Basic Concepts in Sociology | Sociology Notes

Meaning of Society:

In common parlance, the word ‘society is usually used to designated the members of specific in group, persons rather than the social relationships of these groups. Thus, we speak of a Hindu Society. Sometimes, the word is used to designate institution when we speak of Arya Samaj (Society) or Brahmin Samaj. Thus, usually, it refers to tangibles rather than observations, to specific rather than norms. In sociology, the term ‘society’ refers not to a group of people but to the complete pattern of the norms of interaction that arise among them. People are valuable only as agencies of social relationship. They are “things”. A society is intangible; it is “a process rather than a thing,motion rather than structure.” The important aspects of society is the system of relationships, the pattern of norms of interaction by which the members of the society maintain themselves. Society exists only where social beings ‘behave’ toward one another in ways determined by their recognition of another. There is relationship between a typewriter and a desk, between the earth and the sun, between the fire and smoke, etc. Each of these is affected by the existence of the other but the relationship is not a social one. There is no intangible sense of awareness between typewriter and desk.

Some definitions of society are as follows:

  1. According to Giddings, “Society is the union itself, the organization, the sum of formal relationships in which associating individuals are bound together.
  2. According to Melver and page, “Society is a system of usages and procedures of authority and mutual aid of many grouping and division, of control of human behaviour and liberties. This ever changing complex system is called as society. It is the network of social relationships and it is always changing. (Book Society)
  3. According to Ginsberg, “ A society is a collection of individuals united by certain relations or modes of behaviour which mark them off from others who do not enter in these relations or who differ from them in behaviour.
  4. According to Professor Wright, “Society is not a group of people, it is the system of relationships that exists between the individuals of the group.

On the basis of these definitions, we may conclude that society is web of social relationships. Society consists of the mutual interactions and mutual interrelations of the individuals but it is also a structure formed by these relations. It is a pattern, a system and not the people.

Characteristics Features of Society:

  1. Society is Abstract: Society is not a group of people. It is the web of social relationships created in the process of interaction among the people. Therefore, society can be felt and realized but not seen. It is not tangible to see and touch. It is intangible and invisible. Thus, society is an abstract concept.
  2. Mutual Interaction and Awareness: Society is the web of social relationships. It refers to the reciprocal contact between two or more persons. An individual is a member of society so long as he/she engages in the relationship with other members of Social interaction is made possible because of mutual awareness. Society is a network of social relationships. All relations are not aware of each other. Thus a social relationship implies reciprocal awareness.
  3. Likeness and Difference in Society: Likeness therefore is an essential pre-requisite of society. According to Maclver, society means ‘likeness’. The sense of likeness was focused in early society on kinship, which is real or supposed blood relationship. In modern societies, the conditions of social likeness have broadened and in the principle of nationality or one world. Likeness refers to similarities. People have similarities with regards to their needs, works, aims, ideals, values, outlooks towards life and so But this sense of likeness does not exclude diverging a variation. Society also implies difference and it depends on the latter as much as on likeness of all people were exactly alike, their social relationships would become very much limited. They would contribute reciprocally, little give and take. In social life, there is indefinite interplay of likeness and difference of co- operation and conflict of agreement and dissent. People differ from one another in their ability, potentiality, attitude, etc. However, difference alone cannot create society. It subordinates to likeness.
  4. Interdependence: Social relationships are characterized by interdependence. For example, family, the most basic, social group, is based upon the interdependence of man and woman. One depends upon the other for the satisfaction of one’s needs. The area of interdependence upon one another also grows on. Today, not only individuals are interdependent upon one another but every community, social groups, societies, nations are also  interdependent.
  5. Co-operation and Sub-division of Labour: Co-operation is also essential to constitute society. Without co-operation society cannot exist. Unless people co-operate with each other, they cannot live a happy life. For want of co-operation, the entire fabric (walls) of society may Primarily, likeness and secondarily different create the division of labour. Division of labour involves the assignment to each unit or group or specific share of a common task. Division of labour is possible because of co-operation. Thus, co-operation and division of labour have made possible social solidarity or social cohesion.
  6. Society is Dynamic: Society is not static, it is dynamic. Change is ever present in society. Change ability is an inherent quality of human society nor society can ever remain constant for any length of time.

Society has its own rules and regulations, morals, norms are kept in such a way that we are bound to obey that, religious things, believe system, religion such that not eating beef, opening shoes while entering into the temples, etc.

Types of Society:

  1. Hunting and Gathering Society

People were basically nomadic.

  1. Tribal Society

Generally consists of leader, having own culture and distinct language, they are against the strangers.

  • Agrarian Society

This is the first economic society. Man started to do farming.

  1. Slash and burn – does not use tools only burn the plant for the  fertilizers.
  2. Use of tools only oneself of more the share to neighbour.
  3. Commercial farming
  4. Industrial Society

Modern society started from 18th century. England is the first country (1760-1830)

Characteristics of Industrial Society:

  • Emergence of modern family set-up
  • Economic institution
  • Division of labour
  • Social mobility (for upliftment)
  • Women rights
  • Human rights

2.3 Culture

The concept of culture is very complex because it is used in different meaning. ‘Sanskriti’ is the Sanskrit term for the English word, “culture”. Both Sanskrit and Sanskrit are derived from Sanskar, meaning ritual performance.

Culture is the important part of human life. People are acquired different types of culture by their ancestors. It is an internal object of human life by which human became matured. The meaning of culture is the act of refinements. In this way the meaning of refinement is the process  of adaptation of social characteristics. All these system of elements which contributes to make social being to individuals is culture.

In social anthropology, the word culture means ‘knowledge’ that is knowledge about those aspects of humanity which are not natural but which are related to that which is acquired. In other words, culture refers to those abilities, norms and forms of behaviour which are acquired by a person as a member of society.

Some of the definitions of culture are as follows:

  • According to E.B. Tylor, “Culture or Civilization taken in its wide ethnographic sense, is that complex whole which includes knowledge, belief, art, moral law, custom and any other capabilities and habits acquired by man as member of society.
  • According to Malinowski, Culture is the handwork of man and the medium through which he achieves his ends.
  • According to Maciver and page, “Culture is the expression of our nature in our modes of living and thinking in our everyday, inter-course in art, in literature, in religion, recreatin and in enjoyment.
  • According to Herskovits, “Culture is the man-made part of environment”

On the basis of these definitions, we may conclude that culture is the acquired characteristics and these acquired characteristics passed from one generation to another society and culture are closely related concepts. There can be no culture without a society and no society without culture. Acquired characteristics passed from one generation to next through the process of socialization. Thus, what is important in the definition of culture is that social inheritance or tradition should be included. Thus, Ralph Linton says that culture is social heredity. It refers to the entire complex of what man does and thinks as a member of society.

There are two types of culture:

  1. Material Culture
  2. Non-material Culture
  1. Material Culture: All man-made physical objects are considered as material culture. It is manufactured and modified by man. It includes technologies, instruments, consumer goods, etc. Example: banking system, currency system, TV computer,
  2. Non-material Culture: All man-made intangible cultural traits, such as technical skills, norms, knowledge, beliefs, language, attitudes, etc which are passed down from generation to generation is called non-material

Characteristics of Culture:

  1. Culture is learnt behaviour; it is not inherited biologically.
  2. Culture is transmissive by the means of reading, writing,speaking.
  3. Culture is social.
  4. Culture is dynamic and adaptive.
  5. Culture is ideal.
  6. Culture is continuous.
  7. Culture is symbolic.
  8. Culture is shared.
  9. Culture is man-made.
  10. Culture is gratifying.
  11. Culture is super individual and super organic.
  12. Every society possesses a distinctive culture.
  13. Language is main vehicle of culture.
  14. Culture is basic component of shaping personality.
  15. Culture is a way of life.

Culture (Evolution)

  1. Creationary Culture
  2. Evolutionary Culture
  3. Creationary Culture: It is religious, not scientific. It is based on belief. E.g. Evolution of earth by God.
  4. Evolutionary Culture: It is based on scientific facts.
  5. Elaborate society is a social control
  6. Definition of society
  7. Nature of society

Controls are necessary for the organization of society. Control upon an individuals’ behaviour is not meant to destroy his liberty but to promote and protect it.


Meaning of community

Whenever the members of any group, small or large, live together in such away that they share not this or that particular interest, but the basic conditions of a common life; we call that group a community. It is inevitable that people who ever any length of time resides in a particular locality should develop. Social likeness should have common social ideas, common traditions and the sense of belonging together. This fact of social living and common specific area gives birth to community.

Etymologically, the word ‘community’ is the combination of two latin words, ‘com’ and ‘munis’. Here, ‘com’ means ‘together’ and ‘munis’ means serving. Thus, the etymological meaning of community is serving together.

Community is a concentrated settlement of people in a limited territorial area with which they satisfy many of their daily needs through the system of interdependent relationships. A community is a self conscious social unit and a focus of a group identification.

Some definitions of community are as follows:

  1. A community is a social group with some degrees of ‘we felling’ and living in a given area. – Bogardus
  2. A community is an area of social living marked by some degree of social coherence. – R. M. Maciver.
  3. A community is a group or collection of groups that inhabits a locality. – Ogburn and Nimkoff
  4. A community is that collectivity the members of which share a common terristial area as their base of operation of daily activities. – Talcott Pearson

On the basis of above definitions, we may conclude that we find two approaches to the meaning of community. One is a really based conception of the community emphasizing its ecological aspect and others have adopted psychological emphsis in their thinking about the community. The community therefore is a circle of people groups who lived together and belong together having common center of interest and activities.

Elements of a community

  1. Group of people: Community is a group of people whenever the individuals live together in such a way that they share the basic conditions of a common life.
  2. Locality: The group of people forms a community when it begins to reside in a definite locality. A community always occupies a territorial area. Among the village people, there is unity because they reside in a definite locality. Due to definite locality, people have achieved help to develop social contact, they gives protection and security. It helps to promote and fulfill their interest.
  3. Community Sentiments: It refers to the feeling of belonging together. The members must be aware of their staying together and should share common interests. Locality alone is not enough to form a community without the sense of identification, a sense of belongingness and the sense of living and sharing common interests.
  4. Stability: A community is not transistor lie a crowd. It essentially includes a permanent life in a definite place.
  5. Naturality: Communities are not made or located by an act of will but are natural. An individual is born in a community.
  6. No Legal Status: A community is not a legal person. There are no assigned duties or rights enforced by the law.
  7. A Particular Name: Every community has some particular name. For example, Newar Community, Tharu Community, etc

The bases (elements) of community are locality and community sentiment.


  • It is a web of social relationship.
  • Society is abstract.
  • A definite   geographical    area    is    not essential.
  • Community sentimental or ‘we feeling’ may or may not be
  • Society involves both likeness and difference. Common as well as diverse interests are
  • The objective and interest of society is more intensive and
  • Society is a wide term. It can include more than one community.


  • Group of people living in a particular area with we feeling.
  • Community is concrete.
  • A definite geographical area is essential.
  • The community sentiment is very much essential.
  • It is based on likeness. There is common interest and objective among the members.
  • The object and interest is comparatively class intensive and varied.
  • Community is smaller than society.


Caste is known as any of the hereditary Hindus social classes. It is a corporate social unit which is generally defined by marriage and occupation.

Caste is delivered from Spanish world ‘casta’ which means seed or hereditary. Due to caste, Hindus are divided in different categories. It creates the sense of untouchability. The first user of this world ‘caste’ is Gracia de Orta.

Definitions of Caste:

  1. When a class is somewhat strictly hereditary, we may called it as caste. – H.Colley
  2. Caste is the freezing of social classes by means of endogamy and heredity ascribe status. – Hoebel.
  3. When a status is wholly predetermined so that men are born to their group without any hope of changing it, then the class takes the extreme form of caste. – Maciver and

Features of Caste (Characteristics):

  1. Hardly changeable, non-transferable.
  2. Defined birth
  3. Restriction on marriage, occupation, fooding, social relationship
  4. It helps in division of labour
  5. Segmental division of society
  6. Social hereditary

Merits and Demerits of Caste

Merits Demerits
a.       Occupational security
b.      Spirit of co-operation
c.       Identification
d.      Endogamy (social purity)
e.       Integration of the country
f.       Cultural division
a.        Inequality in society (discrimination)
b.        Untouchability
c.        No mobility in occupation
d.        Racial discrimination
e.        Lower position for castes and vice versa


Ethnic group is any group of people who set themselves apart from other groups with whom they interact or co-exist in terms of some distinctive criteria such as linguistic, race, culture, etc.

Basically, ethnic groups are considered to be lower than the caste group. To be ethnic group, there must be two causes. They must be able to differentiate their thinking from other group.

Ehinicity is basically a physiological. It is a concept of applying the dichotomy (wel they).

For e.g. Tharu can be called ethnic group if we separate them from other groups.


Meaning of Group:

Man is a social animal. He cannot live in isolation. He passes his daily life largely by participating in groups. Therefore, groups mean “Any collection of human beings who are brought into social relationships with one another,” Society consists of group, a social group exist between two or more people, are in direct or indirect contact and communication.

Some definitions of group are followings:

  1. “A social group is a system of social interaction.” – H.M. Johnson
  2. “Any collection of human beings who are brought into human relationship with one another.” – Maciver and Page
  3. “Whenever two or more individuals come together and influence one another living, they may be said to constitute a social group.” – Ogburn and Nimkiff

On the basis of above mentioned definitions, it may be concluded that the social group is a collection of individuals who stand in regular and relatively permanent relationship.

Characteristic of Group:

  1. Groups are
  2. Groups are the collection of
  3. Mutual awareness and
  4. ‘We’ feelings
  5. They develop same kind of common
  6. Develop similar
  7. Group norms (guided by all there we feeling, common interest)
  8. Group unity and solidarity
  9. Group is dynamic – undergoes change
  10. It may be stable or unstable i.e. some groups are permanent while others are relatively

Types of Group:

  1. Primary and Secondary Group (C.H. Cooley)
  2. In-Group and Out-Group (Summer’s)
  3. Organized and Unorganized Group
  4. Formal and Non-formal (informal)
  5. Voluntary and Involuntary (family) Group (Dwight Sanderson)

Primary and Secondary Group:

The term primary group was introduced by C.H.Cooley in his book – ‘Social organization’. Later on, sociologists like Davis, Ogburn, Macivers and other introduced the term secondary group.

The classification of groups into primary and secondary is made on the basis of nature of social interaction, social contact and degree of intimacy among the concern.

a.  Primary Group:

Primary group is a small group in which few persons come into contact with one another. The intimacy among the people is relatively high. (For example: family, kinship, neighbourhood, friends, pees group) It is the nucleus of all social organizations. It is a small group in which a small number of persons come into direct contact with one another and they meet “face to face” or mutual help, companionship and discussion of common question.

b.  Secondary Group

Secondary group is a social group of others than those of primary group. It is more larger and formal then the primary group. The intimacy among the member is relatively low. Example: corporation, political party, factory, etc.

The differences of primary and secondary group are as follows:

Primary Group Secondary Group
1. It is based on face to face relation, mutual aid, co-operation and companionship. E.g. family, pees group, kinship
2.  Social relationship of the primary group is direct, face to face, personal, non- specialized and non-economic.
3.  On the basis of size: primary group is comparatively smaller.
4.  On the basis of locality: primary group is localized and restricted to a small area.
5.  On the basis of communication: The means of communication within a primary group is oral, direct, and quick or they stayed together in a small area.
6.  Group interest: Group interest in primary group is non-specific.
7.  Co-operation: Co-operation in primary group is direct and natural as they stay together with the band of personnel sentiments.
8.  Group structure: Group structure of primary group is informal, not particular about their rights, status and prestige.
9.  Rights and Duties: In primary group, there are no rights and duties.
10.  Durability: Primary group is relatively durable and permanent.
1.        It is based on formal and indirect relationship. E.g. corporation, factory, army, etc.
2.        Social relationship of secondary group is indirect, non-intimate, specialized and economic, impersonal.
3.        Secondary group is bigger than primary group.
4.        It is not restricted to small area or wide or a vast area.
5.        The communication within the secondary group is indirect and formal.
6.        Group interest in secondary group is specific interest.
7.        Co-operation in secondary group is indirect and intended to serve a particular (thing) need.  
8.        Group structure is formal, particular and regulated by rights, duties and rule.  
9.        In secondary group, there are rights and duties.
10.     Secondary group is relatively undurable and may be temporary or permanent.

Roles and Status Roles:

The human society is the network of social relationship of its members and their activities. The various needs of the members of the society can be fulfilled by when they worked together, co- ordination, their talents, abilities and strength and weaken.

Each individual perform different function in the society. Some are doctors, some are teacher and engineers, and so on. A society can function well if all the individuals do the jobs assigned to them in a proper way. Members of the society occupied different places and different responsibilities.

An individual cannot do al the jobs, nor are all the jobs assigned to a single person. Hence the task performed by an individual makes up the role is expected to play in the society. Since a role is a set of expectation, it therefore, implies that one role cannot be defined without referring to another.

There cannot be a parent without a child. In this sense, roles are a series of rights and duties. That is, they represent reciprocal relations among individuals.


  1. “A role is a function of a status” – Young and Mark
  2. “A role is what an individual does in the status he occupies” – Robert Bierstedt
  3. “Role is a pattern of behaviour expected of an individual in a certain group or situation| – Lunderg
  4. “Role is the expected behaviour associated with a social status” – Dunean Mitchell

On the basis of above definition, we many conclude that role is the functional aspect of status which is a pattern of behaviour expected of an individual in a certain group. Status defines the role. Role is the functional part and status is the position.

Characteristics of Role:

  1. Every individual is bound to play certain
  2. Role playing is obligation for each
  3. Some roles are shared by many people. E.g. teacher, voters,
  4. Some roles are in acted or played by very few
  5. Voluntary role (some rules that we choose to play) some roles are voluntary; eg. Brother in law of family, some roles are involuntary that is not


This term was first introduced by Dalph Linton (1936)


Society is understood in term of network of social interaction and interconnection. In any interaction every body cannot be expected to respond in a similar manner. Every body has its own identity even before entering any social situation.

The identity of an individual in the society refers to his/her status.

Status is a term used to designate the comparative amounts of prestige, difference, respect accorded to persons who have been assigned different roles in a grouper community. The status of a person is high if the role is considered important by the group. If the role is regarded less high, its performer may be accorded lower status. Thus the status of a person is based on social evaluations.


  1. “Status is a position is in a society or group afforded by group affiliation group membership or group organization.” – Robert Bierstedt
  2. “Status is a place in a particular system that a certain individual occupies at a particular time” – Ralph Linton
  3. “Status is a position occupied by a person, family or kinship group in a social system related to other, it determines rights , duties and other behaviours.” – Duncan Mitchell

Types of Status

  1. Ascribed Status: When we gain something by birth that is called ascribed status of caste, religion, son, daughter of family,
  2. Achieved Status: Something that are worked out to achieve, that is achieved status. For example educational status, professional status
  3. Assumed Status
  4. Generic Status
  5. Specific Status: parent + son

Nature of the Status

  1. Social status is determined by socio-culture system.
  2. Each individual perform role of some status in different way.
  3. There are some external symbols to identify the symbols.
  4. Every status has its own rights, duties and obligations.
  5. Status are basis of social satisfaction.
  6. Status are governed by norm. However, some norms are common to all while some are specific and varies with person and situation.
  7. An individual may have several statuses.
  8. Status differs with the degree of importance. It also differs according to time and  space.

Some statuses are more important than others in deciding the position in society.

  1. Status exercise on influence upon choosing the career of an individual.

Inter-relationship between status and role

  1. Status is a position in a society while role is its functional
  2. Status is a sociological concept, phenomena and role is a concept of social psychological concept.

Status is given by society. It is fixed thing; Even though we have some status but each individual play different role. They are not stable. Talents, creativity, ability all are psychological aspects depend upon role.

  • Role is a relation

E.g. Doctor is playing role against the patient. So it is a relational term.

An individual plays a role in relation to another person’s role which is attached to a counter position.

e.g. teacher and student , lawyer and client

  • Both status and role are dynamic and ever changing; when status changes, it changes a role of a person.
  • Though status and roles are co-relative phenomena, sometimes it is possible to have one without another.

Norms and Values:


The word was first introduced by M.Sherif in his book – The psychology of social norm –1936.Norms come from Latin word – normal – to give definite shape to any object by the carpenters.A norm is the standard of behaviour and pattern setting limits individuals behaviour. It is a group shared expectation. It determines guidelines and control human behaviour. It is a group shared standard of behaviour which maintains social order through regulation of human behaviour.Norms are based on social values which are justified by moral standards.


“A norm is an abstract pattern held in the mind that sets contain limits for behaviour.” – H.M.Johnson

“Norm refers to the group shared expectation.” – Young and Mack

“Norms are rules developed by a group of people that specify how people must, should, may. Should not, must not behave in various situation. – Lelie Larson and Garman.

On the basis of above mentioned definitions, we may conclude that social norm is a rule or standard of behaviour and created by regularities of behaviour and accepted by society.

Types of norms

  1. Personal norms
  2. Social norms

Characteristic of Norms:

  1. Social norms are universal. It is found in all society.
  2. Norms are related to factual order.
  3. Norms are relatives to situation and groups.
  4. Norms are normally internalized by the people.
  5. Norms varies with different societies.
  6. Guideline for society
  7. No uniformity in norm
  8. Social control
  9. Formal and Informal

Some social norms are formal or written; the violator of this kind of norms will be legally punished, e.g. constitution and different laws of state. Some norms are informal and unwritten. It is a kind of traditional. The violation of the norms will be legally punished, e.g. drinking liquor (alcoholic drink) by Brahmins.


  1. A normless society is impossible.
  2. Norms assist survival.
  3. Norms guide behavior of an individual.
  4. Norms permit efficient
  5. Norms help to maintain the social order.
  6. Norms give cohesion to the society.
  7. Norms help self control.

Condition of Norm Formation

  1. Geographical structure and condition of the country.

  2. Essential needs or basic requirements.
  3. Incarnation of Great man.
  4. Control of emotion or instinct.
  5. Confusing or misleading situation

Types of Norms (According to Kingslay Davis)

 A. Folkways : Folkways is associated with the name of Willim Graham Summer  (1840- 1910). He was teacher of yale. In first he involve to teach political economy but later he changed his interest to

Folkways are like products of natural forces which men unconsciously set in operation. They are recognized ways of behaviour.

B. moves: When folkways become compulsion, then it is called mores. People are enforced to follow the folkways by Hookeor Crooke

C. Custom: In one word procedure.

D .Religion

E. Law: Law restricts our activities. All the norms are enforced by


In society, our concern is with social value. Social values are cultural standards that indicate the general deemed desirable for organized social life. These are assumptions of what is right and important for society. They provide the ultimate meaning and legitimacy for social arrangement and social behaviour.

The term ‘value’ represents constituent parts of social structure. Social values form an important part of culture as well. The values account for the stability of the social order. For example, in trait sacrifice, service, kindness in government form, freedom, dignity of labour, customs, social equality, democracy, freedom, etc.


“Values are group conception of the relative desirability of the things.” – Leslie, Larson, German

“A value is a belief that something is good and worth while. It defines what is worth having and worth striving for.” – Michael Haralamber

“Values provide the general guidelines for the behaviour of the people.” – C.N. Shakar Ram

Values represent wide range of ideas about the ends that men should pursue in their life. The values of a society provide goal or ends for its member to aim for.


  1. Social values are collective.
  2. Social values are Universal.
  3. Values are social in nature.
  4. Social values are different at different times and different societies.
  5. Values are learnt.
  6. Values gratify (to fulfil) human beings.
  7. Values may conflict with each other.
  8. Social values are abstract.
  9. Social values are accepted by most people .
  10. There is agreement about social values in the group concerned with community welfare and social needs.

Read about: SOC 201: Sociology for Business


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