Social Psychology

By Daniel Katz; Richard L. Schanck | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII
SOCIAL INSTITUTIONS

The dynamics of social interaction negate themselves in social stratification, as has been indicated in the closing pages of the last chapter. Patterns of thought and action crystallize out of the collective adjustments of men as they cooperate, compete, and conflict with one another. For the most standardized of these patterns the term social institution has come to be widely used. An institution is not a thing or a force capable of being physically manipulated. It is a conceptualization of behavior and attitudinal relationships which have attained some measure of formalization and hence of permanence. Though standardization is one aspect of the institution, universally agreed upon, many social scientists restrict the term further by employing it to designate only formal organization of an elaborate sort. In this chapter we shall follow this limitation by describing the pattern of the highly developed institution. This description will then be applied to that great institution, the Roman Catholic Church of the Middle Ages.

The highly developed institution generally comprises relationships covering three types of elements. First of all is the public, or the rank and file members of the institution. We are not dealing with the members of the public as whole personalities; we are considering only certain common segments of their attitudes and actions. In the words of C. H. Cooley, an institution "is made up of persons, but not of whole persons; each one enters into it with a trained and specialized part of himself. Consider, for instance, the legal part of a lawyer, the ecclesiastical part of a church member or the business part of a merchant. In antithesis to the institution, therefore, the person represents the wholeness and humanness of life . . ." (5,

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