Groupstwo or more people who share a feeling of unity and who are bound
together in relatively stable patterns of social interactionare products
of social definitionssets of shared ideas. As such they constitute constructed
Primary Groups and Secondary Groups. Primary groups
involve two or more people who enjoy direct, intimate, cohesive relationships
and are fundamental to both us and society. Expressive ties predominate
in primary groups. Secondary groups entail two or more people who
are involved in impersonal, touch-and-go relationships. Instrumental
ties predominate in secondary groups.
In-Groups and Out-Groups. The concepts of in-group
and out-group highlight the importance of boundariessocial
demarcation lines that tell us where interaction begins and ends. Boundaries
prevent outsiders from entering a group's sphere, and they keep insiders
within the group's sphere.
Reference Groups. Reference groups provide the
models we use for appraising and shaping our attitudes, feelings, and actions.
A reference group may or may not be our membership group. A reference group
provides both normative and comparative functions.
The dynamic qualities of groups make them a significant force in human life
and important to sociologists.
Group Size. The size of a group influences the
nature of our interaction. Emotions and feelings tend to assume a larger
part in dyads than in larger groups. The addition of a third member
to a groupforming a triadfundamentally alters a social
situation. In this arrangement one person may be placed in the role of an
Leadership. In group settings some members usually
exert more influence than others. We call these individuals leaders.
Two types of leadership roles tend to evolve in small groups: a task
specialist and a social-emotional specialist. Leaders may follow
an authoritarian style, a democratic style, or a laissez-faire style.
Social Loafing. When individuals work in groups,
they work less hard than they do when working individually, a process termed
Social Dilemmas. A social dilemma is a
situation in which members of a group are faced with a conflict between
maximizing their personal interests and maximizing the collective welfare.
Groupthink. In group settings individuals may
become victims of groupthink. Group members may share an illusion
of invulnerability that leads to overconfidence and a greater willingness
to take risks.
Conformity. Groups bring powerful pressures to
bear that produce conformity among their members. Although such pressures
influence our behavior, we often are unaware of them.
For many tasks within modern societies, people require groups they can deliberately
create for the achievement of specific goals. These groups are formal organizations.
Types of Formal Organization.
Amitai Etzioni classified organizations on the basis of people's
reasons for entering them: voluntary, coercive, and utilitarian.
Bureaucracy: A Functional Approach to Organizations. Small
organizations can often function reasonably well on the basis of face-to-face
interaction. Larger organizations must establish formal operating and administrative
procedures. This requirement is met by a bureaucracy.
Characteristics of Bureaucracies.
Max Weber approached bureaucracy as an ideal type with these characteristics:
Each office has clearly defined duties; all offices are organized in a hierarchy
of authority; all activities are governed by a system of rules; all offices
have qualifications; incumbents do not own their positions; employment by
the organization is defined as a career; and administrative decisions are
recorded in written documents.
Problems of Bureaucracy.
Bureaucracies have disadvantages and limitations. These include
the principle of trained incapacity, Parkinson's law, and the iron
law of oligarchy. If formal organization is to operate smoothly, it
requires informal organization for interpreting, translating, and
supporting its goals and practices.
Conflict and Interactionist Perspectives. In recent
years sociologists from differing perspectivesparticularly the conflict,
symbolic interactionist, and ethnomethodological approacheshave looked
at the ways by which organizational reality is generated through the actions
of people and groups of people.
Humanizing Bureaucracies. Among programs that
make large organizations more humane are those that allow employee participation,
flextime, small work groups, and employee ownership.