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Chapter 5: Social Structure and Society
Social Structure and Status The underlying pattern of social relationships in a group is
called social structure, and it helps us to know how to act in various group situations. The
major elements of social structure are statuses and roles. Status describes the position a
person occupies in a social structure; it may be ascribed or achieved.
Social Structure and Roles An expected behavior associated with a particular status is
called a role. Roles describe behaviors—rights are behaviors that individuals expect from
others, while obligations are behaviors that individuals are expected to perform toward others.
Conflict or strain sometimes results when a person has too many roles to play.
Preindustrial Societies Societies are categorized as preindustrial, which can include hunting
and gathering, horticultural, pastoral, or agricultural; industrial; or postindustrial. The culture
and social structure of a society are greatly affected by the way the society provides for basic
needs. For example, hunting and gathering societies are small and nomadic; they are based
on cooperation and sharing with little concept of ownership or status.
Industrial and Postindustrial Societies Industrial societies differ from earlier societies in
that they depend on science and technology to produce basic goods and services. In
postindustrial societies the economic emphasis is on providing services and information. Some
sociologists believe that the transition from an industrial to a postindustrial society has
increased social instability.
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