Social Institutions

The institution makes the system. Social institutions constitute kinship, marriage and family that make the society. The concept of institution is different than other kinds of institutions. It is neither building nor a group of people “an institution is a system of norms to achieve some goal or activity that people feel important or more formally, an organized cluster of folkways and mores centered around major human activity” (Horton and Hunt 2014:210). The institution has certain members, thus they have followed the standard rules and regulations that conform to their actions. Functionalist theorists argued that social institutions fulfill human needs and expectations. Institutions are essential for the existence and maintenance of the social system. It has many followers which is not an association of people, for instance, Church is an association of people where religious works are performed. These religious institutions are run under the specific norms and values of society. In the social institutions, there would be direct and indirect actions within the people and structured pattern of behavior and relationship between the people. Social institutions are defined as behavior of system and regulations that regulate the life and the activity of the individuals (Prodancive 2012:240). Social institution contains the organized social relationship which runs under the certain procedures to solve everyday problems. The standardized behavior and norms has been established through the long period of their socio-cultural practices. Ioan Mihailescu argued that it has objective, functions, means, symbols, code of conduct, values, norm system that are specific. In the institutions, there would be clear goal and objectives, specific actions and procedures. Mircea Agabrin (2003:227) stated that “the social institution represents a stable and persistent bunch of values, statuses, roles, groups and organizations that work together to meet society’s basic demands in a particular area of social life. The social institution includes the economy, education, family, politics and religion. In fact, social institution is a set of beliefs, norms, practices and rules which normally fulfill the people’s needs and demands which has been socially approved. In the social institution there is common interest among the group of people, it often work to preserve and maintenance of the social system. The practices of social institutions are changing overtime. Social institutions are varying as per time, context, place and culture, however social institutions are universal.

Major Characteristics of social Institutions

  • Social institution posses the common behavior within its members.
  • Social institutions build the standard common behavior of its members and also play the important roles for the socialization process.
  • Social institutions fulfill the everyday demand and necessity and provide the space for survive.
  •  Social institutions play the important role for the transformation of knowledge from one generation to next.
  • The function of Social institutions often runs under the specific laws, morality, norms and values.
  • In Social institutions, there has been interdependent relationship within the members of the society.
  • Social institutions have group characters, collectivism and broader interaction among the members.
  • Social institutions have distinct features including their socio-cultural features that can be recur, recycled and repeated.
  • Social institutions constraints and facilitates the actions and behavior in their everyday life.
  • Social institutions are connected with roles and status.
  • Social institutions are unified, structured and value-laden.
  • Social institutions play prominent role for the protection of cultural values and its transformation.
  • Social institutions are varying culture to culture, time to time and place to place in terms of practice, scope, organization, functions and purpose.

Functions of Social Institutions 

  • Social institutions fulfill the sexual need or regulation of sex where marriage establishes the sexual relationship between male and female.
  • Social institutions contribute for the production and rearing the children i.e. give the birth of child and look after them.
  • Social institutions socialize the members. It often regulates the system in accordance with norms and values of the society where each member of the society compels to adapt it. It play the roles as prominent agents of the society-provides trainings and knowledge.
  • Social institutions aim to maintain the social solidarity.
  • Social institutions deal with economic cooperation, property relation and ownership.
  • Social institutions control the human behavior through the different rules, regulations, laws, and provisions.
  • Social institutions continued the religious and spiritual activities.

Beside these social institutions satisfy the basic needs, establish the permanent behavior, preserve the social values and assign the specific roles of the family members. Social institution primarily explained two types of functions (i) Primary function and (ii) Secondary function. Primary functions are explicit, manifest and direct whereas secondary functions are indirect, hidden and latent; however both of these functions fulfill the need and expectation of human beings.


Family is an important social institution which serves the human needs in their everyday life. Family is a basic social institution, thus other social institutions are influenced by family. Since birth to death family play significant contribution to meet the demand of people. It’s a universal institution which has been closely ties with clan, kinship, and marriage. In primitive society everything depends on family mainly their economy and polity. Family contributes in the field of child rearing, socialization and transmitted of culture from one generation to next. In primitive societies family and institutional structure are simple; however in modern societies culture grows towards more complex and their needs are elaborated. In the primitive society families were usually consists of several generations live together, share the physical and emotional attachments and dwelling under the roof of the same building. In modern society family structure is nuclear. Father, mother and children are living under one house. Nuclear families are self-centered and independent. Nuclear families are normally seen in the urban setting. In family there is relation of blood, adaptation of marriage and kinship. Family plays the prominent role for the reproduction and recreation of society. Primitive society control by family authority because societies were run without formal laws, police and court. In modern societies has cultural complexity, formal political organizations are formed, complex bureaucratic system, standard legal procedures, societies became more complicated and family authority changed.     

Structure of family

According to Paul B. Horton and Chester L. Hunt (2014) family may be (i) a group with common ancestors; (ii) Kinship group united by blood or marriage (iii) a married couple with or without children (iv)an unmarried couple with children (v) one person with children.

In the family there is common residence, economic cooperation, blood relation, reproduction and rearing of children and socialization, kinship relation and other types of domestic activities.

Composition of Family

The composition of family normally consists by husband, wife, children and other kinds of blood relatives. It consists through the marital and conjugal relationship-which often referred as “Nuclear Family”. In the “consanguine family” have blood relation which depends on conjugal relationship between male and female. Consanguine family extended the blood relationship. We also talk about “extended family” that includes nuclear family plus other kin members. The entire family members were come together for the ceremonial purposes. In family we should understand “patrilocal marriage” where married spouse live in the husbands family; likewise “matrilocal marriage” where married spouse live in the “wife’s house; however if they live neither husband family nor in the wife’s family rather they chose new houses which is known as “neo-local marriage”. In consanguine family-married couples are in the core. In the consanguine family has a group of brothers and sisters surrounded by fringe of husbands and wives. In consanguine family married couple has close connection with parental family. They have attachment where they were born not the family into which one has married in such family women depends upon own brother rather than husbands. The children have joint responsibilities to handle the entire work. Family protects the children in the misfortune condition.  


Marriage is a one of the prominent Social institution- it can be defined as “the union of man and women are recognized as legitimate by parents” (RAI, Notes and Queries on Anthropology 1951). The marriage alliance is a core components of kinship-it’s a form of exchange between male and female which is influence by incest taboo. Gough (1959) focuses on legitimating, stating that marriage is a universal social institution which establishes the legitimacy of children.  Incest taboo is rule which avoid the sex and marriage with close relatives and promote clan exogamy or choose marriage partner outside their community; however in endogamy marriage practice marriage occur with prescribed group or local. In the modern marriage practice we can find that spouse are very strict to get marriage very close or distant kin or affine; however they are less rigid regarding class and caste. Marriage ensures the legitimacy of sexuality upon the women. The rule of exogamy facilitates or produce the wife exchange and reciprocity such exchange occur between wife-giver and wife-receiver. The marriage alliance is not simply process of wife-giver and wife-receiver; however it has been largely associates with psychological, social and material significance. It ensures the new status, new privileges, new reorganization, and new roles and responsibilities. One choose mate outside the some specified rules. In the marriage we need to understand bride-wealth and bridge-price. In bridge-wealth property transfer groom’s house to wife’s house, likewise bridge-service in which groom’s labor is given to wife’s side. There are two types of family in terms of number i.e. polygamy and polyandry marriage. In polygamy marriage practice one should marry more than one wife at the sometime, likewise in polyandry marriage practice one wife have more than one husband such marriage practice could be seen in Dolpo Lama of Karnali region. The term endogamy and exogamy are quite popular in marriage practice. If one chooses their mate outside their group is known as endogamy. There is marriage prohibition with blood relatives; one may not marry a brother, a sister and cousin. Most societies also requires that mates be chosen within specified group that is known as  exogamy there might be clan and village tribal endogamy. In monogamy marriage practice in which one man get marry to one husband. Some societies we can also observe one group of people get marriage with another group of women.  There are two other marriage levirate and sororate marriage. In the levirate marriage-a brother has right to marry his widowed sister-in-law, similarly sororate marriage widower had right to marry his deceased wife’s sister. In cross cousin marriage occur between father’s sister’s children with mother’s brother children such practice would be observed in Magar community in Nepal.


The political activities can be observed everywhere school, church, political parties, union, business form, and clubs. Politics is necessary to govern the social system. According to Robert A. Dahl “politics is one of the unavoidable facts of human existence. The simple societies have not complex political systems. Their societies run under the “tribal leaders”, “family head”, “village leader” and “religious leader”. Their societies ever run under the formal and informal rules, regulations and religious ideologies. The growth of political authority apparently parallels the growth of cultural complexity-from family head to tribal council to chief (Horton and Hunt 2014:316). In modern societies we normally observed the civil law instead of modern laws. The modern system of laws arose along with civilization of Nile, Ganga and Bramputra rivers. The political institutions rightly interpret about rights and responsibilities under the various systems of the government. Political system provides the security and mechanism of governance in the societies, for instance, in feudalism and capitalism state provides the security to protect their property and other material assets-and largely polity organizing the life and work of the people. Government has certain mechanism that control or co-ordinate the people. The growth of production in modern society depends on the political system. Political institutions play the role for organization and coordination of the masses. Political institutions make the mechanism for the state. Modern political institution makes the different policies to arrange the national and international business and trade such as monetary policies, trade, bank, taxes, import and export and property ownership.

There are three types of political economic systems

  1. Mixed economy: The modern economic system are not completely capitalistic and these societies are “mixed societies”-where private property, private enterprise, profit system combined with government mechanism. Both in capitalist society like US and socialistic society like Sweden economy control and arranged by the state policies. In mixed economy, government operates some enterprises and makes policies of trade and business and provides the space for the large number of the people for their services such as housing, education and medical care. In mixed economy we could see individual initiative.
  2. Communist Economy: In communist economic system one party control the whole economy of the state. The entire economic policies are designed by central states that include the prices, wages, production and so on. Agricultural activities organized in collective farm. In communist economy individual responsibility found less that causes low production. USSR was one of the world major food exporters before the revolution; however its agricultural economy became decline after the revolution. Yet, most of the communist countries in Europe-partially adopted the communist model. To expect more benefit so that industrialists make their own business decisions such as Yugoslavia. Communist countries adopted capitalistic model, ‘communism typically gain the support in poor countries with an archaic social system, great inequality and a tiny upper class which cling to privileges but often does little to advance economic growth or to reduce the poverty.  The authoritarian government suppresses the democratic movement and their leaders were severely suppressed send to exile or prison. Most of the modern independent countries reject the route of communism for the rapid economic growth such as Singapore, South Korea and Taiwan. The communism government runs under the centralized government mechanism where individual choices are limited. The inequalities emerge through the unequal wages, for instance, professional worker earn several times more than normal workers.
  • Fascist economy: In fascist economy there is a one party dictatorship organized by charismatic leader (Horton and Hunt 2014). The voice of the people unheard in the government. Hitler’s government in German and Mussolini’s government in Italy are the examples of fascist government. In fascist government private ownership of business is accept with limited freedom. Sate may run under the military. The welfare benefit are provided by state as well as high stage of development, private agencies supported to the government, labor union work to impose the state policies upon the government and churches are forced to support the regime. There is limit of individual freedom, state run its functions under the state authority. All the planning and policies made by the central state.

Economic Institutions

Economic institutions are quite important which could not avoid from our day-to-day life. Economic    institutions mainly discusses on division of labor, money and wages. It simply works for the production, distributions and consumptions where we can be seen wider relationship between different groups of the people. Economic institutions might be both traditional (i.e. Guthi, Parma, Dhikuri and Bheja) and modern (Bank, co-operative and finance company). In economic institutions we could not simply look at transitions of goods but also look at labor organizations or arrangement, income, wages, and occupation. Economic institutions also explain about the property ownership, inheritance and transitions. Society mainly produces good and service to meet the everyday demand of the people. Society plays the prominent role for production of goods, exchange (i.e. barter) and consumption. Economic institutions are primarily concern with occupation which has been allocated as per specialization. It indicates the professional work, craft and trade. It directly concern with livelihood of the people. Economic institutions in sociology primarily explain about social interaction within the different groups of the people. Modern economic institutions could be studied under the two economic systems (i) capitalism (ii) socialism. In the capitalism we look at means and production are privately owned-investor are encouraged to seek the profit and free market economy is pre-dominant such as economy of USA and UK are the examples of capitalistic economy. In socialistic society resources and means of production owned by the society, no right to private property, sate maintain the whole economic system such economy of China and North Korea.   

Religious Institutions

Religious Institutions are widely depends on shared views and practices. In the religious institutions there are organized groups of people. They are organized under the churches, temples, Gumbas and Mosque for the purpose of preaching and worship. Religious institutions unite the people who have common faith and religious belief.  It is “a system of beliefs and practices by which a group of people interprets and responds to what they feel is supernatural and scared” (Jhonstone 1975:20). Religious institutions run under the supernatural belief, magic and faith. It has been guided by spirits and divine power of god. Sociological analysis looks at social interpretation and relationship within the different members of the society. Religion helps to cope the people for the purposefulness and meaningful activities along with social values and norms. Some religious institutions are largely influenced by the social, political and economic activities both in western and non-western world. The existing belief like “scared” and “profane”, “pure” and “impure” all are guided by supernatural power. Religious institutions play the significant role to unite the people; build the sense of solidarity, and consciousness. Most of the rituals like birth, marriage, death, feast, festivals, harvesting and plantation concern with religion that integrates the people. Religious institutions carried out its activities through the certain cultural ethos and dominant values. It is a system of belief and practice which are standardized, formalized, and viewed by virtually all the society’s members as necessary and important (Horton and Hunt 2014). The main functions of religion or religious doctrine are teaching, social welfare, free from the economic burden, philanthropic work, exhortation, marriage, mate selection, and leadership building. Religious institutions has close connection with family and government institutions therefore, it’s influence could be seen in everyday activities of the people.

Conflict and Functional Approach to Religion

Conflict approach to religion: Within the religion we can see abundant examples of conflict. Conflict often divided the people in warring camps i.e. Catholics and Protestant in northern America, Shiya and Sunni in Muslim world, Christian and Muslim in Lebanon, Hindu and Muslim in India, Bangladesh and few places in Nepal. The warfare is not simply concern with religious doctrine but it is concern with power between two groups of people. There are many instances in which we could see differences in terms of belief, and rituals that lead the society towards the conflict. In Nepal we have been observing intra and inter-religious conflict-where religious actors played significant role to create tussles. In Nepal we have been observing conflict within different religious groups such as Muslim and Hindu in Nepaljung and Hindu and Christian in other areas. Since the movement of 2006 we have been observing the religious conflict in Nepal in the name of “secularism”,  and “conversion”. The religious biasness, preferential treatment to one religion group potentially leads towards the conflict, violence and increase the extremists. Since last few years “religious conversion became one of the main debatable issue, some political parties and their leaders raise serious question against the forceful conversion. It became one of the chronic problem for the peace building process in Nepal. The ideal religious harmony has been severely criticized because it forced every minority groups such as dalit, advasi, and ethnic groups to accept the value of Hindu’s. Political elite that foster annoying and dissatisfaction within the people and creates the rival relationship.      

Functional approach to religion: The basic assumption of the functionalist is “religion is universally found because it has a vital function in maintaining the social system as a whole”. According to Evan-Pritchard religion is valuable, in that it makes for social solidarity. Durkheim argued that religious belief ties and bind the people through the common belief. People follow the common belief, traditions, customs, rites, rituals and ceremonies. In Nepal different group of people unite together for preaching at temples, Gumba, churches and Mosque. They are taking part all these activities as a member of society. We have seen common belief and practices where individual devotion, engagement and contribution could be observed as a member of the society that creates the social solidarity. Nepalese participate in different rituals, ceremonies, rites, festivals where they have common belief and equally play the role to operate the society. Their shared belief arises from the society. The unity and solidarity increased by rituals, ceremonies and festivals. Religious institutions also launched different kinds welfare base programs within the different group of people that satisfying their needs and expectation.     

Educational Institutions

In sociological explanation we look at the social relationship within the members of educational institutions. The educational institutions could be observed both in primitive and modern societies. In the primitive societies people learn through watching, seeing, and other informal socialization processes. In the Indian continent people learn hunting and gathering activities from their seniors; like father is responsible to teach his son and mother is responsible to teach her daughter. Male went to Ashrams, and Gumbas to learn the morality, self-discipline and so on. Student should strictly follow the instructions of their instructors, they should left home for some period of time; however in the modern time people learn everything in the school, colleges and universities. They spend certain period of time to be full man. The culture of education became more complex overtime. Modern educational institutions provide specialists who instruct or provide knowledge and skills to his disciples. Educational institutions have important role for professional work that support to hunt job in their everyday life. Sociologist says, “Each person is a part of social system. The school does not consist only administrators, teachers and students whose individual traits are simply added together” (Horton and Hunt 2014:298). Educational institutions established series of social relationship and interactions where they would learn the personal traits of individual through the different means and methods. The school interaction viewed from at least three perspectives (i) a relation between insider and outsider (ii) the relation between different kinds of insiders (iii)The relation between insiders in the same position (Horton and Hunt 2014:298). Within the educational institutions we have been observing different types of co-operation and coordination within the different members. School provides the status as per their qualification, position and system of meritocracy. Educational institutions not only provide the practical matter to hut the job for the day-to-day existence but also enrich the horizon of our knowledge. Educational institutions play important role for the knowledge production, exchange and distribution. Education contributes for the transmission of knowledge from one generation to next generation that expands the intellectual and aesthetic horizon. The offered courses of the education ensure the varieties of knowledge concern with art, artifacts, culture, and health. Educational institutions integrate the different members of the society and build their moral characters.            

Conflict and Functional Approach to Education

Functional approach to education: educational institution is important for the socialization where they learn various types of socio-cultural behavior in their everyday life. In the modern time Nepali children spent their time to school since their early age where they learn different knowledge, behavior, attitude and professional works. As we see there are different members within the educational institutions, they have been playing their own roles and responsibilities such as teaching, learning, administrative evaluation and monitoring by different member as per their expertise or experiences. The manifest role of education is: conveying basic knowledge and skills to next generation. Its latent role is transforming the knowledge through the socialization processes and transforming the core values. It has been providing moral education to the people. Nepali school teaches to the student’s moral lesson, liberty and discipline. In Nepal school play important role for the networking of individuals which might be professional and cultural. Another important functional role of education is preserving the national identities as well as passes the knowledge one group to next. It also play vital role for the ordering of the society.

Conflict approach to education: In conflict approach we need to see the “class” and “status”.  We can see different classes of the people in the school in terms of their “status”, “position” and “occupation”. In the Nepali education system, we could observe that school is divided into class and ethic lines. School trains the working classes to accept their lower class. Their role is determined through the “curriculum”-there have been “inequality” within the working classes in terms of “time”, “wages” and “authority”. There is also inequality or disparity even within the students, the students who perform good job at school would be high privileges and more affluent and gain substantial advantage and the student who is unable to show the good performance at school he/she would be deprived from the all kinds of economic opportunities. In Nepali educational institutions who have been observe sufficient biasness within the “learning” and “teaching classes” in terms of class, caste, ethnicity and gender such biasness would be observed since the ancient period of time for instance, Aklava was mistreat by his “Guru”-Dornacharya because he belongs to low caste. These days, economically prosperous class send their children in luxurious schools, which provides the high quality teachers and other other kinds of learning facilities whereas economically less affluent class people send their children in public school where majority of teacher ignore their profession either engage in politics or corruption rather to teach students at school.     

Relation of social institution with management and Business issues

Social institution normally affects the human behavior. It plays the important role to socialize them through the informal rules and regulations. The behavior of people is directly concern with their socio- cultural practices that largely influenced by rules and regulations of social institutions. The social institution informally provides the frame to solve the problems embedded with business and organization. The informal rules and regulations within the social institutions help to give the effective and efficient decisions in the appropriate time. Within the social institutions there are several traditional and indigenous resource management systems—which has relation with local people and their knowledge. The implication such knowledge helps to make business environment. Social institution supports to understand the local realities of the particular society and their ethnic composition that provides some ideas to enhance the business successfully. Human activities are always influenced by traditional norms and values which effect the everyday actions within the organizations and business companies. There are several socio-cultural practices which have association with production, transitions and consumptions-such economic activities have been running under the rules of social institutions. The traditional division of labor also influences the actions of employee who are running modern business and working in the financial institution. The implication of the societal norms and values in the modern institutions minimize the conflict and dispute beside the other problems that they have been facing in their day-to-day life. Rules of social institutions are operating the organization systematically i.e. religious institutions categorized social phenomena as sacred and profane, pure and impure that helps to understand their faith and beliefs. Such faith helps to understand the human behavior largely. Without the knowledge of governing mechanism of social institution we cannot understand the intension, nature, need, expectation and problems of human being, thus we need to understand all these issues to run our business systematically. Institutional rules creates consciousness, solidarity, and collectivism within the people that run our everyday activities in decent order. The institutional rules and regulations are also helpful to understand the socio-psychological behavior. The more you familiar with institutional rules and regulations the more you get benefit and operate your business scientifically and settle down your organizational problems. Social institutions like family, marriage and kinship depend on network relationship, thus it will be very useful to run business successfully. To be more professional everyone must have knowledge about the societal structure and institutional values. Social institutions also socialize the people which cultivate their behavior, thus your business need to run according to behavior of consumer rather than your choice and expectations.      

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