Complete information on the characteristics and classification of social systems

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In simple words, system is an orderly arrangement. For example in a human body ears, eyes, nose, legs, hands, lungs, heart, mind etc. have their own fixed places and are arranged in a particular manner. Each part has its own function to perform. On the basis of these functions they are inter-related with each other and interact upon one another. This organic structure is called organic system.

A social system is an orderly and systematic arrangement of social inter-actions; it is a network of interactive relationships. The constituent parts of social system are individuals. Each individual has a role to play. Each individual influences and influenced by the behavior of others. The behavior of individuals and groups in society is controlled by social institutions. The various groups do not act in an independent and isolated manner. They are the parts of independent whole. They act in accordance with social norms. In the basis of their interactions and inter-relationship, they create a pattern, which is called 'social-system'.

Characteristics of Social System

1. Social system is based on social interaction:

A number of individuals when act and interact, their interactions produce a system, which is called social system. Therefore, social system cannot be created by the action of one individual.

2. The interaction is meaningful:

Meaningless and aimless interactions do not produce social system. Social system is an organization of meaningful interactions.

3. The parts of social system are related on the basis of functional relationship:

Different parts of a system are united to each other on the basis of functional relationship. It is a fact that social system is an arrangement of interdependent and interactive parts.

4. Social system is a unity:

A social system implies order among the interacting units of the system. Social system is a state or condition where the various parts are arranged in an integrated manner.

5. Social system is related with cultural system:

Culture determines the nature and scope of inter-relations and interactions of the members of society. It also maintains a balance and harmonious relationship among different parts and reduces conflict among the various parts. Therefore, social-system is closely related with cultural system.

6. Social system related to time factor:

Social system is related to a particular age, a definite territory and a particular society. Social system is, not same in all ages. Social system changes with change, in times. It is dynamic not static. Change in social system does not mean that social equilibrium is lost. Inspite of social changes; social system continues to exists.

Classification of Social System

Morgan and other evolutionists have classified social systems on the basis of, evolution. According to them social system has passed through three-stages-

1. Savagery

2. Barbarian

3. Civilized

On the basis of means of livelihood they have also classified social system into four categories. They are -

1. Hunting social system

2. Pastoral social system

3. Agricultural social system

4. Industrial social system

Durkheim has described two kinds of social systems. They are:

1. Mechanical social system

2. Organic social system

Sorokin has classified the cultural system into three kinds. They are:

1. Sensate

2. Ideational

3. Idealistic

Pre-requisites of a social system

A social-system functions effectively if there is harmony in system. A tension ridden social system cannot function efficiently. Just an organism works as a healthy body if there is no disorder in its parts,- similarly a social system can function efficiently only if there is order among its parts. The essential pre-requisites of a healthy social system are-

1. Biological Pre-requisites:

(a) Adequate number of people -

There should be adequate number of people in a social system so that it may function efficiently. But over population is an evil. Therefore the number of people should neither too less nor too, more.

(b) A definite system of procreation-

A social system should ensure-a definite system of procreation to maintain its continuity.

2. Functional Pre-requisites:

(a) Obedience to social norms-

Every social system has some norms. Norms are the socially approved ways of behavior which members of society are required to observe. It these are violated social system cannot function efficiently.

(b) Social Control -

Social system has the mechanism of social control. Conformity to social norms is very much essential for every social system. Therefore, it is essential that requisite mechanisms be provided whereby the individuals may be compelled to observe the norms.

(c) Interest towards positive action -

The actors in social system should willingly accept the social system. They should not have resentment against it. Even they should have keen interest towards it.

3. Cultural Pre-requisites:

(a) Language -

Without language no social system can operate. Therefore, the members of a social system should possess a meaningful language to communicate and express themselves.

(b) Symbols -

A symbol is an object representing an invisible abstract and inaudible object. A symbol must not be arbitrary but must be natural. It must convey as well as illuminate the idea.

(c) System of Communication -

Every social system should have a system of communication. Interaction acts through communication. The means of communication may be language, symbol, script, gesture, telephone etc.


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