Browne (2011) defines social institutions as “the various organized social arrangements which are found in all societies,” (p.4). Good examples of social institutions include family, learning and government systems, religious factions and sects, among others. A family institutions accords varied techniques of upbringing as well as fashions one’s perspectives with regard to issues like marriage. The learning system is a very fundamental institute dealing with knowledge impartation as well as cultural interactions that build an individual’s ideals. The government is mainly concerned with communal wellbeing in terms of the economy to ensure that traders accrue the optimal rewards for their involvement in commerce while religion fashions the faith function. Three chief views, namely structural-functionalist, symbolic interactionist and conflict, have been formulated in the discipline of sociology in a bid to create an in-depth comprehension of the divergent functions of social institutions (Mooney, David & Caroline, 2010).
The conflict theory amplifies “the role of coercion and power, a person’s or group’s ability to exercise influence and control over others, in producing social order,” (Anderson, & Howard, 2010, p.20). This perspective heavily leans on Karl Marx’s assertions regarding the necessity of social fragmentation in accordance to classes defined in terms of wealth and political standards, enabling the effluent into acquiring leadership positions. Marx further proposed that, even in social harmony, conflict is present between the various communities with regard to beliefs and principles. Conflict therefore is viewed as a merit in that it offers personal protections. The strength attributed to this theory is that, amongst the three views, it offers the best rationalization for the various societal disparities noted in terms of sex, social classes, age and wealth in a precise manner (Blundell, Patrick & Janis, 2003). However, it has been critiqued on the fact that it promotes the issue of social discrimination, creating tensions and clashes that have adverse effects notably on the economy.
Structural-functionalists hold the view that “a society is a complex system composed of various parts, much like a living organism…all the elements of a society’s structure work together to keep society alive,” (Newman, 2009, p.18). Unlike the conflict view, it accords for harmony in the society by amplifying the dependence factor required for social development. The strength of the outlined perspective lies in its enhancement of social cohesion with its focus on the common good and the creation of healthy platforms in which social issues can be addressed (Henslin, 2007). Its weakness is because a dismal effect is likely to occur when an individual’s role and importance to the society is noted leading to arrogance and consequently quarrels. The symbolic interactionist upholds “immediate social interaction to be the place where ‘society’ exists,” (Anderson & Howard, 2010, p.20). This offers a micro-view that seeks to understand various mannerisms in accordance to the environment that an individual interrelates with in any given instance.
A notable strength with this view is concerned with the process of socialization as being the main impetus in the fashioning of one’s perspectives and behavior in various situations. This offers a succinct explanation for behavior alterations in accordance to various surroundings. The weakness lies in the amplification of the self in concerns that are macro (communal) in nature (Kendall, 2008). From a subjective standpoint, the interactionist view has the closest alignment with my perceptions with regard to the various social institutions present especially in the area of choice making. Each individual possesses own principles that tend to vary in accordance to the environment. Choices tend to have permanent consequences that majorly influence the decision process. For instance, an individual may condemn the vice of lying yet when in a dangerous situation as facing a possible arrest may resort to lying to overcome the hazard. This however does not necessarily reflect a change in one’s principles, but rather an environmental change necessitating the choice.
Anderson, M. L., & Howard, F. T. (2010). Sociology: The Essentials. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.
Browne, K. (2011). Introduction to Sociology. Malden, MA: Polity.
Blundell, J., Patrick, M., & Janis, G. (2003). Sociology As: The Complete Companion. Tewkesbury, UK: Nelson Thornes.
Henslin, J. M. (2007). Sociology: A Down-to-earth Approach. Boston, MA: Allyn & Bacon.
Kendall, D. (2008). Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.
Mooney, L. A., David, K., & Caroline, S. (2010). Understanding Social Problems. Florence, KY: Cengage Learning.
Newman, D. M. (2009). Sociology: Exploring the Architecture of Everyday Life. Teller Road, CA: Pine Forge Press.