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Sociology | Class 11 | Terms, Concepts and their Use in Sociology


This chapter delves more into the types of groups that people form, the types of unequal orders that people make, the stratification systems that people and groups are placed in, the way social control works, the roles that people have and play, and the status they hold.

In contrast to commonsense knowledge, sociology, like any other science, has its own set of concepts, theories, and data collection methodologies.

Why does sociology need its own set of vocabulary when we use concepts like status, roles, and social control in our everyday lives?

Concepts in Sociology

In society, concepts emerge. However, just as there are various types of individuals and groups in society, there are various types of thoughts and ideas. And sociology itself is characterized by many approaches to analysing society and examining the significant social changes brought about by the contemporary period.

Many of the concepts reflect social philosophers' desire to comprehend and map the social changes brought about by the transition from pre-modern to modern times.

Even in the early stages of sociology's development, there were opposing and competing interpretations of society. If class and conflict were crucial concepts for Karl Marx in understanding society, Emile Durkheim's main phrases were social solidarity and collective conscience.

Some sociologists attempted to comprehend human behaviour by beginning with the individual, i.e. micro interaction. Others started with macro structures like class, caste, market, state, or community.

Social Groups and Society

The fact that humans interact, communicate, and build social collectivities is a distinguishing element of human life.

Human communities and collectivities exist in all societies, whether ancient, feudal, or modern, Asian, European, or African. Distinct societies have different forms of organisations and collectivities.

A social group is a group of people who constantly interact and share common interests, cultures, values, and customs within a specific community.

A social group is not necessarily formed by any assembly of people. They are, in fact, Aggregates. Aggregates are essentially groups of people that happen to be in the same area at the same time but have no real connection to one another.

Passengers waiting at a railway station, airport, bus stop, or a cinema audience are instances of aggregates or Quasi groups that lack structure or organisation and whose members may be uninformed, or less aware, of their existence.

In time and under certain conditions, quasi groups may evolve into social groupings. People from the same caste, for example, may band together to join a caste-based political party. As members are aware of their interaction and belonging, such political parties will be referred to as social groupings.

A social group must possess at least the following characteristics:

  1. A sense of belonging to identify with other members, i.e. each individual is aware of the group itself and its own set of rules, rituals, and symbols; persistent interaction to create continuity; a consistent pattern of these interactions;

  2. Acceptance of similar norms and values a determinable structure (refers to patterns of regular and repetitive interaction between individuals or groups)

There is a fine line between a quasi group and a social group. A group of people can function as a quasi-group at times and as a social group under certain conditions. Teens concerned about acne and pimples, teenagers in big cities, and so on are instances of quasi groups. However, when a group of kids discovers that they are in the same class, have common friends, and so on, they form social groupings.

Types of Social Groups

Sociologists have categorised social groups in various ways. They consider several criteria in their classifications.

Primary and Secondary Groups

  • Cooley's most well-known classification is based on the size and type of relationship shared by its members.

  • The word primary group refers to a small group of people who are connected by intimate and face-to-face association and cooperation. Primary group members feel a sense of belonging. Primary groups include family, village, and groups of friends.

  • Secondary groupings are typically quite big, with formal and impersonal connections. The primary groups are concerned with people, whereas the secondary groups are concerned with goals.

  • Secondary groups include schools, government offices, hospitals, student organisations, and so on.

Community and Society or Association

  • The term "community" refers to extremely personal, intimate, and long-lasting human interactions in which a person's commitment is significant, if not total, as in the family, with true friends, or in a close-knit group.

  • The term society or 'association' alludes to the seemingly impersonal, superficial, and fleeting interactions that characterize modern metropolitan life. Commerce and industry necessitate a more calculated, pragmatic, and self-interested approach to interactions with others.

Out-groups and In-Groups

  • An ingroup is distinguished by a sense of belonging. This sensation distinguishes 'we' or 'us' from 'them' or 'them.' Children who attend a specific school may establish a 'in-group' in comparison to those who do not attend the school.

  • In contrast, an out-group is one to which members of an ingroup do not belong. Members of an out-group may experience hostile reactions from in-group members. Migrants are frequently viewed as an outgroup.

Reference Group

  • There are always other groups of individuals that any group of people looks up to and aspires to be like. The groups whose lifestyles are modelled are referred to as reference groups.

Peer Organizations

  • This is a type of primary group made up of people who are either of a similar age or belong to the same professional group.

Social Stratification

The existence of structured inequalities between groups in society in terms of access to tangible or symbolic rewards is referred to as social stratification.

Society can be seen of as a hierarchy or 'strata,' with the more privileged at the top and the less fortunate near the bottom.

Because of the critical role of stratification in the organisation of society, power and advantage inequality is important to sociology. Stratification has an impact on every element of an individual's and household's existence.

Human societies have historically had four primary stratification systems: slavery, caste, estate, and class.


  • Slavery is a sort of extreme inequality in which some people are literally owned by others.

  • Slavery can be found in two places: ancient Greece and Rome, and the Southern states of the United States in the 18th and 19th centuries.

  • Slavery was progressively abolished. However, bonded labour continues to exist, sometimes involving youngsters. Estates defined feudal Europe. We do not go into detail into estates here, but we do briefly discuss caste and class as social stratification systems.


  • In a caste stratification system, an individual's place is entirely determined by the status qualities conferred by birth rather than by any achievements made during the course of one's life. This is not to suggest that there are no systematic constraints on accomplishment imposed by status factors such as race and gender in a class society.

  • Different castes created a social hierarchy in traditional India. Each place in the caste structure was determined by its purity or contamination in comparison to others.

  • The conventional system is commonly thought of in terms of the four varnas of Brahmins, Kshatriyas, Vaishyas, and Shudras. In actuality, there are numerous occupation-based caste groups known as jatis.

  • The caste system in India has changed dramatically over the years. The so-called upper castes viewed endogamy and ritual avoidance of contact with members of the so-called lower castes to be important for maintaining purity.


  • The distinctions between class groupings are not as obvious as in the caste system.

  • Class status is earned rather than bestowed.

  • The class stratification is mostly based on disparities in economic resource possession.

  • Inequality operates on a wide scale through impersonal connection of members.

Status and Role

  • A status is merely a social or group position. Every civilization and group has many of these positions, and every individual has many of them. Thus, status refers to a social position with specific rights and responsibilities.

  • A role is the dynamic or behavioural part of a person's status. Although status is occupied, roles are played. It is a job that has become regularised, standardised, and codified in society as a whole or in any of society's specific affiliations.

  • Because each individual in a modern, complex society like ours occupies many various kinds of status throughout his or her life, the smaller and simpler the society, the fewer kinds of status that an individual can have.

  • Status and prestige are intertwined concepts. Certain rights and values are assigned to each status. Values are assigned to the social position rather than to the person who occupies it, his or her performance, or deeds. The type of value related to the standing or the office is referred to as prestige. People can rate status according to its great or low esteem. A doctor's prestige may be higher than that of a shopkeeper, even though the doctor earns less.

There are two kinds of status: Ascribed Status and Achieved Status.

Achieved Status

  • It is earned by an individual via merit and hard work.

  • It is determined by the individual.

  • It might change qualifications, income etc.

  • It plays a significant function in modern societies.

  • Eg. Class.

Ascribed Status

  • It is awarded to us on the basis of birth, biological inheritance, parents' status etc.

  • Aperson does not choose this position.

  • It is difficult to change status.

  • It plays a significant function in traditional communities.

  • Eg. Caste.

Role and Role Playing

Arole is the dynamic or the behavioural part of status. People do their responsibilities according to social expectations linked with the status that he/she occupies. This is referred to as role taking or role playing. Thus, responsibilities are played in accordance with the standing. For example, a youngster learns to behave in accordance with how her behaviour would be observed and rated by others.

Role Conflict

When there is disagreement among roles corresponding to numerous statuses, it is referred to as role conflict. It occurs when opposing expectations originate from two or more roles to be executed.

Role stereotyping

Role stereotyping is a method of reinforcing some specific role for some person of the society. For example males and women are generally socialised in conventional roles, as earner and homemaker accordingly.

Social roles and status are sometimes incorrectly regarded as set and unchangeable. It is considered that individuals learn the expectations that accompany social positions in their particular culture and perform these roles primarily as they have been described. Through socialisation, individuals do not internalise social roles and learn how to carry them out.

socialisation is a process in which humans can exercise agency; they are not simply passive subjects waiting to be trained or programmed. Individuals develop to understand and take social roles through a continual process of social interaction.

Social Control

Social control refers to the numerous techniques employed by a community to bring its rebellious or disorderly members back into line. It is the social process, techniques and strategies through which the actions of individuals or a community are governed.

It can be the use of force to manage the behaviour of the individuals or enforcement of values in the person to maintain order in society.

Means of Social Control

Social control may be casual or formal.

Formal Means

When The Codified, systematic and other formal mechanism of control is utilised, it is known as formal social control. There are agencies and procedures of formal social control, for example, law and the state. In a modern society formal methods and institutions of social control are prioritised.

Informal Means

In every society there is another type of social control that is known as informal social control. It is personal, unofficial and uncodified. They include smiles, making faces, body language, frowns, criticism, derision, laughter etc. There might be enormous variances in their use within the same civilization. In day- to-day living they are highly effective. However, in some circumstances informal means of social control may not be enough in imposing conformity or compliance.

There are different agencies of informal social control such as family, religion, kinship, etc.

Impact of Social Control

Social control can be both positive and detrimental through punishments. A penalty is a mechanism of reward or punishment that promotes socially expected forms of behaviour. Members of societies might be rewarded for good and expected behaviour. On the other side, negative punishments are also employed to enforce regulations and to restrain deviation.


Deviance refers to styles of action, which do not adhere to the standards or values held by most of the members of a group or society. What is seen as ‘deviant’ is as wildly vary as the norms and values that characterise different civilizations and subcultures. Likewise, concepts of deviance are tested and vary from one period to another. For example, a woman choosing to become an astronaut may be judged deviant at one period, and be applauded at another time even in the same community.


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