Social structure of the society

What is social structure of the society?

Any object has its structure. As the noun “structure” is rendered as “строение, расположение, порядок”, structure is defined as functional interdependence of elements constituting the carcass of an object.

The society has social structure. The concept of social structure was pioneered by G. Simmel, then developed by K. Marx, E. Durkheim but bec

ame most known due to T. Parsons who created structural functionalism. There are various approaches to studying social structure of the society but they didn’t avoid influence of structural functionalism in any way.

Due to the functionalist perspective, social structure is the carcass of a social whole (society or its part) the elements of which are invariable in time, interdependent of each other and largely determine the functioning of the whole in general and its members in particular. The focus is made on both interdependence – it’s like a house: take some brick off the wall and the whole building may ruin, and function – take a log: it can be burnt to get warm or used as construction material to build a house. In other words, structural functionalism analyzes parts of the society in terms of their purpose within the whole.

It’s clear that social structures of ancient and modern societies differ from each other. This difference is caused by diachronic changes taking place in the society: although the structure presents a stable carcass, it is stable or invariable only for a definite period of time, and historically it changes. Social structure is qualitative certainty of the society which means that change in structure leads to radical, qualitative change in the society. Structure ensures stability required for the functioning of associated social elements which accumulate quantitative changes up till the moment when they turn to quality, and a need for structural changes in the social object rises. For instance, development of the bourgeoisie and proletariat as classes and formation of new relations of production lead to a bourgeoisie revolution and change of the socio-economic system.

Social structure is characterized by the following main attributes:

· hierarchy – vertical and horizontal arrangement of structural elements which is based on their unequal access to authority, income, social prestige etc.;

· interconnection of structural elements which is realized through exchange of resources, information, sharing values etc.;

· differentiation into the smallest elements and their integration into the whole;

· flexibility, capacity to change so it is an important part of the management.

Traditionally, theorists identify the following types of social structure: socio-demographic, socio-class, socio-ethnic, socio-professional, socio-confessional etc. No doubt, any social object has its structure. For instance, at analyzing a labour collective we may consider employees within the socio-professional structure: those who got secondary, vocational and higher education, scientific qualifications, representatives of various professions, specializations, their levels of qualification. The socio-demographic structure suggests analysis of employees according to the age and gender: the young up to 30, middle-aged, those of pre-pension and pension age, males and females.

There are different types of social structure. A famous Russian theorist M. N. Rutkevich identifies three basic types. The first one characterizes the process of historical development of mankind, i. e. a global structure of human society consisting of nations, states and their various associations. The second type comprises relations between various spheres or subsystems of social life. The third type comprises relations between social groups and other communities of people. The last two types reflect some settled approaches to consider social structure.

In social structures of the second type their elements are viewed as relatively independent subsystems or spheres of social life (politics, economy etc). Their number is a point for debate. For instance, G. Hegel and F. Engels spoke of politics, economy and family; modern theorists perceive four spheres: culture, politics, legislation and economy although they don’t deny that other spheres can also be seen in religion, science or in family.

Anyway, less debated is a position of the Russian researcher A.I. Kravchenko who divides the society into economic, political, social and spiritual spheres.

Economic sphere includes four types of activities – production, distribution, exchange and consumption. It provides means for increasing the material welfare of the society: enterprises, banks, markets, money flows and the like that enables the society to use available resources (land, labour, capital and management) in order to produce the amount of goods and services sufficient enough to satisfy people’s essential needs in food, shelter and leisure. About 50% of the economically active population take part in the economic sphere as the young, old, disabled do not produce material wealth. But indirectly 100% of the population participate in the economic sphere as consumers of created goods and services.

Political sphere includes the head of the state and the state bodies such as government and parliament, local bodies of power, the army, the police, taxation and customs bodies which together constitute the state and political parties which are not part of the state. Its objective is to realize the goals of the society: to ensure the social order, settle conflicts arisen between partners (employers, employees and trade unions), defend the state frontiers and sovereignty, impose new laws, collect taxes etc. But its main objective is to legalize ways of struggle for power and defend the power obtained by a particular class or group. The objective of political parties is to legally defend the diversified political interests of different, very often opposite, groups of the population.

Spiritual sphere includes culture, science, religion and education and their artifacts such as monuments and establishments of culture, pieces of arts, research and learning institutions, temples and cathedrals, mass media etc. If science is aimed at discovering new knowledge in various spheres, education should translate this knowledge to the future generations in a most effective way, for schools and universities are built, new programs and teaching methods are worked out, qualified teachers are trained. Culture is designed to create values of arts, exhibit them in museums, galleries, libraries etc. Culture also comprises religion which is considered the pivot of spiritual culture in any society as it gives sense to human life and determines basic moral norms.

Social sphere embraces classes, social layers, nations associated by their relations and interactions. The given sphere of the society is understood as narrow and wide. In its wide meaning the social sphere is a totality of organizations and establishments that are in charge of the population’s wealth; they are shops, transport means, communal and consumer services, establishments of catering, medicine, communication, leisure and recreation. Thus, as such the social sphere covers almost all classes and layers – the rich, the poor and the middle class.

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