What, according to Radcliffe Brown, is the importance of social Institutions in socialstructure?


Importance of social institution

Brown has defined institution as, “…an established or socially recognised system of norms or patterns of conduct referring to some aspect of social life.” An example of institution is the family which sets the patterns of behaviour of the members in relation to one another.

Thus Social Institutions provide the measure to proper conduct of a person in a certain relationships. They define for a person how he is expected to behave and also how he may expect others to behave. Deviance from the norms of institutions is derogated. Each institution carries a system of sanction behind it.


Institutional relationships determine the structural features of social life. In the words of Brown, “Social structure therefore has to be described by the institutions which define the proper or expected conduct of persons in their various relationships.

“Structural Continuity

Thus social structure is an arrangement of persons in institutionalized, roles and relationships. The continuity of this arrangement is known as structural continuity. Since the individuals and groups constituting social structure, constantly change, one group or person being substituted by another group or person, the structural continuity is dynamic. In this continuity, while the matter changes the form remains the same.

The matter of social structure are the individual human beings who are born and who die. The form of social structure is supplied by social institutions. Thus the social institutions are responsible for the dynamic formal structural continuity.


In ultimate analysis, the social structure, according to Radcliffe Brown, involves two important constituents, one the human individuals and groups and the other their arrangement through social institutions. In other words, it is the continuing arrangement of persons in relationships defined by social institutions which is known as social structure.

It may be noted here that Radcliffe Brown has been known as a structuralist in social anthropology. He stresses the importance of the comparative method in social anthropology. His approach to social structure is anthropological. This is amply clear by his above mentioned explanation of social structure with reference to primitive social structure. His social anthropology however, is comparative sociology. Therefore, his observations on the concept of social structure are equally useful in social anthropology as well as in sociology.

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