Wednesday, June 29, 2011



Key sociological concepts

Concept of society – The sociologists view society as a chain of relationships. A relationship is social when it is determined by mutual awareness and the behaviour of the one individual influences the behaviour of the other.

Eg. A teacher entering the class, all the students stop making noises and stand to greet the teacher in order of respect.

Types of societies

There are mainly two type of societies in its simplest form i.e.

Simple society – All primitive and traditional society.

Complex society- The industrial societies with overlapping set of social relationships are called complex societies.

Social Groups- It is defined as the collection of two or more individuals with common goals, interests, beliefs as well as accepting certain rights and obligations.

Primary Groups - First coined by the sociologist, Charles Horton Cooley (1864-1929), a primary group

is relatively small (though not all small groups are primary). Its members generally

have face-to-face contact, and thus, have intimate and co-operative relationships, as

well as strong loyalty.

Secondary Groups- Secondary groups, in several respects, are the opposite of primary groups. These are

generally large size groups, though not always so. Members of the secondary group

maintain relatively limited, formal and impersonal relationship withone another.

Status and Role

Status – It is defined as the social position of an individual, it is socially defined location or place in a system of society. The interaction between individual takes place only they know the individual status of each other.

There are two types of status ascribed and achieved status

Ascribed status – The status with which the person is born or gets without any effort is called ascribed status.

Achieved Status – The social status which is acquired by the efforts.

Multiple status – It should also be clear that every individual occupies multiple statuses. Even a young

infant is a son, a grandson, a brother, a nephew, and so on. As we grow up, we may get

into even more status positions. Public figures and other important men, women

simultaneously occupy several statuses.

Role – Role is the behavioural aspect of the social status of the individual, there will be no status without role attached to it.

As teacher is status and there is a role attached to it which is having rights and obligations which determines the behaviour of the teacher.

And in teacher student relationship there is expectation of particular behaviour from both the sides and if any one them fails towards the particular expectation then the social relationship gets adversely affected.

Social Institutions

Social institution can be defined as a 'broad goal-oriented behaviour, which is firmly


People are born in a family,

which is an institution. They are nurtured and socialised in this institution, which is

governed by the values, norms and mores of that society. How the family and its

members earn their living depends upon the economic institutions of their society.

How they maintain order and administration depends on the political institutions of

that society. How information and skills are passed from one generation to another,

depends upon the educational institution of that society. Finally, how people explain

their existence in society, from where they have come before birth and where they will

go after death, i.e. the 'religious experience' is established by the religious institutions.

. Thus, all social institutions in a given society are inter-related. Family as an institution

forms the pivot around which all other social institutions move as it provides the individual

members to the society.


In sociological terms, culture can be defined as the total sum of human activities,

which are learnt. It is passed on from generation to generation through membership of

a particular society. As various learning processes in human societies involve systems

of tools, communications and symbols, we can also say that the concept of culture

refers to a system of tools, communications and symbols. People in order to learn new

activities require tools, language and symbols.

Culture and Human Behaviour

Stated in sociological terms, culture is normative, that is, it provides

standards of proper conduct, and also therefore, tells us, what is right or wrong.

Concretely, these standards are provided to us by what are called cultural norms.

These norms are learnt and enforced by folkways and mores.


There are behaviour patterns that govern most ofour daily life and contacts with other

people. Thus, rising up from seats, when teachers enter into classrooms, allowing

women to purchase tickets without queuing, distribution of sweets after getting a job

or a promotion, and so on, are examples of folkways. A number of folkways are

simply acts of politeness.


These are norms that are considered to be more important by group, and even vital for

its welfare. Violation of the mores evokes an emotional response and instead of the

mere raising of eyebrow or ridicule, a strong group action follows. Thus, prohibition of

the consumption of beef and alcoholic drinks are part of the mores of Hindu and

Muslim societies, respectively. Any violation ofthese will not be tolerated. Mores are

linked to cultural values. Mores clearly and definitely reflect the concepts of what is moral and immoral.

This is seen from the fact that mores are generally expressed in terms of 'must

behaviour' (for example, all married men and women must rerpain faithful to their

spouses and must observe sexual fidelity) or, negatively, in terms of 'must-not'

behaviour, for example, women should not expose their bodies.

Social change – It is a process by which society and social relationships changes.

Agents of change- An important question is the identity of agents of change. As mentioned earlier, any

sub-units or institutions are instruments through which social change can be effected.

Some of the institutions are more important than others-the economic, political and

educational institutions are more central in effecting change. Religion can act as an

agent of change as well as resistance to change.

Social Control - Social control is a process to regulate behaviour within society. In a sense, social

control is to discourage people from deviating from the established values and

norms. Because of social control, people live up to what is expected of them. Social

control is an aspect of all social institutions and thus, it is pervasive to social life on

the whole.

Behaviour of people is controlled both by positive and negative sanctions. The aim of

both these types of sanction is to encourage people to conform to the norms. Positive

sanction can include praise, gifts and promotion whereas negative sanction can be

punishment, demotion ridicule or boycott.

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