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Society’s Major Institutions Essay

There are five basic institutional areas of a society. The major institutions consist of family, education, economics, religion, and political sectors. These will essentially affect everyone’s life by shaping their thoughts and behaviors. Each of these institutions serves its purpose to fulfill society’s fundamental needs and specific goals for the overall society. All must coincide or work harmoniously to make a society.

The institution of family is the most important and is based on the teachings of values, norms, statuses, and roles. The family is designed to guide sexual activity, socialization, and social relations within a sexual union (Sociology of the Family). Every family is run differently under different circumstances and beliefs. In America, there are many different types of kinships and many different ways each of these kinships are run. The family of procreation consists of parents residing with their biological children. There is also the family of orientation which is the family in which a person is born and raised in and the family of affiliation.

Often times and for many different reasons a person may be a part of the family of affiliation. For some reason the person’s biological parents and intermediate kinship is unavailable or unable to care for a child and therefore the child goes to live with another caregiver whom is greatly respected by the kinship. The family of affiliation is more common amongst the poor in America. It is used to benefit many different people of the same kinship. Those members less fortunate are able to live amongst the most fortunate of the family while both kinships are able to compile their resources to benefit each other.

While the nuclear family is the “normal” based on American standards it only makes up about a fourth of the families in America today. The numbers of nuclear families in America has been on a continuous decline since the 1970’s while single households tend to be on the rise. According to the U.S. Bureau of the Census the average family size has declined from 3.4 in 1975 to 3.2 in 2000. Furthermore, the average household size has declined as well; from 2.9 in 1975 to 2.6 in 2000. These statistics suggest that today American’s may not be as likely to support as large of a family as American’s in the earlier 1900’s (United States Bureau of Census).

In the 1950’s and early 1960’s the families were portrayed to be the “Leave it to Beaver” type. This was supposed to be the traditional nuclear American family. The father was portrayed as the head of the household, and the breadwinner. The mother’s role in the family was to take care of the household and children. Families of this generation and previous generations were able to survive and live comfortably for the time with only one working parent. In the 1990’s mainstream America has become increasingly dependant on two incomes per household. Also, people in this day and age people seek independence and may not be as close to their families as the family members of the 1950’s and 1960’s were portrayed to be. Today’s television shows consist of non-married parents, more cohabitation, and even same sex parents.

On the most general plane, “religion as a social institution serves to give meaning to man’s existential predicaments by tying the individual to that supra-individual sphere of transcendent values which is ultimately rooted in his society” (Caser). As defined in the book religion is “a belief and ritual concerned with supernatural beings, powers, and forces.” People all over the globe base their behaviors and views on religion. Some people think it is the pathway to heaven, while some frown at the idea of religion being a dominate factor to determine one’s destiny in their afterlife.

Unfortunately, not all religious groups are good at heart. Some try to force their beliefs and ideology on people for good and bad purposes. For the most part, people of all religions focus on their good deeds in hope they will be compensated in their afterlife. In which, the chapter highlights stated that “religions may also maintain social control by stressing the temporary and fleeting nature of his life, while promising rewards (and/or punishment) in an afterlife or reincarnation (Introduction to Sociology, 8th Edition).” Therefore, religion is a positive type of social control for the most part. Yet, there are always those exceptions such as leaders of religious groups that may want to inflict harm upon another person or group.

Religion, as a type of resistance, is very factual. For example, Martin Luther gave rise to one of the major social changes of all time, the Protestant Reformation. Luther’s movement was basically to question the Church’s authority in the 1500’s. Luther was a devoted Catholic which paved his path to become a minister. His main point in questioning authority was that he disagreed with the selling of indulgences. In 1517, Luther wrote the Ninety Five Theses, which stated that he disagreed with the sales of indulgences and that they were misused, which is said to have started the Reformation. The Reformation was the beginning of men rising up and revolting against the church.

On the other hand I believe religion is a very easy way to cop out of previous rule or present day rule. As an example the Crusades, in which their only motive was to destroy, conquer, and gain wealth. To say someone higher then man himself believes that a group of people should do things differently is a bit ridiculous. To intertwine church and state with this resistance, I think the law of the land should be in fact the law of the land, without interruption from the church. Reverend Michael Wempe’s situation of being charged of child sex abuse is a prime example. He must be tried by the Supreme Court with no interference by the church. This is a crime that is not in the hands of the church’s discretion, in which the state has total control of the matter.

Education is the social institution guiding a society’s transmission of knowledge including basic facts, job skills, and cultural norms and values to its members from one generation to another. The groups and organizations that set forth to do so are elementary schooling, junior high school, high school, college, graduate school, and sporting teams to name a few. As we discussed in our past discussion board posting the public school systems are graduating students that are satisfactory students. I believe our public school is running on a flat tire, yet not broken. One must take in consideration that the public school district must take all applicants that desire to go to school.

Excluding, those who are extremely juvenile and have been taken out of the school system previously. From a teachers perspective it’s extremely hard for one to teach someone who doesn’t want to learn or doesn’t understand the language one is speaking while instructing a class. Within the realm of education we require the participants to have values such as academic honesty. These participants play the roles of students, players, and cheerleaders. They must follow the norms such as doing one’s own homework; not doing your own homework is a serious offense with the administration within all academic institutions.

Political institutions have a lot of influence on the educational institutions. In 1999, the federal, state, and local governments spent a total of $339 Billion on elementary and secondary education. (Survey of Current Business). The government funding of elementary and high school education has deep roots in our society dating back to the late 1700’s and early 1800’s. Education is one of Thomas Jefferson’s treasured legacies. Political institutions establish a hierarchy of power and authority within a nation. America’s political system was established by our Founding Fathers, that wanted equality for all and to make sure that there was not to be another tyrant telling everyone what to do and how to do it. Hence, political parties were established so one could run for office. Within office there is the presidency, senate, congress, and so forth. As Americans we should understand the values of being an American. As we have values we must have norms such as: only one vote per person, and how voting is a right.

The economic institution is what makes the world communicate. The ability to produce and distribute goods and services is vital for the survival of an industrialized country. American’s are very dependent on this institution to make ends meet for the general population of the country. Everyone serves a role within the economic institution from workers to buyers. Most people serve multiple roles within this realm. As technology increases the ability to produce will become even more efficient. As we become more efficient we maximize profit, which ultimately is the goal of the producers.

In conclusion, the society is based on five institutions. As mentioned these major institutions consist of family, education, economics, religion, and political sectors. Each of these institutions serves its purpose to fulfill society’s fundamental needs and specific goals for the overall society. As we become more intellectually intoned within all realms we should become a stronger society, in turn should produce better living circumstances for all of mankind.

Works Cited:

Durkheim – The Work – Sociology of Religion. Caser . 1977.

Eshleman, J. Ross. Sociology of the Family. The Family, Ninth Edition. Allyn & Bacon: Needham Heights, 2002.

Tischler, Henry L. Introduction to Sociology, 8th Edition. Forth Worth, Texas.: The Harcourt Press, 2002.

United States Bureau of Census. Future Household Population Projections. 02 Aug. 2002.

United States Department of Commerce, Bureau of Economic Analysis. Survey of Current Business. (Washington, D.C.: US Department of Commerce). Oct. 2004.


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