Social groups are the basic units of structure and the driving force of social life. But for each group it is important whether its members fulfill their duties. Therefore, social institutions arose to regulate and control the behavior of people in society.

The term “institution” has many meanings. In European, and then Russian, languages, he came from Latin: institutum – establishment, device. Over time, two meanings were fixed in Russian:

– narrow technical as the name of research and higher educational institutions, for example, the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences, the Institute of National Economy, Engineering and Construction, etc.;

-and broad social, as a set of legal, moral, religious and other norms that regulate the behavior of people in a certain area of social relations and their respective institutions, for example, the institutions of marriage and family, education, inheritance, parliamentarism, etc.

There are many definitions of the concept of “social institution”, which were given to this social phenomenon by the most prominent sociologists. G. Spencer first proposed this term. T. Veblen characterized a social institution as a set of social customs, habits, behavior, way of thinking and way of life, passed down from generation to generation.

K. Marx understands institutions as historically formed, conditioned by social, primarily industrial, relations, forms of organization and regulation of social activity. E. Durkheim believed that social institutions are factories for the reproduction of social relations and connections. The emergence, development and effective use of institutions ensures not only stability, but also the evolution of society, because the institutions themselves, providing for the changing needs of society, change and evolve.

In the collection “Modern Western Sociology”, L. Sedov defines a social institution as “a stable set of formal and informal rules, principles, attitudes that regulate various spheres of human activity and organize them into a system of roles and statuses that form a social system; it is a set of roles and statuses intended to satisfy a certain social need. S. Sokolov defines social institutions as stable complexes of social regulators (values, norms, beliefs, sanctions) that control systems of statuses, roles, ways of behavior in various spheres of human activity. They exist to satisfy social needs, they arise historically in the process of trial and error. Another definition is proposed by A. Kravchenko: social institutions are relatively stable sets of symbols, beliefs, values, norms, roles and statuses that govern entire areas of social life.

If we summarize the various approaches and options, we can single out the following elements of social institutions:

– a set of legal, moral, religious customs and other norms;

– a set of institutions, formal and informal structures that regulate a particular area of public relations;

– role-playing system, which includes certain norms, statuses and roles.

Thus, social institutions are a stable form of organization and regulation of the activities of individuals and social groups. They represent a set of norms and rules, as well as a set of persons in institutions that have the opportunity to carry out socially significant functions. Social institutions in a broad sense are specific social formations that ensure the relative stability of ties and relationships within the framework of the social organization of society. Society is a set of social institutions and connections between them . An external social institution looks like an organized association of social subjects – groups and institutions that perform a socially necessary function. From the content side, this is a certain system of standards of behavior of specific social subjects in specific situations of social interaction. The state, for example, as a social institution externally represents a set of persons and institutions exercising power, and from a substantive point of view, it is a set of standardized patterns of behavior of officials that provide any function (president, minister, deputy, judge, etc.) The army as a social institution outwardly represents a set of persons, institutions and material means that ensure the defense of the state from external threats, and from a substantive point of view, it is a set of norms and standards of behavior of certain officials that ensure the performance of this social function. A social institution thus determines the orientation of people’s activities and relations between them through a certain system of standards of behavior.

The concept of a social institution, most often, invests four meanings:

1) a set of customs, traditions, religious, moral, legal and other norms and rules that reflect the corresponding social need (property, law, marriage, religion);

2) a group of persons performing socially necessary functions (parliament, family);

3) a set of institutions that meet the needs of groups (court, church, education);

4) some social roles that are especially important for people’s lives (monarchy, deputy, president).

A social institution is not an abstraction. It includes a real, living set of people, visible objects (premises, material values), human resources, systems of roles and statuses, norms and sanctions.

S. Frolov suggested highlighting common features for social institutions:

1) attitudes, standards and patterns of behavior (honoring parents, respect, obedience to superiors, loyalty to an oath, etc.);

2) symbolic cultural signs (coat of arms, flag, cross, wedding ring, etc.);

3) oral and written codes (prohibitions, laws, legal acts, licenses, etc.);

4) utilitarian cultural features (physical objects and structures – a family home, factory, library, etc.);

5) values and ideas (love in the family, democracy in society, dogma, etc.).

Social institutions arise historically, as if by themselves. Nobody invents them the way they invent technical and social goods. This happens because the social need that they must satisfy arises, but is not immediately recognized. The reason for the emergence of new and the improvement of old social institutions is the emergence of new and the development of old needs.

The formation of social institutions takes a significant historical time and occurs by trial and error. The process of assimilation of general standards of human behavior, beneficial to all, is very difficult. On this path, people overcome the temptation to focus on benefiting only themselves. When a new standard (values, norms, roles) of family, labor, political or other behavior is assimilated by a person, it turns into a need. In this case, the partial benefit for oneself of some standard of behavior is supplemented by a benevolent attitude towards it from others. This standard of behavior becomes institutionalized for a person, and his status-role becomes organic. In a developing society, institutionalization is constantly taking place – the process of defining and fixing social norms, rules, statuses and roles, bringing them into a system to meet social needs. Thus, institutionalization is the replacement of spontaneous behavior with a predictable, regulated one. Modern society cannot exist without institutionalization. Thanks to it, spontaneous competitions in strength (fights) turn into formalized sports competitions, promiscuous sex life of primitive society into the institution of marriage and family, spontaneous movements of protest and struggle for some goals into political parties.

The concept of institutionalization was introduced into sociology by T. Parsons and was further developed in the theories of society by R. Dahrendorf, T. Lukman, N. Luhmann and others. stages of formation of the institutional structure of society:

– objectification – the emergence and stabilization of the value-normative complex that ensures the functioning of the system of social interaction;

– generalization – the removal of the value-normative complex beyond the limits of direct interaction. At this stage, the institutional structure of society is gradually taking shape;

– integration – the formation of social reflection on changes in the institutional foundations of society.

Reverse processes also occur in society – a decrease in trust in a certain institution, a fall in its authority. This process is called an institutional crisis. The reason for the crisis is the inability of this or that institution to effectively fulfill its main functions: the state – to manage society, families – to strengthen marriage, raise children, medicine – to treat people, and health care – to prevent diseases and, secondary school – to provide quality education, political parties – to express the needs of citizens and fight for their fulfillment, etc. At the same time, institutional norms exist, they are known to everyone, but they are not respected in society and then the functions are redistributed: the state is undergoing a reform of the political system, instead of legal marriage, “civil” (informal cohabitation) appears, or in general alternative and even exotic forms of cohabitation – guest marriage , swinging; along with the state health care system, private medicine, which is not very effectively controlled by the state, and all kinds of psychics and “folk healers” appear; tutoring appears in the system of education and training in the university; in political life, due to distrust of parties, political apathy and manipulation of political consciousness by all kinds of political adventurers arise. But without crises, there can be no development of the institution, since it reveals problems, informs about the degree of inefficiency and helps to rebuild and improve the mechanism of functioning of the social institution.

Institutionalization is a process of streamlining, strengthening social ties and relationships, the beginning of the life cycle of an institution, which includes 4 stages (phases):

1) the emergence and formation of a social institution;

2) the phase of efficiency, the achievement of maturity;

3) formalization of norms, principles. If principles become an end in themselves, the institution becomes bureaucratized.

4) disorganization, when an institution loses its dynamism, viability, it is liquidated or transformed into a new one.

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