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Social organization or social institution, refers to a group of social positions, connected by social relations, performing a social role. It can also be defined in a narrower sense as any institution in a society that works to socialize the groups or people in it. Common examples include education, governments, families, economic systems, religions, and any people or groups that you have social interaction with. It is a major sphere of social life organized to meet some human needs.

They are patterns of relationships (Role, Status) which is expected to be maintained as per certain rules and regulations, with a focus and functions to be performed, and to bring about social change/order. E.g." family, religion, economy, polity.

Social organizations can take many forms, depending on the social context. For example, for family context the corresponding social organization is the extended family. In the business context a social organization may be an enterprise, company, corporation, etc. In the educational context, it may be a school, university, etc. In the political context it may be a government, political party, etc. Commonly, experts officially recognize these five major social institutions that have been evident in some way in every civilization in history: government, religion, education, economy, and family.

To give a simple example: productive institutions are dependent on educational institutions for a skilled workforce, educational institutions are dependent on the government for their funding, and government institutions, in turn, rely on productive institutions to create wealth to finance government spending. Sociologists call this institutional interdependence.[1]

Max Weber concluded that in the history of mankind, organizations evolved towards rationalization in the form of a rational-legal organization, like bureaucracy.

The term organization is in sociology sometimes used interchangeably with the term institution, as when referring to a formal organization like a hospital or a prison. In other parts of sociology, such as the sociology of organizations and especially new institutionalism (also new institutional economics in economics and historical institutionalism in political science), 'organization' and 'institution' refer to two different phenomena. Organizations are a group of individuals pursuing a set of collective goals with established roles, methods of coordination, procedures, culture and space.[2]

Organizations can include political bodies (political parties, Congress, Department of Corrections), social groups (churches, clubs, athletic associations), economic bodies (unions, cooperatives, corporations), and educational bodies (schools, training centers, colleges). [3]

Institutions are ideas about how something should be done, look or be constituted in order to be viewed as legitimate. Institutions can be defined as a “stable collection of social practices consisting of easily recognized roles coupled with underlying norms and a set of rules or conventions defining appropriate behavior for, and governing relations among, occupants of these roles” .[4] Institutions provide structure, guidelines for behavior and shape human interaction. [5] Institutions are also characterized by social practices that reoccur or are repeated over time by members of a group [6]. Institutions may or may not involve organizations. The issue is complicated by the fact that one may talk of an organization as an institution, and of the institutions that govern an organization, and of organizations that seek to strengthen or destroy institutions.


  1. ^ R. Gosling (ed.) and S. Taylor with the Department of Sociology, LSE. Principles of Sociology (University of London Press, 2005) Chapter 1, pp. 17 this is a Subject Guide from the University of London External System
  2. ^ (Jonnsson, 2007)
  3. ^ (North, 1990)
  4. ^ (Jonsson, 2007, p. 5)
  5. ^ (Martin, 2004; North, 1990; Scott, 1995)
  6. ^ (Martin,2004)




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