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Social Sci LibreTexts

4: Groups and Organizations

Sociology often considers the study of group life, group behavior, and group processes. This chapter discusses the importance of many types of groups for understanding our behavior and attitudes and for understanding society itself. We will see that groups are necessary for many of our needs and for society’s functioning but at the same time can often lead to several negative consequences.

  • 4.0: Prelude to Groups and Organizations
    As we have seen in previous chapters, sociologists look at us more as members of groups and less as individuals, and they try to explain our attitudes and behavior in terms of the many groups and social backgrounds from which we come.
  • 4.1: Social Groups
    A social group consists of two or more people who regularly interact on the basis of mutual expectations and who share a common identity. It is easy to see from this definition that we all belong to many types of social groups: our families, our different friendship groups, the sociology class and other courses we attend, our workplaces, the clubs and organizations to which we belong, and so forth. Except in rare cases, it is difficult to imagine any of us living totally alone.
  • 4.2: Group Dynamics and Behavior
    Social scientists have studied how people behave in groups and how groups affect their behavior, attitudes, and perceptions. Their research underscores the importance of groups for social life, but it also points to the dangerous influences groups can sometimes have on their members.
  • 4.3: Formal Organizations
    Modern societies are filled with formal organizations, or large secondary groups that follow explicit rules and procedures to achieve specific goals and tasks. Max Weber (1864–1920), one of the founders of sociology, recognized long ago that as societies become more complex, their procedures for accomplishing tasks rely less on traditional customs and beliefs and more on rational (which is to say rule-guided and impersonal) methods of decision making.
  • 4.4: Groups, Organizations, and Social Change
    As we consider ways to try to improve our society, the role of groups and organizations becomes very important. This section briefly considers this importance.
  • 4.S: Groups and Organizations (Summary)