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The meaning of social order in sociology

The term social order refers to the way in which the various components of society relate to each other and work together to maintain harmony. This can include both institutions and social relationships and interactions as well as cultural norms, values ​​and beliefs.

What is the social order?

We often refer to “social order” to talk about the stability that exists in a society in which there is no chaos or social unrest. However, throughout history there have been different meanings for this term. It is a term in constant evolution and its definition has been changing even in recent years.

Historical definitions of social order

Throughout history, the study of the social order and its characteristics have been approached in different ways. Some of the most important theories that are considered as the foundations of modern sociology were:

  • Karl Marx’s Theory – This renowned German philosopher took a position on the social order that focused on the transition from pre-capitalist to capitalist economies and its effects on society. Marx believed that social institutions and the state were responsible for maintaining social order. From his observations, Marx concluded that capitalist industry in Europe was a hierarchical society in which a small privileged minority held power over the majority. Within the Marxist vision, social institutions are presented as diffusers of the values ​​and beliefs of the ruling class to maintain a social order that benefits them. From this thought arises the theory of conflict in sociology, which sees the social order as a precarious state made up of continuous conflicts.
  • Emile Durkheim’s theory:It posits that society is the sum of interconnected and interdependent parts that work and evolve together. It is through these interactions that the rules and norms that allow the proper functioning of society are maintained. This French sociologist also observed that social institutions such as the State and the media play essential roles in the formation of collective consciousness in traditional and modern societies. Durkheim described social order as the consequence of the shared beliefs, values, norms, and practices of a group of people. In his theory, the social order is born from the interactions of daily life, in rituals and important events. Durkheim came to this conclusion based on the study of the role of religion in primitive societies.

The social order according to modern sociology

Although the theories of Durkheim and Marx are considered as the basis of several sociological concepts, current sociologists propose other more detailed and precise approaches.

In modern sociology, the social order refers to the organization and interrelationship of many parts of society; Likewise, it occurs when individuals accept a real or hypothetical agreement that regulates their rights and duties. Individuals agree to abide by certain rules and laws in order to maintain certain standards in their quality of life.

The social order is present in every society or social microcosm, be it a nation, a geographic region, a community, a formal or an informal group. Likewise, within each order structure there is a hierarchy. Some individuals will have more power and influence than others and these leaders are often in charge of ensuring that agreed regulations are followed and order is preserved.

The social order is a characteristic of any society and provides a sense of belonging and connection between the members of said society; at the same time, it is responsible for producing and maintaining the schemes of oppression through its hierarchies.

Any behavior or belief that is not within the agreement is considered contrary to the social order and will usually be restricted at some level through laws, regulations or taboos.

Characteristics of the social order

The social order presents different characteristics. Some of them are:

  • The social contract: in 1762, the French philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau published The social contract: or the principles of political law , a work that would define one of the essential concepts of sociology. The social contract refers to the real or hypothetical agreement made by the members of a group to maintain order. An example of this is the contract between the State and the citizens. It starts from the idea that the members of society agree and agree to submit to a series of laws in order to live with each other. These laws grant them certain rights in exchange for giving up the full freedom they would have in their natural state.
  • Principle of extensiveness: this suggests that the more norms or rules a society has and the more important they are, the greater the union of its members.
  • Collective conscience Durkheim called the set of beliefs, values ​​and knowledge shared by a society. The collective conscience favors the union and solidarity between people to fulfill different roles and functions within society.
  • Socialization : it is the process that a person carries out during his life and it is where he learns and incorporates the socio-cultural elements of his environment. In this way he develops his personality and his values, also adapting to the society in which he lives. The primary socialization agents are:
    • The family is the most important agent of socialization, since it is there where the interactions that create and incorporate habits, values ​​and social norms take place. It has an essential role in the transmission of social rules and the behavior of each individual.
    • The school is responsible for maintaining the social order and structure of society and reducing inequality.
    • Religion greatly influences human behavior and customs. In addition, it promotes social cohesion, controls actions and values, provides purpose, provides emotional stability, and influences identity development.
  • Institutions : they form the structure of social activity, defining values ​​and norms, carrying out control over the actions of individuals and participating in collective communication.
  • Cultural elements : this includes daily tasks, the division of labor, statuses, roles, social relationships, hierarchies, among others.

Other characteristics of the social order

In addition to the characteristics mentioned above, the social order can also be:

  • Spontaneous : in this case, the authorities or institutions are not the ones that impose order. It is the individuals who organize themselves with the objective of autonomously seeking their own well-being or interest.
  • Social honor : the approval, admiration or respect towards a person or group can contribute to the social order. An example of this are the rich, the mafias and the castes.