Meaning of SOCIAL STRUCTURE in English


in sociology, the distinctive arrangement of institutions whereby human beings in a society interact and are able to live together. Social structure is often treated together with the concept of social change, which deals with the forces that change society and the social structure itself. Social structure and social change are general concepts used by social scientists, particularly in the fields of sociology and social and cultural anthropology. They are often conceived of as polarized twin concepts, social structure referring to permanence, social change to the opposite. The relationship between the two concepts is, however, more complicated. Structure, for instance, does not necessarily indicate lack of change. Those features of a society, or any other social group, that are regarded as parts of its structure are always generated by dynamic processes. For example, the kinship structure of a given society (the typical composition of household units and the rules governing marriage and line of descent) is maintained by continuous changes in families, as marriages are concluded; children are born, grow up, and become adults; and people die. Second, although many social processes show a cyclical patternthe formation, dissolution, and reformation of families being one examplesocial life never repeats itself completely. The kinship relations in one generation are never an exact replica of those in the previous one. The same processes that serve to maintain the social structure may also lead to social change and modification of the structure over a long period. The concepts of social structure and social change pertain not only to basic characteristics of human social life but also to certain ideals and preferences. The structure, or order, of the society, generally regarded as harmonious and conducive to the general well-being, has also been seen as conflict-ridden and repressive. Similarly, social change has been conceived of both as progress and as decay, as emancipation on the one hand and as deviance from good tradition on the other. Such widely varying evaluations have influenced different theories concerning the nature of social structure and social change, and they continue to be reflected, to some extent, in present-day social thought. in sociology, the distinctive arrangement of institutions whereby human beings in a society interact and are able to live together. Social structure is often treated together with the concept of social change, which deals with the forces that change society and the social structure itself. The term structure has been used with reference to human societies since the 19th century. Before that time the term had application in other fields, such as biology, as is evident in the work of some 19th- and early 20th-century sociologists. Among them was Herbert Spencer, who conceived of society as an organism, the parts of which are interdependent and thereby form a structure that is similar to the anatomy of a living body. The term is linked to building construction in Karl Marx's terminology: the economic structure [Struktur] of society . . . on which is erected a legal and political superstructure. Spencer and Marx shared some ideas in common. Generally, they depicted social structure as having features that exhibit a certain permanence over time, are interrelated, and determine or condition to a large extent both the functioning of a social entity as a whole and the activities of its individual members. A number of theories concerning the nature of social structure have evolved in modern times. Some theorists, such as George P. Murdock, an American anthropologist, have tried to arrange the various aspects of social life into a type of scientific order. Murdock developed a descriptive taxonomic scheme for classifying, comparing, and correlating aspects of kinship systems. In other studies the concept of social structure is of more theoretical importance and is used to explain social life. Some of the more prominent of these theories are examined here. Additional reading A general reader on social structure is Peter M. Blau (ed.), Approaches to the Study of Social Structure (1975). The most important theoretical works in structural functionalism are A.R. Radcliffe-Brown, Structure and Function in Primitive Society (1952, reissued 1965, reprinted 1968); and Talcott Parsons, The Social System (1951, reprinted 1964). For coverage of the debate on structural functionalism, see N.J. Demerath and Richard A. Peterson (eds.), System, Change, and Conflict (1967, reprinted 1968). A more empirical type of functionalism is represented by Robert K. Merton, Social Theory and Social Structure: Toward the Codification of Theory and Research, new ed. (1968), in which due consideration is given the distributive aspects of the social structure. These are stressed even more by Peter M. Blau, Inequality and Heterogeneity: A Primitive Theory of Social Structure (1977). Ralf Dahrendorf, Class and Class Conflict in Industrial Society (1959; originally published in German, 1957), advances a power-and-conflict model of society. Other, more sophisticated power models are contained in Peter M. Blau, Exchange and Power in Social Life (1964); Steven Lukes, Power: A Radical View (1974); and Norbert Elias, What Is Sociology? (1978; originally published in German, 3rd ed., 1978). An introduction to structuralism is David Robey (ed.), Structuralism (1973). Claude Lvi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology, 2 vol. (196376; originally published in French, 195873), contains several articles on the structural method and its applications. Examples of different empirical applications of the concept of social structure are George Peter Murdock, Social Structure (1949, reissued 1965); Peter M. Blau and Otis Dudley Duncan, The American Occupational Structure (1967, reprinted 1978); and Peter V. Marsden and Nan Lin (eds.), Social Structure and Network Analysis (1982). A synthesis of different views is offered by Anthony Giddens, Central Problems in Social Theory: Action, Structure and Contradiction in Social Analysis (1979, reprinted 1983).On the history of ideas concerning social change, see Robert A. Nisbet, Social Change and History: Aspects of the Western Theory of Development (1969). An introduction to 18th- and 19th-century evolutionism is Louis Schneider, Classical Theories of Social Change (1967). Original texts in social evolutionism are Herbert Spencer, The Principles of Sociology, 3 vol. in 4 (187696, reprinted in 3 vol., 1975), and Herbert Spencer: Structure, Function, and Evolution, ed. by Stanislav Andreski (1971, reissued 1972); Lewis Henry Morgan, Ancient Society (1877, reissued 1985); and Edward B. Tylor, Primitive Culture, 2 vol. (1871, reissued 1970). Good selections of Marxian texts are Karl Marx, Selected Writings in Sociology and Social Philosophy, ed. by T.B. Bottomore and Maximilian Rubel (1956, reprinted 1964); and Karl Marx andFrederick Engels, Selected Works, 2 vol. (1935, reissued in 1 vol., 1968). The most influential study in Marxist evolutionism is Frederick Engels, The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State (1902, reissued 1978; originally published in German, 1884). A criticism of Spencer's evolutionism is contained in mile Durkheim, mile Durkheim on the Division of Labor in Society (1933, reissued 1984 as The Division of Labor in Society; originally published in French, 1893); while Max Weber, The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism (1930, reprinted 1985; originally published in German, 1920, in vol. 1 of his Gesammelte Aufstze), contains a criticism of historical materialism.Anthropological neo-evolutionism is represented by: Leslie A. White, The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome (1959); Julian H. Steward, Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955, reprinted 1973); Marshall D. Sahlins and Elman R. Service (eds.), Evolution and Culture (1960, reprinted 1982); W.F. Wertheim, Evolutie en revolutie: De golfslag der emancipatie (1971), from which an abridged English trans., Evolution and Revolution: The Rising Waves of Emancipation (1974), was made; and Elman R. Service, Cultural Evolutionism: Theory in Practice (1971). A sociological textbook with an evolutionary approach is Gerhard Lenski and Jean Lenski, Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology, 4th ed. (1982). S.N. Eisenstadt, Tradition, Change, and Modernity (1973, reprinted 1983), represents a sophisticated version of the modernization theory. Good examples of historical sociology are Norbert Elias, The Civilizing Process, 2 vol. (1978; originally published in German, 1939); Barrington Moore, Jr., Social Origins of Dictatorship and Democracy: Lord and Peasant in the Making of the Modern World (1966, reissued 1984); and Immanuel Wallerstein, The Modern World-System, vol. 1, Capitalist Agriculture and the Origins of the European World-Economy in the Sixteenth Century (1974). Akin to these books are comprehensive historical studies on long-term developments, such as William H. McNeill, The Rise of the West: A History of the Human Community (1963, reissued 1965); and Fernand Braudel, Capitalism and Material Life, 14001800 (1974; originally published in French, 1967). An overview of this field is given by Theda Skocpol (ed.), Vision and Method in Historical Sociology (1984).General theoretical books on social change are: Wilbert E. Moore, Social Change, 2nd ed. (1974), and Order and Change: Essays in Comparative Sociology (1967), two treatises in the functionalist tradition; Eva Etzioni-Halevy and Amitai Etzioni (eds.), Social Change: Sources, Patterns, and Consequences, 2nd ed. (1973), a reader representing various approaches; William Fielding Ogburn, Social Change with Respect to Culture and Original Nature, new ed. (1950, reprinted 1965); Amitai Etzioni, The Active Society: A Theory of Societal and Political Processes (1968, reprinted 1971), which explores the possibilities of planned change; Robert L. Hamblin, R. Brooke Jacobsen, and Jerry L.L. Miller, A Mathematical Theory of Social Change (1973); Henry Teune and Zdravko Mlinar, The Developmental Logic of Social Systems (1978); and Kenneth E. Boulding, Ecodynamics: A New Theory of Societal Evolution (1978, reprinted 1981).Controversial theories on the cyclical development of civilizations have been advanced by Oswald Spengler, The Decline of the West, 2 vol. (1922, reissued 198183; originally published in German, 191822); and Arnold J. Toynbee, A Study of History, 12 vol. (193461, reprinted 194861). A theory of the circulation of elites can be found in Vilfredo Pareto, The Mind and Society: Treatise on General Sociology, 4 vol. (1935, reprinted 1983; originally published in Italian, 2nd ed., 3 vol., 1923), and Sociological Writings, ed. by S.E. Finer (1966, reprinted 1976). An empirical test of theories of economic growth and the business cycle is given by Angus Maddison, Phases of Capitalist Development (1982). The concept of involution is explained by Clifford Geertz, Agricultural Involution: The Process of Ecological Change in Indonesia (1963, reprinted 1968).The significance of demographic processes is analyzed by Carlo M. Cipolla, The Economic History of World Population, 7th ed. (1978), and an analysis of one stage of development is presented in Mark Nathan Cohen, The Food Crisis in Prehistory: Overpopulation and the Origins of Agriculture (1977, reprinted 1979). A classic account of the influence of technological change is V. Gordon Childe, Man Makes Himself, rev. ed. (1951, reissued 1983). Clark Kerr et al., Industrialism and Industrial Man: The Problems of Labor and Management in Economic Growth, 2nd ed. (1964, reissued 1973), represents a non-Marxist materialist view. Theories of political revolution are developed by Crane Brinton, The Anatomy of Revolution, rev. and expanded ed. (1965); and Theda Skocpol, States and Social Revolutions: A Comparative Analysis of France, Russia, and China (1979). Everett M. Rogers, Diffusion of Innovations, 3rd ed. (1983), deals with the social aspects of technological innovations. The individualistic approach to social change processes is exemplified by Douglass C. North, Structure and Change in Economic History (1981); Mancur Olson, The Rise and Decline of Nations: Economic Growth, Stagflation, and Social Rigidities (1982, reprinted 1984); and Robert Axelrod, The Evolution of Cooperation (1984).An influential criticism of deterministic theories of social development is Karl R. Popper, The Poverty of Historicism, 2nd ed. (1960). Examples of pessimistic social forecasting with much attention to ecological conditions are Donella H. Meadows, et al., The Limits to Growth, 2nd ed. (1974, reprinted 1982); and Mihajlo Mesarovic and Eduard Pestel, Mankind at the Turning Point (1974, reissued 1976). Much more optimistic examples are Herman Kahn and Anthony J. Wiener, The Year 2000 (1967); Daniel Bell, The Coming of Post-Industrial Society: A Venture in Social Forecasting (1973, reprinted 1976); and Clark Kerr, The Future of Industrial Societies: Convergence or Continuing Diversity? (1983). For a history of ideas about future social developments, see Krishan Kumar, Prophecy and Progress: The Sociology of Industrial and Post-Industrial Society (1978). Nico Wilterdink

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