Support mechanisms for social groups

In the process of studying a society, Sociology is concerned with a series of aspects that influence the existence of groups of social subjects. These “aspects” or, better said, “mechanisms” are specific characteristics of a social group and serve as a support point for the cohesion of its different members.

Among the different support mechanisms of a social group , we will highlight some due to the degree of influence they have over the group and its members. We need to take into account that, first of all, the subjects that are part of a social group are not bound and fatally condemned to submit to these mechanisms, since they have their individuality and capacity, even under the strong threats of negative sanctions. , as we will see, to choose or create your way of living according to your needs or desires.

The leadership

Leadership is possibly one of the greatest catalysts for social mobilization that we can observe. Under leadership, social groups organize themselves towards a common ideal, in the name of solving one or more problems or any other type of action. German author Max Weber has devoted himself to studying the forms of domination in a democratic society and, consequently, the ways in which a leadership is established or is established. Although Weber’s cuttings are many and varied, in view of the complexity of his work, we will quickly address the two main forms of leadership: the charismatic and the bureaucratic .

The charismatic leadership, or personal, is established around the admiration of the persona of an individual, that is, the exaltation of the individual qualities of the leader in question, who starts to have his domain legitimized (recognized) by those who chose to follow him or adopt him you as a representative of your wishes. The reflexes of this type of leadership are observable in several areas of a society, both in political and economic activities and in religious ones. This type of leadership is established in a very personal and emotional way, which often builds irrational bonds between the group and its leader. This is one of the reasons that justify the power of charismatic leaders to be responsible for some of the greatest social mobilizations in our history, such as Adolf Hitler and the mobilization of the German nation around the ideals defended by Nazism.

The bureaucratic leadership or institutional leadership, is established within the framework of an institutional organization. It depends on a hierarchy established within a bureaucratic body, such as the government of a state. We refer to it as a form of legal dominance, in which the leader is established as such in accordance with the laws and bureaucratic rules that govern the organization in question. The legal leader has his power of domination ensured by the institution to which he belongs, regardless of his personal characteristics.

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Social norms and sanctions

Social norms make up the fundamental pillars of all social organizations. They establish what is considered desirable or reprehensible in the behavior of members of a group, and they are responsible for conducting the actions of human beings in society. The norms of a society reflect or incorporate traits of the current culture of the environment in which it operates, so that, from them, the subjects shape their behavior and their interactions. The power to regulate socially acceptable behavior is maintained through social sanctions, which are nothing more than the instrument that guarantees the subject’s compliance with the established rules. Social sanctions are applied according to the individual’s actions or behavior, and can be a reward that will reinforce the action in question or, a punishment that will rebuke the subject for behaving outside the established norms. Rewards can be the achievement of admiration on the part of others for “good manners”, while punishments can be both symbolic, such as social isolation and the marginalization of the subject, and physical, such as the use of force in a violent act.

The symbols

Country flags serve as a way of identifying and representing a nation and those who identify with it

Symbols play a fundamental role in building the identity of a social group. It is through them that the group simplifies and communicates the characteristics that make up its identity. The symbol is something that has value or meaning attributed by those who use it, so that, when using it, the subject intends to pass a message to his interlocutor about some aspect that is relevant to him.

The most common and comprehensive example we have is the national flags of the countries. Those who represent themselves by the flag of a country seek to convey the message that they identify with the qualities attributed to their nationality. Another example is the meanings that some colors have in certain situations, such as black, which can be the symbol of mourning in some cultures.

The language of a nation is also a set of symbols structured to allow communication. This occurrence is studied by Linguistics, the area of ​​knowledge that is dedicated to understanding the ways in which meanings and signifiers interact, as well as their uses in a society and their influence in the formation of our thinking.


by Abdullah Sam
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