Basis for the classification of social groups


in Sociology

(name of discipline or special course)

Specialty 030505.51 – Law enforcement

030501.65 – Jurisprudence

Full-time education

Study period – 5 years

Author Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor

(academic degree, academic title)

Associate Professor Anisina S.S.

(position held, surname, initials)

Topic No. 5 Social groups and communities

Discussed at the meeting of the department

(subject-methodical section)

November 05, 2008 Protocol No. 3.

Allowed to use in 2008-2009 academic year

Head of Department __________________________

November 05, 2008

Tyumen – 2009

Sociology. Stock lecture on the topic: “Social groups and communities.” – Tyumen: Department of Philosophy, History, Sociology and Economics of the Tyumen Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia, 2008. – 55 p.

The stock lecture is devoted to the disclosure of the main issues of the functioning of social groups and social communities.

The issues outlined in this lecture are considered on the basis of modern theoretical materials (textbooks, monographs), as well as the works of the classics of sociology.

Prepared by: Associate Professor of the Department of Philosophy, History,

sociology and economics of the Tyumen

Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia,

Candidate of Philosophy, Associate Professor

Anisina S.S.

The stock lecture is intended for cadets and listeners in the specialties 030505.51 – Law Enforcement, also 030501.65 – Jurisprudence


Dotskevich M. V., PhD in Law, Associate Professor (Tyumen Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation).

Suvorova L. G., Candidate of Philosophical Sciences, Associate Professor (Tyumen State University).

The stock lecture was discussed and approved at a meeting of the Department of Philosophy, History, Sociology and Economics of the Tyumen Law Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Russia on November 05, 2008 Protocol No. 3.

Objectives of the lecture:

1. Give an idea of the various aspects of the concept of a social group.

2. Consider various classifications of social groups and communities.

3. To acquaint with the theory of ethnogenesis and related concepts.

Organizational and methodological instructions


No. p / p Lecture content Approximate distribution of study time
one. The concept of “social groups” and the basis for their classification.
2. Group cohesion and the problem of leadership.
3. The concept of “social communities”, its main types and features.
4. The concept of “ethnic communities”. The problem of ethnogenesis.

Technical means:

1. Microphone.

2. Multimedia equipment system.

Methodological support:

1. Working curriculum in the discipline “Sociology” for cadets of the Youth Institute of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation.


1. Abercrombie N., Hill S., Turner B. Sociological Dictionary. 2nd ed., revised. and additional / Per. from English. I.G. Yasaveeva, ed. S.L. Erofeev. M.: Economics, 2004.

2. Arutyunyan, Yu. V. Ethnosociology / Yu. V. Arutyunyan, L. M. Drobizheva, A. A. Susokolov. – Moscow: Aspect, 1999.

3. Volkov, Yu. G. Sociology: a textbook for universities. / Yu. G. Volkov, I. V. Mostovaya; ed. prof. V. I. Dobrenkov. – M.: Gardariki, 1998.

4. History of sociology in monuments. E. Durkheim. Sociology: its subject, method, purpose. M., 1995.

5. Kravchenko, A. I. Sociology. General course: textbook for universities / AI Kravchenko. – M.: Perse; Logos, 2003.

6. Mikhailovskaya I.B. Spiridonov L.I. Fundamentals of sociological knowledge. M.: Acad. Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR, 1988.

7. General sociology (under the editorship of A. Efendiev). M.: Infra M, 2007.

8. Radugin A.A., Radugin K.A. Sociology: a course of lectures. – M .: Biblionics, 2006. (Bibl-ka TUI of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation).

9. Toshchenko, Zh. T. Sociology: a textbook for universities / Zh. T. Toshchenko. – M.: Unity, 2007.

10. Fenenko, Yu. Sociology: a textbook for universities / Yu. Fenenko. – M.: TK Velby; Prospect, 2007.

11. Frolov S.S. Sociology. M.: Gardariki, 2000.

12. Encyclopedic Sociological Dictionary (edited by Osipov G.V.). M., 1995.

13. Efendiev, A. General sociology: a textbook for universities / A. Efendiev, E. Kravchenko, G. Pushkareva. – M.: Infra-M, 2007.



For several decades, the problem of people’s interaction within the framework of small associations that arise formally or informally has been the focus of attention of researchers from various sciences and schools, but especially sociologists and psychologists. In modern sociology, there are diverse theories of social groups. In some of them, in particular sociometric, society is seen as a collection of various intersecting groups of people who are varieties of one dominant group. In this case, one speaks, for example, of a folk society, which means a set of diverse groups within one nationality. This approach differs from the “atomistic” or “network” concept, an essential component of which in defining society are the types of social relations. In the theory of social groups, such a component is human groups that play the role of an intermediate link in the “society – group – individual” system.

It is quite obvious that it is impossible to give a scientific explanation for the diversity of personal manifestations in public life without revealing the socio-psychological context, which is the social microenvironment of the birth and formation of a person. Social groups are such an environment for the life of a person. Therefore, revealing the patterns of formation and functioning of various kinds of social groups helps to scientifically explain the processes taking place both at the level of the microenvironment and at the level of the whole society.

The independent concept of the group, along with the concepts of personality (individual) and society, we already meet with Aristotle. T. Hobbes was the first to define a group as “a certain number of people united by a common interest or common cause.” He divided all groups of people into ordered and disordered. In turn, he divided the ordered into absolute, independent (this is only the state) and subservient, dependent. Subservient subdivided into political and private, and private into legal and illegal.

The first attempts to create a sociological theory of groups were made by sociologists already at the end of the 19th and beginning of the 20th centuries. (E. Durkheim, G. Tarde, G. Simmel, L. Gumplovich, C. Cooley, F. Tönnies and others). Although studies of social communities and groups began already in the last third of the 19th century, only in the 20th century. they have become more permanent and fundamental. EDurkheim played an important role in the study of social groups.

The Austrian sociologist L. Gumplovich in his work “Fundamentals of Sociology”, published in 1899 in Russia, wrote that “in sociology, units, elements are social groups and that from the properties of the constituent parts of individual groups, i.e. from the properties of individuals, it is by no means possible to draw conclusions about the relation of groups to each other. Sociology cannot be built on the relationship of individuals to each other, and from the nature of individuals one cannot comprehend the nature of the group. Comparing the group and the individual, he emphasized that “the truth is that from the very beginning the social world always and everywhere moves only in groups, in groups it starts to work, in groups it fights and strives forward … In the harmonious interaction of social groups lies the only possible solution social issues, insofar as it is possible at all .” Such a great interest in the group was due to the fact that, according to L. Gumplovich, it is the group that creates the individual.

A social group, as stated in the “Sociological Encyclopedic Dictionary” (M., 1998), is “a set of individuals united by any common feature: a common spatial and temporal existence, activity, economic, demographic, psychological and other characteristics.” A social group is an association of people based on their common participation in some activity, connected by a system of relations that are regulated by formal or informal social institutions . Members of the group have some common values and are separated from other communities on the basis of the principles of isolation. In the above definition, our attention is focused on the fact that for the emergence of a group, an internal organization, purpose, specific forms of social control, and patterns of activity are necessary.

Basis for the classification of social groups

The organization of the group can be formal or informal , depending on its goals and objectives. The system of intra-group relations in target formal groups – organizations is most often built not on group interests and preferences, but on legislative instructions external to the group, failure to comply with which may lead to dismissal of a person from work, i.e., forced isolation from the group. A formal group is a social group with a legal status, which is part of a social institution, organization, aimed at achieving a certain result (products, services, etc.) within the framework of the division of labor in this institution, organization. It is also important that a formal group is characterized by a certain hierarchical structure of subordination. The signs of a formal group will be: a rational goal, most often set from the outside, prescribed functions that imply the presence of positions, rights, duties, sanctions for violating their implementation, a clearly defined socio-professional structure, determined by formal relations determined by the official status of a person, and not by personal qualities, and interests that can often be materially different from those of the organization and its objectives.

In formal groups, functions, goals, rules of conduct, and even membership are fixed in normative documents, i.e. formalized. This helps to realize the main function of a formal group – to achieve high orderliness, planning and controllability of the actions of all members of the group in order to achieve the main goals of a social institution or organization. Often such a group is formed and functions as an official part of a labor or public organization, and the direct basis of interpersonal contacts is joint activities to produce a particular product or achieve a particular goal.

An informal group is such a social community that is formed on the basis of interpersonal relations and does not have an official, legally fixed, approved status.

The form of existence of informal groups can be different, they can function as relatively isolated, closed social communities (for example, various informal youth groups, people who accidentally unite to play volleyball on the beach, etc.) and can develop within official groups, be an integral part of an official group (for example, in a school class there are groupings consisting of close friends united by some common interest).

The main social mechanism leading to the formation and development of an informal group in the structure of official groups is self-organization. Over time, some self-organizing informal groups may receive official status, turning, for example, into public organizations, amateur collectives, etc.

Sometimes joint activities may arise in an informal group, in which case it acquires some features of a formal group, certain, albeit short-term, roles and positions are distinguished in it (for example, a group of tourists going on a weekend hike).

Informal groups that have not received official status can be divided into friendly contact groups with a positive social orientation and groups whose goals and interests are at odds with the goals, norms and values of society. In this case, the task of the sociologist is to analyze the social orientation of the informal group and, on the basis of this, develop specific recommendations for stimulating social self-organization, which should ultimately lead to the emergence of an informal group with a positive social orientation. The structure of relationships in an informal group is studied using sociometry.

In official groups, a wide system of informal relations and informal groups is usually developed. This circumstance is very important for the functioning of the official group, and even more so for production teams. Indeed, in an informal group, relationships are formed on the basis of emotional closeness and mutual sympathy, and this leads to the creation of a favorable socio-psychological climate in the official group. In an official group, a work collective, there is a strict distribution of roles and relations between work colleagues, managers and subordinates, in contrast, in informal groups, members of the same team are still united by friendly feelings, mutual sympathy, and common interests.

Therefore, it can be argued that further research and significant clarification of the characteristics of formal and informal groups are needed, as well as the identification of both general and specific features of both. Moreover, the very concepts of “formal” and “informal” groups are also interpreted by scientists in a very ambiguous way.

Along with the analysis of the level of formalization of groups, their classification is also considered. For example, according to the degree of proximity to a person and influence on him, groups are divided into primary and secondary.

The primary is , as a rule, a small group whose members know each other or most of its representatives well. Such a group has a very strong influence on the person who is part of it, and the relationships in the group are close and dependent on each other.

The secondary group is more numerous and may include one or more primary groups. The degree of influence of such a group on individuals may vary depending on how strongly group values are internalized by the representative of the group.

An example of a primary group is a family, a group of your friends, etc. Secondary groups include a student body of the course, the political party you belong to, etc.

Most primary groups, according to sociologists, are informal, while secondary groups are formal. However, the unambiguity of assessments can cause errors in the social diagnostics of groups. For example, friends from your training course, being a primary group, at the same time will be a formalized group.

Different researchers identify different characteristics of groups. But in this diversity there are also common group features , emphasized by N. Smelser. What are these traits? Firstly, the way of interaction between its members : “members of the group should not communicate with those outside the group in the same manner as with “their own”, and even more so this applies to representatives of rival groups.” Secondly, membership in a group determines the feeling of belonging to it. Often this is reinforced by some external symbols, for example, among “metalworkers” – a huge amount of metal on clothes in the form of chains, badges, plaques, etc. This symbolism can serve, along with the spiritual factors of group unity, as an additional sign of identification from the point of view of strangers – “strangers”. Consequently, along with general indicators characteristic of all social groups, there are also specific indicators that reflect the characteristics of a certain class of groups.

Classification of groups , as a rule, is based on the subject area of analysis, in which the main feature is singled out that determines the stability of a given group formation. There are many different classifications of groups in the sociological literature. The American sociologist E. Eubank collected and analyzed the types of classifications of groups that take place in American scientific literature. Eubank’s analysis led him to develop seven main classification features:

based on ethnicity or race;

– based on the level of cultural development;

– based on the types of structure existing in groups;

__ based on the tasks and functions performed by the group in larger communities;

– based on the prevailing types of contacts between group members;

– on the basis of various types of connections that exist in groups;

on other principles.

The grounds for classification depend on the purpose of the study, which, as a rule, is contained in the classification only implicitly (hidden).

The diversity of research interests makes it impossible to describe all the bases for the classification of social groups that are available in scientific use. However, the most representative groups need to be considered. When studying the problems of social groups, scientists distinguish between large groups (communities) and small groups.

A large group is such a large group that all its members do not know each other by sight and contacts between them cannot be made directly. Usually, large groups mean various associations, covering tens of thousands of members: large class, religious, ethnic and other groups, including huge masses of members scattered over a vast territory.

In this regard, the internal cohesion, organization, structuredness, as well as the presence of institutionalized forms of activity and group consciousness, of large groups are different.

Depending on the criterion underlying the gradation, the classification of existing large groups (communities) can be represented as follows:

1. Communities identified on the basis of a special cultural and historical identity (tribe, nationality, nation).

2. Communities identified on the basis of their attitude to property and the social division of labor (different social classes and social strata).

3. Communities that differ in belonging to historically established territorial entities (city, village, region).

4. Numerous target communities, which are characterized by the unity of purposeful activity (party, religious associations, etc.).

There are also other types of communities. Social communities are distinguished by a huge variety of specific historical and situationally determined types and forms. We will return to the consideration of the topic “social communities”, and now we will consider in detail the concept of small groups. Why do scientists attach so much importance to the study of small groups? If we imagine that the population of our planet exceeds 6 billion people and each of us belongs not to one, but to several small groups, it becomes clear why the scientific world is interested in this phenomenon. But the point is not only in the quantitative indicator of this phenomenon, but also in the social force with which the group acts on its member. A small group can be defined as a psychologically unified social cell, the members of which are purposefully connected with each other and depend on each other. The hallmark of a group is, first of all, that a change in one part of the group changes the state of all other parts.

Among the main features of a small group are usually distinguished:

direct or indirect contact between the individuals that make up the group, interpersonal interaction and mutual influence;

– the presence of a common goal and activity, the experience of common feelings;

intragroup distribution of functions and social roles;

– commonality of interests, social norms, mores, customs and forms of behavior;

– a certain localization in space and stability in time.

Personal characteristics of group interaction are also an important determinant of group dynamics. Despite the fact that a small group is an integral social system, each member of the group in one way or another influences intra-group relations, which can contribute to their further harmonization or, conversely, lead to social disharmony and conflict. The latter can stimulate the disintegration of the group.

Each of us simultaneously enters into a huge number of formal and informal groups in which we occupy a different social status: from a leader to a simple member of a group. Consequently, the same person in different groups can perform different functions and roles, which is determined by the type of personality and the type of this group, its goals. Group interactions cover the entire system of a person’s life activity. We enter some groups according to social duty, obligations, opportunities to provide for our material needs, others – for spiritual, intellectual reasons, in order to satisfy our emotional and spiritual interests. It is this comprehensive role of social groups in the life of man and society that stimulates the need for their scientific research.

The founder of the doctrine of small groups is the American sociologist C. H. Cooley, who at the beginning of the 20th century introduced the concept of “primary group”. His concept is still the classical theoretical basis for the analysis of small groups. He classified the latter as primary groups, meaning by them those that are characterized by close mutual contacts “face to face”, intimate ties.

The American sociologist E. Shils (b. 1911) distinguishes three types of such small primary groups . “Original groups” with strong, long-term ties and traditions. An individual can belong to these groups regardless of his desires. An example of such a group is the family. “Personal groups”, groups of friends based on mutual sympathy. Such groups are created on the basis of personal needs for association. “Ideological groups” unite people with common values.

Consequently, small primary groups may have various grounds for association, however, people belonging to such groups must necessarily participate in their activities themselves, to some extent realize common goals, and support each other. This concept of a small primary group (as well as its content) is generally accepted in Western sociology and is widely used in various scientific studies. The content side of the classification of small groups is most fully presented in the work of M. Shaw “Group Dynamics”.

Small group sizes

The question of the size of small groups is traditionally discussed in sociology. As a rule, one speaks of a continuum: the upper and lower limits of the group.

A significant number of domestic psychologists (K. K. Platonov, R. L. Krichevsky, E. M. Dubovskaya) agree that the lower limit of the group is the dyad (two people), although in the scientific literature there is an opinion that the group begins only from the triad (three people). The latter is associated with the fact that the dyad cannot claim the role of a universal model of a small group, representing only one of the varieties of the latter.

The upper limit of a small group varies (according to various sources) from the same triad to 35-40 people. At the same time, scientists rightly pay attention to the fact of a rather limited nature of intra-group relations in large groups.

To put this discussion on a more scientific basis, let us analyze the content side of the concepts of “large” and “small” social groups. Describing large social groups (for example, ethnic or racial), we mean their multiplicity, in which people belonging to this group most often not only do not know each other, but also do not have direct contacts. It can be tens and hundreds of thousands of people living in large areas. Such social groups are identified with the concept of community or even society, as presented in sociometric theory.

As for the small group, regardless of whether it is primary or not, there is a special kind of social connection between its members, which implies frequent personal, direct, interested contact between all members of the group. Such contact is possible only in relatively small groups, and therefore frequent interpersonal contacts in groups of 17-20, and especially 35-40 people seem unlikely or rare. In particular, studies conducted by domestic sociologists have shown that informal youth groups of teenagers number from 2-3 to 8 people (about 70% of the groups) and from 8 to 12 people (about 30% of the groups).

Small social groups can also include highly formalized target associations (target groups), for example, a production team. The latter also varies in size from 5-8 to 16-18 people. However, even in this case group contacts lose some of the properties of a small group. In particular, the constancy of ties between members of the group and mutual influence on each other. Studies also show that in groups of more than seven people there is often a “division” into subgroups, i.e., individuals are singled out and united, pursuing their own interests that are different from the goals of the group. This can lead to the breakup of the group.

Therefore, it will be natural to recognize that the upper limit of a small group is an association of 5-7 people.

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