Social Structure Vs Social Systems

The discussion during the class today provided a food for thought about ‘Theory and Social Structure’. The crux of the discussion was about the components of social structure and how they build the who pyramid of society in general and how each component works in particular.
Social Structures play the role of umbrella in a society which helps the society to function socially. It is comprised of various institutions, ideologies and social entities functioning in a social system. For instance, democracy (governance), religion (beliefs), military (security), judiciary (justice) and media (accountability) are the institutions of that social structure in which society functions and integrates the social process.

Social Systems on the other hand are the operational manuals for maintaining the social structure. Social systems have ‘norms, rules, laws and goals’ to execute within its jurisdiction so that the social system may achieve the ultimate objectives for the functioning of society.

Social structure is more about institutions while social system is generally for organizations. For example religion is an institution (social structure) on the other hand church/mosque/synagogue is an organization. Similarly military or democracy is social structures while army or congress are the institutions. The picture gives us a very wonderful view of social organization in which various social structures are shown while one may finds a social systems within each structure.

Social Process on the other hand is the mechanism within the social structure which helps it to function and adapt. Social process includes ‘socialization, integration, power & status distribution & adaptation’. Social process and social structures are catalyst for changing each other. For instance it is the social process which has transformed our social structure from cave age to a modern democratic society. But the dysfunction of the social system (congress) does not mean that social process have stopped believing in the social structures.

But sometimes it is the individuals which influence both on social process and social structures and we have the example of those charismatic leaders such as Gandhee with his non violence movement, Dr. King with his civil rights movement and Nelsen Mandela for the liberation of apartheid Africa. On the other hand one finds the leaders who disrupted the social structure and social process with their leadership such as Hitler and Taliban.


Suicide: Durkehim (March 3, 2009):

How Durkheim's Theory of Suicide fits into Suicide Bombers:

Today we had a guest speaker in our class and she discussed in details about Durkhiem interpretation of ‘suicide’ and then she compared it that how suicidal rate in Russia increased after the demise of communist Soviet Union in 90’s .

She described the three commonly patterns identified by Durkhiem which were commonly found among the people who committed suicide:

Egoistic suicide is committed by people who are not strongly supported by membership in a cohesive social group. As outsiders, they depend more on themselves than on group goals and rules of conduct to sustain them in their lives. In times of stress, they feel isolated and helpless.

Altruistic suicide
is committed by people who are deeply committed to group norms and goals and who see their own lives as unimportant. Basically, these suicides involved dying for a cause.

Anomic suicide is committed by people when society is in crisis or rapid change. In such times, customary norms may weaken or break down. With no clear standards of behavior to guide them, many people become confused, their usual goals lose meaning, and life seems aimless.

There were eye-opening findings which she shared in our class about Russia. It was also very helpful to find that how communist Russia was being rule by the Communist Party and how people were coping with that change and most of the suicides committed by them were Anomic Suicides as there was a huge shift from Communism to the ownership of property which people have not seen for two or three generations. This confusion and shifting of goals made many people’s life aimeless and were feeling themselves misfit in the transitory society.

As we had very little time for discussion in the class, she was kind enough to stay for half an hour after the class. I had a question in my mind which I put before her and the group present at that time.

I am from Pakistan, and my country has experienced a wave of suicide bombings which has taken more innocent lives than the innocent lives lost during 9/11. Earlier I used to think about those suicide bombers’ (terrosists) as a behavior issue. As these children are generally admitted in some radical religious schools where they are taught ‘hatred literature’ against other nations, religions and sects and then are motivated and trained to take suicidal action against their enemies.

After reading Durkhiem and then his interpretation of patterns of suicides, I thought these terrorist do not lie in one category but one finds all these three patterns mentioned above in the motivation for suicidal mission.

They have the egotistic tendencies as majority of the suicide bombers are from poor section of society. They are not only poor but are excluded from the society due to disparity of wealth, basic rights and power imbalance prevalent in the society. They find a great deal of respect and empowerment when they have association with those mentors who are preparing them for a suicidal mission. Therefore the hatred for society is pretty natural for them which treated the with incohesivesness.

Ironically, these terrorists altruistic misinterpret religion as the motivating force pursuing them to go for this mission. They argue that death in the suicidal mission with be a great service for religion and would be a great weapon to eliminate the enemies of religion. They are wrongly brainwashed that not only will their suicide mission will be a great service to the religion but also pave the way for heaven for him and his family after his death.

Surprisingly, there is anomic factor for the increase of suicide bombing. There was a great transition in Afghanistan after 9-11. The extremists were having a safe haven in Afghanistan before 9-11 and life for them was stable. But with the invasion of foreign forces in Afghanistan and then use of military in Pakistan brought a great change in their lives. They were enjoying their barbarian rule but without any external interference. But suddenly, they were at run as the attack from all sides had brought them to react with suicide bombings which was not only to annihilate themselves but also the people around them.

Ii is just an observation but your suggestions and comments may be helpful to look into the issue with a researcher lens.

Source: Blogspot for Cartoon