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Social Institutions

By DestinyOdeh Aug 01, 2012 1005 Words
A social institution is a complex, integrated set of social norms organized around the preservation of a basic societal value. Obviously, the sociologist does not define institutions in the same way as does the person on the street. Lay persons are likely to use the term "institution" very loosely, for churches, hospitals, jails, and many other things as institutions.

Commonly, experts officially recognize five major social institutions that have been evident in some way in every civilization in history:

1. Government (Political)
2. Family
3. Economics
4. Education
5. Religion

A government is an institution entrusted with making and enforcing the rules of a society as well as with regulating relations with other societies. In order to be considered a government, a ruling body must be recognized as such by the people it purports to govern. A person or group that considers itself the leading body of a society has no power if the members of the society do not recognize the person or group as such. Government is an institution because it consists the bodies of legislature, executive and judiciary has the power over the citizens in the state as well as the foreigners within the state.

The institution of family has three important functions:
1. To provide for the rearing of children
2. To provide a sense of identity or belonging among its members 3. To transmit culture between generations

Throughout the years there have been many social institutions that have made a dramatic impact on society; none more important than families. In today's modern industrialized societies, families carry out basic necessities that other social institutions cannot. Different skills such as responsibility can also be acquired from families where it can be applied to everyday life. Furthermore families in the past needed to be the most important social institution to ensure their survival. Since the pre-industrialized era, families are considered the most important social institution because they provide for our basic needs, teach us to acquire new skills, and assure our survival. Families in today's modern industrialized societies carry out basic necessities that other social institutions are incapable of. In order for more generations of people to come about, protection must be provided for them. Means of protection may include: A safe home, food, money, and clothing until offspring can provide for themselves.

Families also regulate reproduction which can also be interpreted as population contribution. Since everybody eventually dies, older members can replace themselves by producing new members in their families and subsequently new members in society. Another necessity that families carry out is the socialization of children. For example: Manners such as please and thank you, and behaviour in public areas are instilled in children at young ages. Naturally, family has been put on a pedestal because of its significance since the pre-industrialized era, providing basic needs that other social institutions cannot.

Different skills are acquired from families as well. The essence of hard work is constantly encouraged or even taught in many families. Whether it may be chores, homework, sports, jobs, relationships, and even goals, hard work is always being mentioned by parents. Since parents have been through so much more than their children. The parents encourage and teach.

The Economic Social Institution is another one of the three Primary Institutions. The role that the economy plays on a societies life is overwhelming to say the least. With the Economy being one of the biggest influences on social interaction in today's society, it is understandable why we have used it as a foreground in which we continue to build on. With wealth and development growing due to an economies strong hold on society, we seem to always use that as one of our bases for happiness. Without the Economic Social Institution, the socialistic structure would always lean to domination and political stature, rather then the wealth or development in which we (as a society) would grow.

The five primary institutions are found among all human groups. They are not always as highly elaborated or as distinct from one another as in Nigeria, but, in rudimentary form at least, they exist everywhere. Their universality indicates that they are deeply rooted in human nature and that they are essential in the development and maintenance of others. Sociologists operating in terms of the functionalist model society have provided the clearest explanation of the functions served by social institutions. Apparently there are certain minimum tasks that must be performed in all human groups. Unless these tasks are performed adequately, the group will cease to exist. An analogy may help to make the point. For Example: We might hypothesize that cost accounting department is essential to the operation of a large corporation. A company might procure a superior product and distribute it then at the price which is assigned to it, the company will soon go out of business. Perhaps the only way to avoid this is to have a careful accounting of the cost of each step in the production and distribution process.

Characteristics of Social Institutions:
1. They are resistant to change. Patterns of social behavior become institutionalized when they are reinforced by custom and tradition

2. They are interdependent. A societies institutions uphold similar values and norms to reflect compatible goals and priorities

3. They change together. Because institutions are interdependent a change in one will bring change Ina another

4. They are the site of social problems. For example unemployment is a problem of the economy; marital breakdown is a problem of the family; high crime rate is a problem of political and legal organizations

In current usage, culture is that which distinguishes life in one group from life in another group; mental content, norms, institutions and physical objects, among other qualities, Culture is the large-scale context of a given society, that is the behaviors and beliefs characteristic of a particular social, ethnic, or age group.

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