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INTRODUCTION TO SOCIOLOGY

STUDENT GUIDE

39

Lecture Notes

Chapter 7: Social Institutions

Institutions Are Social Patterns

A social institution is a very important tradition in society—a type of action, interaction, role, or organization that is especially important in society. It is an established way something is done. It is highly valued—regarded as very important to most of us—and we feel obligated to defend it, even fight for it. We see it as representative of what we all are. It is an important part of our environment, the ways we expect our world to be. Most of us even regard it as the only good way for normal people to act.

In this course, the term institution refers to a type of social pattern. It includes macro forms of social patterns such as family, religion, politics, education, and economics (the big “five” of sociology).

There are also “general” patterns in “institutions” such as:

University (college)

Public schools

For-profit companies

Law firms

Scouts

Churches

Hospitals

Fast Food Restaurants

Institutions Are the Central Ways a Society Functions and Solves Its Ongoing Problems

Institutions are the established, traditional, habitual, legitimate ways a society carries out its business.

Every society develops kinship institutions to socialize the young, regulate sexual relationships, and place individuals into social structure.

Most societies develop judicial and police institutions to help maintain peace between actors, protect property, and settle disputes.

Every society develops economic institutions to coordinate economic activities, encourage work, produce and distribute goods, and even maintain the inequality among the classes in society.

Institutions Are Widely Accepted and Deeply Entrenched

“Institutions” means a type of action, role, interaction, or organization that has become widely accepted and appears to be a natural pattern in society.

Copyright © 2005 Mount Vernon Nazarene University Adult and Graduate Studies

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