The pattern in which social activities take place, defined by the constructs of culture and organization is called ‘social structure’. However, there are hardly any concepts that define it precisely (Jary and Jary 1991). Thes structures are those symbols of culture that remain stable over a period of time, and are often taken for granted – the unspoken rule, so to say, are responsible for the arrangements of roles, organizations or large groups, and institutions and associations, etc.
These social structures hold within them the potential to enable as well as restrict or place constraints on the possibilities of social life. Understanding this concept becomes easy when the society is imagined as a house, and the social structures are thought of as the foundations and columns on which the house rests. Just as the columns define the space and size of a room, so too the social structures define the space and limits of social life. For example, in the sixteenth century, the place of women was confined to their homes and their roles were confined to domestic realms. They were not expected to earn money for a living either.
Human behavior is highly influenced knowingly and unknowingly, by these social structures. Thus, the societal treatment of individuals depended on their placement or position or status within the different social strata of the society. Therein arises the concept of ‘social stratification’ – meaning the classifying the society into strata or layers, based on class, race, and gender, and sometimes education. A good example of social stratification is the position of Afro-Americans in the period prior to abolition of slavery, in America. They were placed at the lowest of positions, treated as slaves, and equated with other properties and cattle to be freely sold and bought. That these concepts of inequality remain almost unchanged is testified by the fact that abolition tooks years of struggle to be implemented in the largely white dominated British colonies and the United States of America. The influence of social structures and the interaction of human beings lead to many of the things by which human beings define what they are today.
The products are: Language and Culture, Values and Norms. Thus, one may be classified as White, American of Spanish origin, workaholic.
Social structures have indeed affected this student too, in choice of career and outlook of life. It has spurred an interest in this student to take up the science of sociology, to delve deeper into the collective psyhe of the society that go into the making of such constructs. It has also impressed upon this student that while its is still possible to uniquely redefine the life of an individual, by using one’s imagination, just as a room and how it looks can be aesthetically constructed or redefined, well within the limits and dimensions of space accorded by the structures of beams and columns of a house.