What Is the Definition of a Social Institution?

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A social institution is defined as a collection of individuals banded together in pursuit of a common purpose. Its common purposes include granting its members certain rights and privileges.

Members of a social institution also possess certain delineated duties, responsibilities and liabilities. As a group, the people making up a social institution share common objectives and goals. Those in a social institution also share social norms. There are many types of social institutions within society. While a general definition of social institutions includes churches and hospitals, the sociological definition revolves around five primary institutions. These include religion, education and family. Also, government and economy are social institutions. Generally speaking, the term “institution” can have many different definitions, depending on the lens that one is understanding it from. It typically describes a collective of people or ideas.

Religious Organizations A wide array of different types of social institutions exist. Religious organizations represent a prime example of social institutions. In the case of these types of social institutions, people get together in a shared belief and reverence for a supernatural power, for an entity beyond themselves.

Schools Schools of all types, from primary schools to institutions of higher education, represent another form of social institution. Schools exist for the common purpose of the instruction of others, such as to teach skills and share knowledge among educators and students or pupils.

Families The general definition of social institutions also includes an extended family. In its basic or essential terms, an extended family is a collection of nuclear families. These nuclear families band together as a group or social institution because of a shared common ancestry. The nuclear families in and of themselves also constitute social institutions. Indeed, any household group, whether related by blood, is considered a social institution. This definition relates to one of the five sociological definitions of social institution, which involves kinship.

Government and Economy The role of government and economy as a social institution is that it directs and regulates people’s goods and services. Also, it is the basis of power. Sociologists believe that unless these systems are in place, that society would no longer function.

Philosophical Approach Just as sociology has its own approach to understanding social institutions, so does philosophy. The philosophical approach to understanding social institution includes separating it from social norms and defining it as the system of organization. Other institutions organize other institutions like governments. The English language is also considered a social institution but it’s not associated with specific people or organizations.

Effect of Social Institutions on the Individual Throughout one’s life, one is exposed to and part of many different social institutions. Depending on the degree of quality of the social institutions, the life that one leads can be negatively or positively affected. For example, the school system has a huge bearing on a child’s growth and development. Someone who attends a high-caliber school system is likely to do much better in the long run, than someone who attends a low-caliber school system.

Inequality of Social Institutions In addition to the school system, many social institutions impose inequalities. These inequalities are based on race, income and other socioeconomic factors. In fact, the way that working class and middle class perceive social institutions varies greatly.