Social Structure, Social Interaction, Groups, and Formal Organization

“Structure” and “Interaction”
in Society
• Social structure is the framework of society
in place before you were born
• It guides our human behavior
• Components:
– Culture
– Social class (education, income, occupational
– Social status
– Roles
– Groups (those you interact with and share similar
values, norms, expectations adding social
– Social institutions
– Societies
Social groups are powerful
agents of socialization:
• How do you feel when you belong to a
• Groups are “agents of socialization”:
– Part of a primary group: intimate, face to face
connections that give us a sense of who we are
– Part of a secondary group: larger, more
anonymous, more formal groups based on
common interests or activities
• Or a secondary group that’s become a primary group:
– Example from your own lives? Why does this happen?
More on the power of groups:
• The dangers of “in-groups” and “out-groups”
– Group identification can be a shared identity, but also
contribute to rivalry or a sense of superiority!
– Anti-Arab hate crimes, victimization, and detention
after 9/11 and definition as “evil” out-group
As a group grows, it becomes a
• It needs a more formal structure to
accomplish its goals (it transitions from
secondary group to formal organization)
• Specialized roles and offices are
established (president, vice president,
• Leaders emerge
• This structure allows the group to survive
and to grow over time
McDonaldization means…?
• Rationalization:
– The traditional, spontaneous, and informal (“home
cooked meal”) is replaced by standardization,
routinization, and speed/efficiency (“two patties,
special sauce, lettuce, cheese, pickles, ketchup, on a
sesame seed bun”)
– The rules and regulations of bureaucracies aimed at
efficiency increasingly influence our lives!
What are the parts of a
• Those at the top are accountable, those below
them are assigned the work
• Specialized division of labor
• IDEALLY, promotion based on credential and not
personal connections
• Written rules to help with efficiency grow and
written record of all communications is kept
• Impersonal: The office not the person holding it
is what’s important
Bureaucracies as “ideal types”
(otherwise known as “why bureaucracies can
• Rigidly following the rules: Red Tape and
bureaucratic ritualism
• Leaders protect their positions (guarding
information) leading to inefficiency and rigidity
(large structures with poor communication are
slow to change)
• Promotion from within perpetuates race,
class, and gender inequalities
Why bureaucracies can
suck…part 2
• Organization grows because “bigger is better” (creates
bureaucratic inertia- size and largeness of structure
make rapid change very difficult)
• Alienation and a loss of sense of pride in what you have
produced (“dehumanization”)
– Coworkers can give positive reinforcement that a bureaucratic
structure cannot give (adding the personal to the impersonal)
– Bureaucratic personality leading to trained incapacity to do
anything other than your narrow job according to code
• Iron law of oligarchy: Robert Michels and the tendency
for bureaucracies to be ruled by the few
• Max Weber and bureaucracies as “ideal
• Means they don’t always work as they’re
supposed to:
– Example is “Office Space”
– What examples of the positive or negative
sides of bureaucratic structures?
Social Institutions: Big time
example of Social Structure
• The ways and structures that emerge to meet
the needs of society- try this out yourself!
– What needs do they serve, what groups form to meet
those needs, what statuses are there within those
groups, and what are the values that inform norms of
behavior? What are the norms for behavior?
• Some examples: family, religion, education,
economics, medicine, politics, law, science,
military, mass media
Status comes in many forms…
• Status: a position you occupy in society
• Status set: all the positions you occupy!
• Master status: the status that cuts across
all other statuses and is the one that is
most important to how others see you in
Other types of status:
• Ascribed status: an involuntary status that you
inherit or are given by society
• Achieved status: voluntary status that you earn
or accomplish
• What if your statuses don’t get along well with
each other?
– Status inconsistency (example: child and college
• Mark your status with status symbols
You occupy a status but you
play a role
• Roles are the behavior or privileges attached to
the status that lay out what is expected of
someone in your status
• When roles associated with different statuses
fight: Role conflict
– Examples?
• When the roles associated with one status fight:
Role strain
– Examples?
Try out these ideas!
• “Circles of my multicultural self”
– Practice for your next paper (comes after the
first exam)!
– What are your statuses (identities), and how
do you sometimes feel constrained or limited
by them?
– What role or stereotype associated with one
of your identities or statuses do you not feel
applies to you?
Conformity and
the power of authority
• Milgram (1965): I’ll shock the stuffing out of you
as long as the authority figure said it was OK
• With the power of authority and conformity, we
can get “group think”
– Asch (1952): 33% gave in half of the time, 40% gave
in less often, 25% did not give in at all
– Authority and student parking here at Kirkwood!!!
Other Microsociological
aspects of social interaction
Face-to-face interactions
Personal Space: Get outta’ mine
• Public distance (out in public) versus
social distance (impersonal interactions
like a job interview) versus personal
distance (friends and acquaintances)
versus intimate distance (!)
– 2 volunteers to demonstrate 3 out of 4 of
– Why not the 4th?
Self-fulfilling stereotypes
• What you hear or observe about a person
• Gets fit into stereotypes for what you expect of
that person
• So your actions toward that person are
according to these stereotypes or expectations
• From that the person gets a sense of what you
think of them
• Then…the behavior of that person may change
to meet your expectations!
• Goffman: We spend a lot of our time
focusing on “impression management”
• What’s your front stage self? (You
playing your assigned roles)
• What’s your back stage self? (Where
you “let your hair down”)
– Example of this to the person next to you
What happens when a
“performance” goes wrong?
• Face saving technique, like…studied nonobservation (pg. 38 in your book)
• You’re never going to forget “studied nonobservation” are you?
Yes, Dorothy, our reality is
Socially Constructed…
• Thomas Theorem: If we define it as real, it
is real in its consequences!!!
– Race is not biologically “real,” but since we have
defined it as real (or socially constructed it), it is
very real in its consequences for social life
• We reproduce our social constructions
through interactions with others, which
keeps making it all “real”