Maclver points out that in times of crisis men may work and fight and die for their country but they toil for their families all their lives.
Social regulation: The family is guarded both by social taboos and by legal regulations. The society takes precaution to safeguard this organization from any possible breakdown.

Types and forms of the family
On the basis of marriage: Family has been classified into three major types: 

Polygamous or polygynous family
Polyandrous family
Monogamous family

On the basis of the nature of residence family can be classified into three main forms. 

Family of matrilocal residence
Family of patrilocal residence
Family of changing residence

On the basis of ancestry or descent family can be classified into two main types 

Matrilineal family

Patrilineal family

On the basis of size or structure and the depth of generations family can be classified into two main types.

Nuclear or the single unit family
Joint family

On the basis of the nature of relations among the family members the family can be classified into two main types.

The conjugal family which consists of adult members among there exists sex relationship.
Consanguine family which consists of members among whom there exists blood relationship- brother and sister, father and son etc.

Social Groups
A social group consists of two or more people who interact with one another and who recognize themselves as a distinct social unit.
The definition is simple enough, but it has significant implications. Frequent interaction leads people to share values and beliefs. This similarity and the interaction cause them to identify with one another. Identification and attachment, in turn, stimulate more frequent and intense interaction. Each group maintains solidarity with all to other groups and other types of social systems.

Groups are among the most stable and enduring of social units. They are important both to their members and to the society at large. Through encouraging regular and predictable behavior, groups form the foundation upon which society rests. Thus, a family, a village, a political party a trade union is all social groups. These, it should be noted are different from social classes, status groups or crowds, which not only lack structure but whose members are less aware or even unaware of the existence of t he group. These have been called quasi-groups or groupings. Nevertheless, the distinction between social groups and quasi-groups is fluid and variable since quasi-groups very often give rise to social groups, as for example, social classes give rise to political parties.

Primary Groups
If all groups are important to their members and to society, some groups are more important than others.

Early in the twentieth century, Charles H. Cooley gave the name, primary groups, to those groups that he said are characterized by intimate face-to-face association and those are fundamental in the development and continued adjustment of their members. He identified three basic primary groups, the family, the child's play group, and the neighborhoods or community among adults. These groups, he said, are almost universal in all societies; they give to people their earliest and most complete experiences of social unity; they are instrumental in the development of the social life; and they promote the integration of their members in the larger society.

Since Cooley wrote, over 65 years ago, life in the United States has become much more urban, complex, and impersonal, and the family play group and neighborhood have become less dominant features of the social order.

Secondary groups, characterized by anonymous, impersonal, and instrumental relationships, have become much more numerous.
People move frequently, often from one section of the country to another and they change from established relationships and promoting widespread lo neliness. Young people, particularly, turn to drugs, seek communal living groups and adopt deviant lifestyles in attempts to find meaningful primary-group relationships. The social context has changed so much so that primary group relationship today is not as simple as they were in Cooley's time.

Secondary Groups
The social groups other than those of primary groups may be termed as secondary groups. They are a residual category. They are often called special interest groups. Maclver and Page refers to them as great associations. They are of the opinion that secondary groups have become almost inevitable today. Their appearance is mainly due to the growing cultural complexity. Primary groups are found predominantly in societies where life is relatively simple. With the expansion in population and territory of a society however interests become diversified and other types of relationships which can be called seco ndary or impersonal become necessary. Interests become differentiated. The services of experts are required. The new range of the interests demands a complex organization. Especially selected persons act on behalf of all and hence arises a hierarchy of off icials called bureaucracy. These features characterize the rise of the modern state, the great corporation, the factory, the labor union, a university or a nationwide political party and so on. These are secondary groups. Ogburn and Nimkoff defines secondary groups as groups which provide experience lacking in intimacy.

Frank D. Watson writes that the secondary group is larger and more formal ,is specialized and direct in its contacts and relies more for unity and continuance upon the stability of its social organization than does the primary group.

Characteristics of secondary group:
1. Dominance of secondary relations: Secondary groups are characterized by indirect, impersonal, contractual and non-inclusive relations. Relations are indirect because secondary groups are bigger in size and members may not stay together. Relations are contractual in the sense they are oriented towards certain interests 2. Largeness of the size: Secondary groups are relatively larger in size. City, nation, political parties, trade unions and corporations, international associations are bigger in size . They may have thousands and lakhs of members. There may not be any limit to the membership in the case of some secondary groups.

3. Membership: Membership in the case of secondary groups is mainly voluntary. Individuals are at liberty to join or to go away from the groups. However there are some secondary groups like the state whose membership is almost involuntary. 4. No physical basis: Secondary groups are not characterized by physical proximity. Many secondary groups are not limited to any definite area. There are some secondary groups like the Rotary Club and Lions Club which are international in character. The members of such groups are scattered over a vast area.

5. Specific ends or interest: Secondary groups are formed for the realization of some specific interests or ends. They are called special interest groups. Members are interested in the groups because they have specific ends to aim at .

6. Indirect communication: Contacts and communicatio ns in the case of secondary groups are mostly indirect. Mass media of communication such as radio, telephone, television, newspaper, movies, magazines and post and telegraph are resorted to by the members to have communication.

Communication may not be quick and effective even. Impersonal nature of social relationships in secondary groups is both the cause and the effect of indirect communication. 7. Nature of group control: Informal means of social control are less effective in regulating the relations of members. Moral control is only secondary. Formal means of social control such as law, legislation, police, court etc are made of to control the behavior of members . The behavior of the people is largely influenced and controlled by public opinion, propaganda, rule of law and political ideologies.

8. Group structure: The secondary group has a formal structure. A formal authority is set up with designated powers and a clear-cut division of labor in which the function of each is specified in relation to the function of all. Secondary groups are mostly organized groups. Different statuses and roles that the members assume are specified. Distinctions based on caste, colour, religion, class, language etc are less rigid and there is greater tolerance towards other people or groups.

9. Limited influence on personality: Secondary groups are specialized in character. People involvement in them is also of limited significance. Members's attachment to them is also very much limited. Further people spend most of their time in prima ry groups than in secondary groups. Hence secondary groups have very limited influence on the personality of the members.

Men have diverse needs, desires and interests which demand satisfaction. There are three ways of fulfilling these needs. Firstly they may act independently each in his own way without caring for others. This is unsocial with limitations. Secondly men may seek their ends through conflicts with one another. Finally men may try to fulfill their ends through cooperation and mutual assistance. This cooperation has a reference to association. When a group or collection of individuals organize themselves expressly for the purpose of pursuing certain of its interests together on a cooperative pursuit an association is said to be born.

Morris Ginsberg- an association is a group of social beings related to one another by the fact that they possess or have instituted in common an organization with a view to securi ng a specific end or specific ends. The associations may be found in different fields. No single association can satisfy all the interests of the individual or individuals. Since Man has many interests, he organizes various associations for the purpose of fulfilling varied interests. He may belong to more than one organization.

Main characteristics of Association
Association: An association is formed or created by people. It is a social group. Without people there can be no association. It is an organized group. An unorganized group like crowd or mob cannot be an association.

Common interest: An association is not merely a collection of individuals. It consists of those individuals who have more or less the same interests. Accordingly those who have politica l interests may join political association and those who have religious interests may join religious associations and so on.

Cooperative spirit: An association is based on the cooperative spirit of its members. People work together to achieve some definite purposes. For example a political party has to work together as a united group on the basis of cooperation in order to fulfill its objective of coming to power.

Organization: Association denotes some kind of organization. An association is known essentially as an organized group. Organization gives stability and proper shape to an

association. Organization refers to the way in which the statuses and roles are distributed among the members.
Regulation of relations: Every association has its own ways and mea ns of regulating the relation of its members. Organization depends on this element of regulation. They may assume written or unwritten forms.

Association as agencies: Associations are means or agencies through which their members seek to realize their similar or shared interests. Such social organizations necessarily act not merely through leaders but through officials or representatives as agencies. Associations normally act through agents who are responsible for and to the association. Durability of association: An association may be permanent or temporary. There are some long standing associations like the state; family, religious associations etc.Some associations may be temporary in nature.

The term community is one of the most elusive and vague in sociology and is by now largely without specific meaning. At the minimum it refers to a collection of people in a geographical area. Three other elements may also be present in any usage. (1) Communities may be thought of as collections of people with a particular social structure; there are, therefore, collections which are not communities. Such a notion often equates community with rural or pre-industrial society and may, in addition, treat urban or industrial society as positively destructive.

(2) A sense of belonging or community spirit.
(3) All the daily activities of a community, work and non work, take place within the geographical area, which is self contained. Different accounts of community will contain any or all of these additional elements.

We can list out the characteristics of a community as follows: 1.

Close and informal relationships
Common values and beliefs
Organized interaction
Strong group feeling
Cultural similarity

Talcott Parsons- community as collectivity the members of which share a common territorial area as their base of operation for daily activities.

Tonnies- community is defined as an organic natural kind of social group whose members are bound together by the sense of belonging, created out of everyday contacts covering the whole range of human activities.

Kingsley Davis - the smallest territorial group that can embrace all aspects of social life . Karl Mannheim- community is any circle of people who live together and belong together in such a way that they do not share this or that particular interest only but a whole set of interests.

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