Indian Social Structure
Social Structure is a basic concept in the society. Since long several efforts have been made to define social structure, still there is no unanimity of opinion on its definition; Herbert Spencer was the first thinker to throw light on the structure of society.
According to MacIver and Page, ‘The various modes of grouping together comprise the complex pattern of the social structure’. In the analysis of the social structure the role of diverse attitudes and interests of social beings is revealed. MacIver and Page have also regarded that social structure is abstract which is composed of several groups like family, church, class, caste, state, community etc.
After going through the various views on social structure, we may conclude as under:
a. Social structure is an abstract and intangible phenomenon.
b. Individuals are the units of association and institutions who are in turn the units of social structure.
c. These institutions and associations are inter-related in a particular arrangement and thus create the pattern of social structure.
d. Social Structure is a ‘living’ structure which is created, maintained for a time and changes.
The term ‘Society’ is derived from Latin word ‘Socious’ which means companionship Companionship means ‘sociability’.
‘George Simmel’ pointed out that the society is the element of sociability which defines the true essence of society. It indicates that man always lives in the company of other people.
“Society is the complex or organized associations and institutions with the community” – D.M. Cole
Society is the Web of social relationship –MacIver
According to Auguste Comte, all societies whatsoever they are from contain both force for stability, which he called ‘social relationship – Maclver.
According to Auguste Comte, all societies whatever they contain both force for stability, which he called ‘social static’s’ and forces for change called as ‘social dynamics’.
Many other sociologists define society as a population living in the same geographical area that share a culture and a common identity and whose members are subject to the same political context.
Characteristics of Society
Community refers to a group of individuals living in a geographical area. They aware the same physical environment and the basic conditions of common living.
Examples are neighborhood, village, tribal etc.,
Community is “a social group with some degree of ‘we feeling’ and living in a common area” – ‘Bogardus’.
Community is “the smallest territorial group that can embrace all aspects of social ill” – ‘Kingsley Davis’.
Community is “an area of social living marked by some degree of social coherence” –‘R.M.Maclver’.
Community is “a group or collection of groups that inhibits a locality” - Nimkoff&Ogburn
Community is “any circle of people who live together and belong together in such a was that they do not share this or their particular interest only but a whole set of interest” – ‘Manheim’.
Elements of Community
Characteristics of Community
Types of Communities
F.Tennies Greman Sociologist used two terms such as Gemeinschaft which means community and Geselleschaft means association to refer different types of human groupings found in human societies. There are many types of communities, out of those four clearly identified communities are:
a. Village or rural
b. City or urban
Difference between Society and Community Society
Community Organization: In order to study community organization, we have to understand the concept of community. The term ‘community’ is used in different contexts: a religious community, business community or caste based community etc., but in the context of social work, a community is defined as a group of people lining in a common geographical area, sharing common interests and having a sense of belonging.
Community Welfare Services: The terms ‘community development’ and ‘community organization’ are relatively new in India. With the launching of the rural development projects as part of the five – year plans, the term ‘community development’ came to be used with reference to these projects, but community development now refers to welfare and development work in any community – ruler, urban or back ward community like scheduled castes or tribal community. In the West, however, the community organization field mainly aims at effective coordination of existing welfare services, fund – raising, helping to organize new services, and education public opinion about new social problems in order to secure. Participation in solution of these problems through community efforts. Here, in India efforts are made to render welfare services like crèches, balawadis, social education, maternity and allied services, recreational activities etc. to the members of a community. Thus, community organization is a field of work with the introduction of the scheme of community development.
The Term ‘Community Development’ became very popular in countries where development programmes like mass Education, Village Improvement and Community Organisation Had been taken up. Each country which took up community development programmes emphasized different aspects in defining them. Some give importance to economic and social development programmes emphasized different aspects in defining them. Some gave importance to economic and social development while other concentrated on the methods of implementation. Community Development has been defined as an attempt in the direction of developing healthy leadership from the base of the structure of a growing democratic society, India’s Community Development Programme has been defined as a method by which people who live in local villages or communities are involved in helping to improve their own economic and social conditions and thereby become effective working groups in programmes of national development. This shows that the Community Development Programmes change from time to time and place to place according to local needs. So it may not be possible to define it precisely. As L.M. says, “Denial of the need for or the possibility of precise definition in itself calls for the continuing identification and clarification of the elements which have made Community Development a distinctive programme.
Social group is one where, two or more humans who interest with one another share similar characteristics and collectively have a sense of unity.A method of social work, i.e., social group work, seeks to enhance the social functioning of individuals through experience of interacting in group situations. Group experience is administered in a definite way to help the members to achieve their socially sanctioned and personally desired objectives, and to actualize their potentialities for self – development.
Group experience consists of interactions with members and others concerned with its members’ functioning. The interactions are generated through activities of different kinds, e.g., games, educational discussions, cultural activities, etc. the interaction of members is guided according to the value and principles of social work. Principles for group work practice (specific) are different than the generic principles applied to the practice of all the methods. Group work has basically two purposes: to develop the individuals (developmental approach) in agencies like community centres, social institutions, project centres etc.., and to treat them (Clinical approach) like delinquents, emotionally disturbed persons, addict, etc., through quick group experience.
Karl Manheim looked at the group as a social force trying to integrate individuals. The main characteristics of groups he identified are: a relative organization meaning some kind of division of roles and functions among members; group norms, ideas about existence or purpose of group and its relationship with other groups; collective interest and individual interest; a system of distributing power; and repressions and conflicts and mechanisms to deal with them.
Elements of a Sociological Group
Types of Social Groups
In-groups and out-groups are concepts that were introduced by William Graham Summer (Sumner, 1906). The term in-group refers to any group to which the individual has membership or belongs.
Consciousness of Kind
The concept of “Consciousness of Kind” is related to the concept of groups and was introduced by the American sociologist Franklin-H.Giddings (Giddings, 1906). Consciousness of kind is the concept that human beings have a tendency to join or associate with other people who are perceived of s having similarities to themselves.
Primary and Secondary Groups
One of the most widely utilized concepts of sociological groups is that developed by Charles Horton Cooley (Cooley, 1909) of the “primary group” Cooley defines a primary group as being a “small intimate, face to face association”. Of individuals who share some type of common group identify. Colley goes on to say that the development of this common group identity lead the members of the primary group to naturally identify themselves”.
Elements of a Primary Group
The term secondary group has come into use in sociology to describe any group which lacks one or more of the elements that go together to characterize a primary group. In general, a secondary group is composed of individuals who lacks strong emotional ties one another.
A reference group is composed of individuals possessing a set of similar characteristics which are used as standards by other individuals in evaluating their own behavior. Reference groups in many cases are not true groups in that the individuals who make up the reference group may not share the common identity characteristic of groups.
A peer group is made up of individuals of relatively equal status with whom the individual interacts frequently.
Voluntary and Involuntary Groups
Groups may be classified according to how members become members. If an individual select to become a member of a group then that group can be referred to as a voluntary group. On the other hand, if an individual becomes a member of a group, as a result of factors over which he / she has no control, then the group may be referred to as an involuntary group.
A bureaucracy is a large and complex formal organizational structure in which efficiency is achieved through a system of professional managers who control and direct the activities of the organization according to district rules and guidelines.
Weber’s Characteristics of a Bureaucracy
The term, “social institution “is somewhat unclear both in ordinary language and in the philosophical literature. However, contemporary sociology is somewhat more consistent in its use of the term. Typically, contemporary sociologists use the term to refer to complex social forms that reproduce themselves such as governments, the family, human language, universities, hospitals, business corporations, and legal systems. A typical definition is that proffered by Jonathan Turner “a complex of positions, roles, norms and values lodged in particular types of social structures and organizing relatively stable patterns of human activity with respect to fundamental problems in producing life – sustaining resources, in reproducing individuals, and in sustaining viable societal structures within a given environment. “Again, Anthony Giddens says “Institutions by definition are the more enduring features of social life.” He goes on to list as institutional orders, modes of discourse, political institutions, economic institutions and legal institutions. The contemporary philosopher of social science, Rom Harre follows the theoretical sociologists in offering this kind of definition “An institution was defined as an interlocking double – structure of persons – as – role holders or office – bearers and the like, and of social practices involving both expressive and practical aims and outcomes.” He gives as examples schools, shops, post offices, police forces, asylums and the British monarchy.
Group of persons banded together for common purposes having rights, privileges, liabilities, goals, or objectives district and independent from those of individual members is called as social institutions.
“Institutions is the habitual way of living together which have been sanctioned, systematized and established by the authority of communities” – C.A. Ellwood.
Institution can be defined as “a set of interwoven folkways, mores and laws built around one or more functions” – Kingsley Davis.
The term institution is used to describe normative systems that operate in five basic areas of life, which may be designated as the primary institutions.
Characteristics of Social Institution
b. Need for self-perpetuation
c. Need for self-expression
Classification of Social Institutions
Functions of Social Institutions
Social Structure and Social Stratification
Different structural components like family, caste, religion, political and economic systems and their inter relations constitute the important aspects of village social structure. These basic components decide the nature of social interactions between individuals and groups. They play a major role in leader – people interactions. The traditional and modern political organizations of any village offer a fertile ground for political forces to operate. The Village Statutory Panchayat has become the arena for different caste groups of the village to test their political strength. In fact caste becomes the central point of political groupings in villages. Caste affinity influences the voting pattern in Panchayat elections. Economic conditions decide the position of the individuals in the village community and caste groups decide the political life of the village community. Further, caste status by and large decides leadership opportunities in Community Development institutions.
The caste structure is here considered first because of its functional importance in the social life of the village, particularly in its political life. This is followed by a study of the other structural elements along with the structural unity of the village.
Caste system has several groups which are differentiated and which one interacting and interdependent parts of the larger society. Caste groups are economically inter-dependent, some of them having specialized occupations. Members of any particular caste group have the feeling of identification among themselves since they share the common elements of their castes. A caste has a graded system of inequality in the treatment of its members in different social situations. Berreman defines caste as a system of birth ascribed group, each of which comprises for its members the maximum limit of status – equal interaction and between all of which interaction is consistently hierarchical. In other words caste is a network of status equal interaction in a society hascharacterized by a network of hierarchical interaction among birth ascribed groups.
Caste Structure: The caste groups of the village can be divided primarily into two divisions namely the Harijans and the non-Harijans. In each division the caste groups are further divided into different speech communities.
The Hierachy of Caste Groups
These caste groups function as separate segments in the village even though they come together on several important occasions like village festivals. Endogamy and caste restrictions with their own cultural values mark the life style of castes, caste hierarchy decides the pattern of social situations. Caste hierarchy or caste ranking forms the part of the social structure reflecting the collective opinion of the village community regarding the place of the individual caste groups. Ritual criteria, die and occupations (Srinivas and Gough), physical contact (Dumount), manner of addressing, principles of ritual pollutions particularly connected with life cycles (Dube), form some of the criteria for ranking the caste groups. Ideas of ritual purity and of pollution are most vital aspects in understanding the status, evaluation and ranking of caste in the social system.
In recent times the cultural values of castes have changed much. Modified social relationships prevail in the caste system as an emerging reality. The prescribed old caste values are giving way to new social values which go against the traditions of caste.
‘Melvin Tumin’ defines social stratification as an arrangement of any social group or society into a hierarchy of positions that are unequal with regard to power, property, social evaluation and psychic gratification.
According to Lundberg a stratified society is one marked by inequality by differences among people that are evaluated by them as being lower and higher.
Social stratification is a concept involving the “classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions, a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions.
The concept of social stratification came into existence in 1940s. The term stratification was borrowed from the earth science, the science of geology. Social satisfaction is therefore defined as the division of society into Strata. Social stratification is a type of social inequality.
‘Karl Marx’ divides stratification into two mutually opposed or contrary social categories where one exploits the other. In his view, the two main social groups in society are:
i. There are those who own and control resources, technology and valued goods. These things are collectively called as ‘means of production’
ii. Second group is of those who do not have any ownership or control over these things. They work for the members of the first category.
Marx believes the principal form of stratification is class, whereas Weber believes besides class, there are two other forms such as status and power. The term Status implies ‘social position’. There are two types of statuses such as ascribed and achieved status.Eg., Caste and Class.
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