Social structure is the decorative social arrangements in society which springs and gets influenced by the activities and behavior of individuals. It comprises those cultural or ethnic arrangements that describe the expectations and outlooks of agents hold about each other’s activities and that establish their long-term associations with each other. And, it is a matrix displaying the population distribution of the society among the various social groups resulting from the social stratification and divisions induced by many social equivalence relations (Bunge, 1974).
Even though each society has its own social structure, these structures are based on elements which are common to almost all societies. Any position within a social system is what we call status which transmits a certain stand-up and regard in society, with divergent and conflicting access to wealth, resources, and rewards. These transformations and changes in social upright create social stratification.
The other rudiments are more complex as there is division of labour. It is a specialization of the various jobs needed for the sustenance and nourishment of society which predominantly assumes a degree of occupational specialization in a society. The larger and more complex a society is, greater is the division of labour. In a multifaceted society, we are more likely to find that doctor and teachers have a specialized role than a saint or monk. In a more segregated and stratified society, the further subdivisions broaden the realm of the division of labor.
Roles are the activities and manners that are usually expected of one who occupies a particular position or status and the treatises and theories in relation to roles concerns one of the most important features of social life (Biddle, 1986). They not only carry different prospects but also carry different rewards. In a society, different occupations carry different levels of status and different economic rewards. For example, the Jajmani system was an Indian economic system in which lower castes like Shudras performed various functions for upper castes like Brahmans and received grains in return. This system of inequality and discrimination is called social stratification and it is an important constituent of most societies.
Have you ever pondered why some jobs which apparently do not contain strenuous and laborious work are getting remunerated more than a manual worker? Social stratification is associated in part to society’s division of labour which leads to specialization that will lead to an increase in labour productivity cum efficiency and firms will be able to take advantage from economies of scale.
Structural functionalism or functionalism looks at society as a multifaceted and complex system whose parts work together to generate harmony, stability, and equilibrium (Macionis & Gerber, 2010). It argues that certain jobs necessitate more knowledge, skills and specialized training and are not easy to learn than others. Such jobs are rewarded as long periods of training etc., are involved and therefore rewards have to be given to encourage them.
The million dollar question is why societies have wide-ranging starring roles. One possible factor why societies have such a wide range of roles in a social structure is because of the division of labour or specialization which is very important in the production process (Khaldun, 1958). In Plato’s Republic, the starting point for the state lies in the natural inequity of humankind, which is rooted in the division of labour (Daniel, 2010).
For a smooth functioning of society to keep it going, there are varied jobs that need to be attended. We need to divide up the work so that hefty parts of it could be done by people with no exhaustive and extensive skills and training (William Petty). Basic necessities of life such as food, clothing, shelter, nurturing of kids and so on, have to be fulfilled and attended to. In almost all societies , there is a resemblance and closeness of the division of labour. It is very easy to impart and communicate with a group of people to fix or prepare a certain job than demonstrate or teach everyone to do the job. We find the division of labour on the basis of gender in almost all societies. For example, in ancient societies or pre-historic times, menfolk used to hunt, while as womenfolk used to take care of children. As society moves from traditional to modern, it becomes larger and more complex and the division of labour becomes more intricate. Each job can be supposed of a social role that has a specific set of expectations that must be met. Furthermore, in large multifaceted and intricate societies, each of these social roles is correlated in some manner to other occupations and status so that the whole social structure functions as symbiotic, mutually dependent, and mutually supporting status/roles.
As a consequence, social structure becomes a system of roles that divides labour into specialized tasks which becomes a motivating force for trade and commerce, all of which are self-governing, autonomous, and self-regulating. In addition to two essential rudiments cum features of social structure that is social stratification and division of labour which interprets itself into noticeable and obvious behavior such as roles and their corresponding statuses in society, societies also function through various organizations which rotate around some of the fundamentals of society, such as procurement of food, maintaining a family, maintaining law and order, etc.
Since the inception of the Renaissance, an enquiry into the nature and cause of social stratification has been an important focus of social thought. If we understand the true nature and cause of social stratification, we can maintain the interface among stratification, a division of labour, and specialization. Functional perspective is an outlook which highlights that society is a system with mutually dependent and supporting parts that function to generate equilibrium or stability. We need to understand the connections among social stratification, a division of labour, and specialization from the functional point of view. If we are successful in understanding the interface among stratification, a division of labour, and specialization we can improve productivity and efficiency levels in society.
Ibn Khaldun. (1958). ‘The Muqaddimah’ (translated by Franz Rosenthal). Vol. 3 (43). Patheon Press, New York, United States.
Bunge M. (1974). The concept of Social Structure. In: Leinfellner W., Kohler E. (eds) Developments in the Methodology of Social Science. Vol. 6. Springer, Dordrecht.
Biddle, B. J. (1986). Recent developments in role theory. Annual Review of Sociology, 12, 67-92.
Silvermintz, Daniel (2010). Plato’s Supposed Defense of the Division of Labour: A Reexamination of the Role of Job Specialization in the Republic. History of Political Economy. Vol. 42 (4): 747-72.
Davis, K (1959). “The Myth of Functional Analysis as a Special Method in Sociology and Anthropology”, American Sociological Review, 24(6), 757-772.
Macionis, J. & Gerber, M.L. (2010). Sociology. Toronto: Pearson Prentice Hall.
The author is a Research Scholar at Department of Economics, Central University of Kashmir, an Academic Counsellor, IGNOU STUDY CENTRE 1209,S.P. College, Srinagar and Editor in EPH – International Journal of Business and Management Science & Asian Journal of Managerial Science Ezine Articles Expert Author She is also the IJRULA title awards, 2018 winner (Best Researcher, 2018) and can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org