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social structure

n. the people in a society considered as a system organized by a characteristic pattern of relationships; "the social organization of England and America is very different"; "sociologists have studied the changing structure of the family" [syn: social organization, social organisation, social system, structure]

Social structure

In the social sciences, social structure is the patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. On the macro scale, social structure is the system of socioeconomic stratification (e.g., the class structure), social institutions, or, other patterned relations between large social groups. On the meso scale, it is the structure of social network ties between individuals or organizations. On the micro scale, it can be the way norms shape the behavior of individuals within the social system.

Social norms influence social structure through relations between the majority and the minority. Because those who align with the majority are considered normal while those who align with the minority are considered abnormal, majority-minority relations create a hierarchical stratification within social structures that favors the majority in all aspects of society.

These scales are not always kept separate. For example, recent scholarship by John Levi Martin has theorized that certain macro-scale structures are the emergent properties of micro-scale cultural institutions (this meaning of "structure" resembles that used by anthropologist Claude Lévi-Strauss). Marxist sociology also has a history of mixing different meanings of social structure, though it has done so by simply treating the cultural aspects of social structure as epiphenomena of its economic ones.

Since the 1920s, the term has been in general use in social science, especially as a variable whose sub-components needed to be distinguished in relationship to other sociological variables.

Usage examples of "social structure".

So we have a great task ahead of us to bring our technology and social structure into harmony with our planet and with the life within both ourselves and within every creature.

These are indisputable signs of a sick social structure, a society that can no longer perform even its most basic functions in the accustomed ways.

But at any rate it is certain that with our present social structure we cannot win.