Impact of Societal
Institutions On Caribbean
Culture and Society
• Gain a thorough understanding of the different
social institutions: family, education, political
• Understand the main ideas of the Marxist and
Functionalist perspectives
• Understand the Marxist and Functionalist
perspective on social institutions
Social Institutions
• Social Institutions are a fundamental part of
the operations of society. They are the major
organising framework in social life. Social
institutions have evolved overtime and
therefore embody what the society holds
valuable in relation to family, education,
religion, the justice system, the economy and
• Each social institution has functions that ensure
the smooth working of the social system as they
often illustrate the need for order, uniformity and
• Social institutions determine and guide behaviour:
they signify what is accepted and what is not
• Social institutions are intangible. They are
represented through our cherished beliefs and
ideas (values)
Sociological Perspectives
• A sociological perspective may best be
described as a way of seeing or understanding
social reality.
• Two of the dominant sociological perspectives
that can be used to analyse social institutions
are: The Functionalist Perspective and The
Conflict Perspective (Marxism)
• Is the oldest and most dominant sociological
• Holds a conservative understanding of society and
the way social institutions impact on the lives of
members. The maintaining of the status quo is of
utmost importance
• The functionalists are of the view that society can
be harmonious for all
Functionalism Cont’d
• They believe that if there is consensus, then
there is the likelihood of order, stability,
uniformity and rationality in social life
• Everyone has a role to play in society, and if
performed effectively this results in maximum
productivity and minimum behavioural
problems, imbalances and dysfunctions.
The Conflict Perspective (Marxism)
• This perspective holds an opposing view to the
• They argue that Functionalist explanations of
society disregard the views of the underclass
• They identify 2 main classes in society:
bourgeoisie and proletariat- upper class and
lower class
Conflict Perspective Cont’d
• They emphasize on conflict and tension between
the social groups/ classes in society and not
• The conflict stems from the contradictions in
social life and how social institutions seem to
value some groups over others
• Any social order that occurs is as a result of elitist
social control (one group oppressing the other)
The Social Institution of The Family
• The family forms the bedrock of society.
Socialization begins in the family, and
therefore this institution has the responsibility
of transmitting values and norms to the
individual and therefore governs individual
The family transmits values on:
The role and responsibilities of its members
Education and accepted behaviour upon reaching adulthood
E.g. “When I leave school, I want to get a good job, marry and settle down, and have
two children.”
The family transmits the expectations of society and socializes
its members to internalize society’s goals as their own.
Some common values associated with the family are: love, belongingness/
togetherness, sharing (cooperation), support, encouragement, caring for the young or
old, provision of shelter, child rearing
The Functionalist Perspective on the
The functionalists argue that the family should carry out several functions for order, stability and
harmony to exist in society. These are:
Economic Cooperation
Provision of love and togetherness
If the above functions are carried out in an optimal manner and if everyone
plays a role, then families would be happy and society would not be
threatened by any breakdown of social order.
The Functionalist view o the family has ethnocentric overtones. It assumes that families are nuclear and
that marriage is the basis for the formation of a family. Such a perspective cannot accommodate the
many diverse forms that exist in the region. However the idea of the “nuclear family” is still held as
The Conflict Perspective on the Family
The family is associated with exploitation, oppression and domination
Nuclear families are seen as products of capitalism where labour has to move to
where employment is located, leaving the extended family behind
The employer can exploit workers effectively without this support network in place
The oppressed worker in turn oppresses his wife and children
The nuclear family therefore fits the agenda of the capitalist- sexual division of
The assigning of roles through the institutional values associated with the family, has
contributed to family oppression, abuse and violence which results in an unequal
distribution of power that jeopardizes gender relations and even produces
generational conflict.
The Social Institution of Education
• Education as a social institutions contains our
deep beliefs and values about what the young
should know and how learning should take
• Schooling is seen as the main route to
becoming educated
The Functionalist Perspective on
Education is seen as an agent of “secondary” socialization in society.
Schools are the main mechanism through which secondary socialization takes
place. They provide the link between what is taught in the family (primary
socialization) and the wider society
Culture is transmitted through education: the value of obedience, regularity,
integration and cohesion, punctuality ,work ethic
Selection devices such as exams sort students into different types of schools e.g.
Formal academic institutions versus technical/ vocational institutions
Education supports the institution of religion. In the Caribbean there are strong
values which give status to denominational education, for e.g. St. John’s Catholic
Primary School
Historically one of the main function of the church was education
The conflict Perspective on Education
• Education was instituted in order to provide for the needs of the
capitalist economy: Capitalism needed a supply of educated workers
and so the education system developed to provide this
• The education system mirrors the inequalities present in society: the
education system is seen to discriminate against the poor. Schooling
has several mechanisms which ensure that the poor cannot compete
• The education system contributes to a cycle of social reproduction
(maintaining of the status quo)
• The above is often done through the presence of the “hidden
The social Institution of Religion
• Religion refers to that realm in society where
our beliefs about a supernatural power and
how these impact on our lives are expressed
• Specific religions, churches, mosques, temples
halls of worship are tangible outcomes or
forms of social organizations that reflect the
beliefs and values of religion
The Functionalist Perspective on
• Social order is crucial to the functionalists and therefore
a fundamental function of religion is the maintenance
of social stability through consensual values
• Commitment to certain beliefs, rituals and forms of
worship are seen as mechanisms that increase the levels
of social solidarity among people.
• Religions are often conservative in nature and therefore
play a major role in social cohesion, as values such as
obedience, sobriety, truth, discipline among others are
The Marxist Perspective on Religion
• Religion is regarded as serving the needs of the capitalist class
• The values taught in religion mirrors those of the capitalist
• Religion serves to maintain the status quo and therefore serves to
teach the proletariat to accept their status in society (the meek shall
inherit the earth). Reality is distorted by promoting the notion that
the social order and suffering are manifestations of “the will of
• The capitalist structure of society is so exploitative that the Marxists
argue that religion is an avenue that eases suffering and deadens

Impact of Social Institutions On Caribbean Culture