Chapter 6: Networks, Groups, Bureaucracies, and Societies
BEYOND INDIVIDUAL MOTIVES
How Social Groups Shape Our Actions
- sociologists emphasize three factors
1. norms of solidarity demand conformity
- when we form relationships with friends, lovers, spouses, teammates, and comrades-in-arms, we develop shared ideas or “norm of solidarity” about how
we should behave toward them to sustain the relationships
- because these relationships are emotionally important to us, we sometimes pay more attention to norms of solidarity than to the morality of our actions
- why do people rarely report crimes committed by corporations?
- employees may worry about being reprimanded or fired if they become whistleblowers, but they also worry about letting down their co-workers
- why do gang members engage in criminal acts?
- they may seek financial gain, but they also regard crime as a way of maintaining a close social bond with their fellow gang members
- corporate whistleblowers or people who turn in their fellow gang members are disloyal from an insider’s point of view but heroic from an outsider’s
viewpoint, often because they have been poorly socialized into the group’s norms
2. structures of authority tend to render people obedient
- as soon as we are introduced to a structure of authority, we are inclined to obey those in power
- this is the case even if the authority structure is new and highly artificial, even if we are free to walk away from it with no penalty, and even if we think
that by remaining in its grip we are inflicting terrible pain on another human being
3. bureaucracies are highly effective structures of authority
- Max Weber defined bureaucracy
- A large, impersonal organization comprising many clearly defined positions arranged in a hierarchy. A bureaucracy has a permanent, salaried
staff of qualified experts and written goals, rules, and procedures. Ideally, staff members always try to find ways of running the bureaucracy
- efficiency means achieving the bureaucracy’s goals at the least cost
- four kinds of social collectivities shape our actions: networks, groups, bureaucratic organizations, and whole societies
It’s a Small World
- our world is small because we are enmeshed in overlapping sets of social relations, or social networks
- social network
- A bounded set of individuals who are linked by the exchange of material or emotional resources. The patterns of exchange determine the boundaries of
the network. Members exchange resources more frequently with one another than with non-members. They also think of themselves as network
members. Social networks may be formal (defined in writing), but they are more often informal (defined only in practice).
- the people you know personally form the boundaries of your personal network
- however, each of your network members is linked to other people
- this is what connects you to people you have never met, creating a small world that extends far beyond your personal network
The Value of Network Analysis
- the units of analysis or nodes in a network can be individuals, groups, organizations, and even countries
- thus, social network analysts have examined everything from intimate relationships between lovers to diplomatic relations among nations
- unlike organizations, most networks lack names and offices
- in a sense, networks lie beneath the more visible collectivities of social life, but that makes them no less real or important
- some analysts claim we can gain only a partial sense of why certain things happen in the social world by focusing on highly visible collectivities
- from their point of view, the whole story requires probing below the surface and examining the network level
Finding a Job
- according to Mark Granovetter, you may have strong or weak ties to another person
- you have strong ties to people who are close to you, such as family members and friends
- you have weak ties to acquaintances, such as people you meet at parties and friends of friends
- in his research, Granovetter found that weak ties are more important than strong ties in finding a job, which is contrary to common sense
- acquaintances are more likely to provide useful information about employment opportunities than friends or family members are because people who are close to
you typically share overlapping networks
- in contrast, acquaintances are likely to be connected to diverse networks
- they can therefore provide information about many different job openings and introduce you to many different potential employers
- moreover, because people typically have more weak ties than strong ties, the sum of weak ties holds more information about job opportunities than the sum of
- we often think of big cities as cold and alienating places where few people know one another
- in this view, urban acquaintanceships tend to be few and functionally specific
- even dating involves a long series of brief encounters
- in contrast, people often think of small towns as friendly, comfortable places where everyone knows everyone else (and everyone else’s business)
- according to German sociologist Ferdinand Tönnies, a community is parked by intimate and emotionally intense social ties, whereas a society is marked by
impersonal relationships held together largely by self-interest
- where Tönnies saw only sparse, functionally specific ties, network analysts found elaborate social networks, some functionally specific and some not
The Building Blocks of Social Networks
- the most elementary network form is the dyad - A social relationship between two nodes or social units (e.g., people, firms, organizations, countries).
- A social relationship among three nodes or social units (e.g., people, firms, organizations, countries).
- in a dyadic relationship, such as marriage, both partners tend to be intensely and intimately involved
- moreover, a dyad needs both partners to live—but to “die” it needs only one to opt out
- the need for intense involved on the part of both partners is also why a dyad can have no “free riders,” or partners who benefit from the relationship without
contributing to it
- finally, in a dyadic relationship, the partners must assume full responsibility for all that transpires
- neither partner can shift responsibility to some larger collectivity because no larger collectivity exists beyond the relationship between the two partners
- in contrast, when a third person enters the picture, thereby creating a triad, relationships tend to be less intimate and intense
- equally significant, the triad restricts individuality by allowing one partner to be constrained for the collective good
- this situations occurs when a majority outvotes one partner
- the existence of a triad also allows coalitions or factions to form
- furthermore, it allows one partner to mediate conflict between the other two, exploit rivalry between the other two, or encourage rivalry between the other two to
IS GROUP LOYALTY ALWAYS FUNCTIONAL?
Primary and Secondary Groups
- social groups
- One or more networks of people who identify with one another and adhere to defined norms, roles, and statuses.
- social categories
- People who share a similar status but do not identify with one another.
- primary groups
- Norms, roles, and statuses are agreed on but are not put in writing. Social interaction leads to strong emotional ties. It extends over a long period, and
involves a wide range of activities. It results in group members knowing one another well.
- the family is the most important primary group
- secondary groups
- Larger and more impersonal than primary groups are. Compared with primary groups, social interaction in secondary groups creates weaker emotional
ties. It extends over a shorter period, and it involves a narrow range of activities. It results in most group members having at most a passing
acquaintance with one another.
Benefits of Group Conformity
- conformity is an integral part of group life, and primary groups generate more pressure to conform than do secondary groups
- strong social ties create emotional intimacy
- they also ensure that primary groups members share similar attitudes, beliefs, and information
- beyond the family, friendship groups (or cliques) and gangs demonstrate these features
- group members tend to dress and act alike, speak the same “lingo,” share the same likes and dislikes, and demand loyalty, especially in the face of external threat
The Asch Experiment
- social psychologist Solomon Asch demonstrated how easily group pressure can overturn individual conviction and result in conformity
- Asch’s work and subsequent research show that several factors affect the likelihood of conformity
- first, the likelihood of conformity increases as group size increases to three or four members
- for groups larger than four, the likelihood of conformity generally does not increase
- second, as group cohesiveness increases, so does the likelihood of conformity
- where greater intimacy and sharing of values occur, group members are less likely to express dissent
- third, social status affects the likelihood of conformity
- people with low status in a group (e.g., because of their gender or race) are less likely to dissent than are people with high status
- fourth, culture matters
- people in individualist societies, like Canada, tend to conform less than do people in collectivist societies, like China
- fifth, the appearance of unanimity affects the likelihood of conformity
- even one dissenting voice greatly increases the chance that others will dissent
Disadvantages of Group Conformity
- dissent might save the group from making mistakes, but groupthink can lead to disaster
- Group pressure to conform despite individual misgivings.
- the dangers of groupthink are greatest in high-stress situations
- “bystander apathy”: as the number of bystanders increases, the likelihood of any one bystander helping another decreases because the greater the number of
bystanders, the less responsibility any one individual feels
- this behavior shows that people usually take their cues for action from others and again demonstrates the power of groups over individuals
Group Conformity, Group Conflict, and Group Inequality
- by emphasizing the benefits of group conformity, functionalists are also inclined to ignore the ways in which group conformity encourages conflict and reinforces
- People who belong to a group.
- People who are excluded from an in-group.
- members of an in-group typically draw a boundary separating themselves from members of the out-group, and they try to keep out-group members from crossing - in high school, race, class, athletic ability, academic talent, and physical attractiveness act as boundaries separating groups
Group Boundaries: Competition and Self-Esteem
- why do group boundaries crystallize?
- one theory is that group boundaries emerge when people compete for scarce resources
- another theory is that group boundaries emerge when people are motivated to protect their self-esteem
- from this point of view, drawing group boundaries allows people to increase their self-esteem by believing that out-groups have low status
- the boundaries separating groups often seem unchangeable and even “natural”
- in general, however, dominant groups construct group boundaries in particular circumstances to further their goals
Groups and Social Imagination
- reference group
- Comprises people against whom an individual evaluates his or her situation or conduct.
- members of a reference group function as role models
- reference groups may influence us even though they represent a largely imaginary ideal
- many secondary groups are formal organizations
- formal organizations
- Secondary groups designed to achieve explicit objectives.
- in complex societies like ours, the most common and influential formal organizations are bureaucracies