Social Structure: Views of Spencer and Radcliffe Brown and Characteristics

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Notion of social structure is polyphyletic and polymorphous. – Merton

  • Structure (Latin) : Sense of construction
  • How is something build or put together
  • Example 1: Human body
  • Example 2: A system, pattern, or institution like caste structure
  • A way of function or procedure is visible
  • Multiple storeys together form a big apartment
  • The integrated whole can be divided


  • Interconnected
  • Togetherness
  • Wholeness
  • Sense of boundary mechanism and maintenance


  • The term social structure first used by Herbert Spencer in 1873
  • Two analogies used by Spencer to explain Social structure

Analogy of House

  • Various rooms, decor, and furniture
  • Designated spaces like bedroom, study room
  • All Interconnected and connected to outside colonies, society too through doors, windows
  • When doors are closed the room, itself is an individual entity
  • And still part of larger whole i.e.. , the house

Analogy of Organism

  • Society is like an organism
  • All body parts connected to each other
  • Entity thus emerged is integrated whole
  • Autonomous entity too
  • For analysis it can be broken down to individual units or parts too
  • Same is true in case of villages and towns
  • They are autonomous and isolated at one level
  • Still connected to larger society or big cities – Broader perspective

Brown՚s Views

  • Socialized individual is the basic unit of society – A. R. Brown
  • Age of science, rationality, reasoning – positivism
  • Who is a socialized individual?
  • Sum of Socialized individuals – groups
  • Groups form community and community forms a society
  • He argued that social sciences can be read as natural sciences
  • As empirical methods can be used, subject to observation, investigate systematically the structure of society, general laws of society
  • He said social structures are like organisms but with distinctions
    • Individual – biological sense
    • Person – complex of social relations


Q. 1.

Statement 1: A single cell can form a whole organism like amoeba.

Statement 2: In the same way a single individual can form a whole society.

i. Statement 1 is true and statement 2 is false

ii. Statement 1 is false and statement 2 is true

iii. Both are true

iv. Both are false

Answer. i.

Q. 2. According to Radcliffe Brown, Social personality is ________

i. The place of person in social structure

ii. Web of social relations

iii. Socialized person

iv. None of these

Answer: i.

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