Social Institution - Forms, Functions and Characteristics of Social Institutions

Social institutions can be described as activities that show some degree of regularity based on similar concepts. More precisely, a social organization is an interrelated set of social roles and social expectations, structured around a significant social need or social need to be fulfilled.


Social institutions can be described as activities that show some degree of regularity based on similar concepts...

In general, a social institution is an established pattern of behavior that is organized to perpetuate the welfare of society and to preserve its form. From the above definition, we can observe that social institutions have got some important functions. Three of such main functions are:

  1. Perpetuation of the welfare of society;
  2. Preservation and maintenance of the form of society;
  3. Meeting the major needs of the members of society.

A society is functionally integrated and held together by social institutions. Social institutions are universal. They differ in terms of sophistication, specialization, distance, formality and organization, from time to time and across cultures. But everywhere, their basic essence and purpose are identical. These attributes are particularly valid with respect to the five main social institutions discussed below. Social institutions are immune to alteration; they appear to endure. However, if a transition happens in a social system in particular, it often appears to affect the other institutions.


Major Forms and Functions of Social Institutions

There are several values around which institutions are organized. Of major importance, the five social institutions are:

  • Economic institutions: those that deal with economic and property relations;
  • Polity and law: Those that are concerned with social control with politics and law government, the police, court, etc.;
  • Religious institutions: Those concerned with the supernatural magic and religion;
  • Family: those based on principles of kinship, meaning, social relations created by descent and marriage;
  • Educational institutions: those that deal with the need for training individuals in the roles, values, skills, knowledge, attitudes etc which are associated with being a citizen and a worker.

Two forms of social role are conducted by each organization. There are: (a) primary functions, also known as manifest, explicit, or direct functions; and (b) secondary functions, also known as indirect, secret, or latent functions. In these roles, social institutions of society address critical needs. The main roles are as follows for the five big social institutions.


The Family

In every society, the family is the most significant social unit. It is the building block of every civilization. Two fundamental functions are performed by the kin. Reproduction and socialization are these. Society, through the family, reproduces or recreates itself. In order to enter the culture, children are born in the household. Parents play the roles of loving, caring for, educating and teaching children; the roles of successful and teachable trainees are required to be fulfilled by children. According to the type of family organization, the way parents cultivate, educate and care for their children varies. In new, developed and metropolitan cultures, the nuclear family is the dominant form of family organization. Typically, it consists of a partner and minor children. Extruded family types prevail in traditional, agrarian and agricultural cultures. It is made up of a husband, wife, children and other relatives.


Economic Institution

Each society wants to make good use of resources that are scarce. To satisfy basic needs such as food, clothes, housing, etc., products and services have to be generated. The organization of the production, trade, delivery and use of goods and services is the responsibility of economic institutions.


Religious Institution

It is the duty of this social organization to fulfill (provide) the spiritual needs of the people of society. Issues regarding the nature of human being, human fate, the cosmos, and other questions are puzzling. Religion and associated institutions, such as sorcery, explain these puzzling paradoxes of creation and offer sense and reason for life. It encourages individuals to struggle with purposelessness, meaninglessness, and a feeling of dissatisfaction and loneliness. These institutions often encourage members of society to align with societal standards and norms and to properly fulfill their intended social roles. Among members of society, they also have a sense of social unity. For a lot of individuals:

  • Apparently unanswerable questions regarding the nature of life and death, religious traditions offer the answers;
  • Religion is a faith and worship system.


Political Institution (Government and Law)

It is the duty of these social institutions to defend society from internal disorder, criminality and anarchy, as well as external challenges and invasions. At micro and macro levels, they are accountable for preserving law and order; implementing social control; and maintaining society's health and well-being.


Educational Institution

It is the duty of this social organization to offer instruction for members of society. It serves as the hub of development, trade, and dissemination of information. Generally, educational institutions are responsible for the dissemination of material and non-material communities vertically and horizontally. Vertical transmission means from one generation to another generation over time, where horizontal transmission means geographical space or from one culture to another. Educational organizations often play the role of training members of society for the positions and tasks associated with becoming good people and employers and having diverse professions.


It is important to note that while the above way of describing the essence and role of social structures is often prevalent in some of the mainstream textbooks in introductory sociology, we still need to look at them in a critical and conflict theory approach before finishing this section. Through these views, social institutions in a society may be functional for some and ineffective for other persons and classes. This is partially because, in the sense of class division and social stratification, disproportionate access to power and wealth always occurs and functions. From this point of view, for all members of society, social systems cannot be similarly efficient. The rights and privileges of those parts of society can be supported by them.


Characteristics of Social Institutions

  • The conduct of men is governed by institutions such as faith, morals, the state, administration, law, legislation, etc.
  • These maintain, and give stability to, the social order.
  • Institutions are interrelated and interdependent, even though they are diverse. These are related by individual rank and responsibilities.
  • There are also institutions that are rigid and robust. Normally, entities should not experience abrupt or rapid changes. Changes take shape in them, slowly and steadily.
  • Institutions include representations of history. Either material or non-material can be the representations. A country has a flag as its symbol, an icon, a national anthem. A school should have a flag of its own, uniform wear, etc.
  • Global services and material artifacts are accessible to entities that are a community of persons. Buildings, furniture, books and other objects are part of organizations and are part of social life.
  • Social institutions are patterns of behaviors clustered in society around the central needs of human beings.


Read More:

Inter-RelationAmong Institutions - Sociology

Keywords: Sociology, Introduction to sociology, Book of sociology, Culture, Institutions, Organizations, Types of Sociology, What is Sociology, Society, Human Behaviors, PDF Book Sociology, Scope of Sociology, Types of Sociology, Self,

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