What are Social Systems

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A social structure is a hierarchical pattern of interrelationships that exist between people, institutions and groups to form a whole. Talcott Parsons defined social systes as just a segment of action theory. Parsons continues to define social systems as an orderly sequence, a relationship between parts. In the sequence, every part has a designated pace and a definite role to play. The parts are then brought together through interaction. Systems can therefore be concluded to be, patterned relationships between components of a whole of structure based on useful relations which makes these parts active and unites them into reality (Scott 2012).

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Applying the definitions to society, it can be concluded that social systems are a sequence of social interaction founded on shared values and norms. Individuals constitute the social systems, and each has a place in the system and a function to perform within the system. In the process, people form groups, one person influences the other, and they gain control. Consequently, subgroups are formed. It is also important to note that since in social systems exists interacting people all organizations can be concluded to be social systems(Scott 2012).

Characteristics of Social Systems

The first component of a Social system is in its connection to the plurality of personal actors. This means that a social system cannot exist because of an individuals activity, there must be the involvement of many people. The second characteristic is that social systems have aims and objectives. In this case, the human activities and interactions should not be without an objective. Social systems are also characterized by sequence and patterns among different constituent units(Press 2009). This means that the mere fact that different constituent groups that make up a social system come together does not necessarily make up a social system. Another characteristic is that functional relationship forms the foundation for unity. What this component means is that functional relationships between various constituent units merge to form a whole, thus, a social system is created. The fifth component comes in the environmental or the physical form of Social System (Press 2009). The meaning of this is that a social system is connected to a definite geographical place, time and society. Thus social systems are not the same in various locations, times and circumstances, which again shows how dynamic social systems are. Social systems are also connected to cultural systems. From this, it can be concluded that cultural systems cause unity among various members of a community based on culture, religion and traditions. Social systems have expressed and implied objectives as well as aims. In other words, social systems are as a result of different actors who unite as a result of motivation by common needs, goals and objectives. Social systems also have the feature of adjustment. It is influenced by the changes brought in the social form. Moreover, social systems are influenced by the needs, objectives and aims of a community. It means that the relevance of a social system comes with its ability to change with the changing needs, goals and purposes. Social systems have ordered, pattern and balance. Social systems, in this case, is putting together various units and not integrating a whole (Press 2009).

Change in Understanding of Social Systems

Up to this point through taking the unit, my understanding of Social systems has changed a lot. The reason is that, at first, I understood social systems only to mean structures of leadership. I have however learnt that social systems are not just about leadership structure but the relationship between individuals with same aims, needs and objectives. Moreover, I have come to understand that social systems are a making of putting together working units and that each member of the system has a role to play. Finally, from the characteristics of Social Systems, I have learnt that the relevance of a social system is in its ability to change. It has to change according to the changing needs, objectives and aims (~I Talcott Parsons I n.d.).

Universalistic Ascriptions Pattern

The selected social system, in this case, is the Universalistic Ascriptions Pattern. The element of ascription govern this type of social system. Thus in such a type of social structure, there is strong emphasis laid on the individuals status as opposed to the achievements of the individual. Emphasis is on what a person is, rather than what he has done(Gerhardt 2013).

Social Issues Related to Universalistic Ascriptions Pattern

The social problem here is the installation of Malcolm Turnbull as the Australias prime minister. This issue was documented on 19th September 2015. Turnbull is one of the wealthiest people in Australia, and he is worth$ 200 million. The installation of the rich man Turnbull has shown that political class have monopolized Australias politics (World Socialist Web Sites's.orgPublished by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) n.d.). Apart from his riches and net worth that was described in details in the paper, Turnbull is said to have used $600,000 to win the parliamentary seat in the eastern Sydney electorate. This case of Turnbulls installation best explains a scenario where Universalistic Ascription Pattern has been applied. The status of Turnbull has been used to qualify him as a minister of finance (World Socialist Web Sites's.orgPublished by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) n.d.). The individuals status is considered in this case, and his achievements are not of interest. The wealthy state of Turnbull has played a role in making him the one of the worlds richest political leaders (World Socialist Web Sites's.orgPublished by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI) n.d.).

What interests me about this issue is how much status influences people. Further, it is of interest because it shows that the rich have a role to play in leadership and that the role cannot be changed. The social system, in this case, ends up being silently oppressive to the governed since the rich will continue playing the role without giving the opportunity to the poor The relevant theory for the event is Dramaturgy or also known as Dramaturgical Perspective. This theory is where the perspective is a specialized symbolic method of interaction. The paradigm was put across by Erving Goffman (The Presentation of Self (Goffmans Dramaturgical Model)n.d.). In this theory, we look at life more of like a play where we are the actors and we have each a role to play. The characters we are supposed to play makes the scripts that give the stars which are people, the dialogue and the actions. Take for instance a doctor, plays the role of a physician using his/her instruments and talking in medical terms, similarly another individual plays his/her part guided by the role (The Presentation of Self (Goffmans Dramaturgical Model)n.d.). This theory further explains the performance of people presents what kind of people we are. And upon this basis people perceive us.

Significance of Social Systems to Social Science

Social systems enable social scientists to study how societies are shaped since the social structures define the shaping of society. Moreover, social systems help social scientists to understand how people and organizations relate to formulated rules that are used to define peoples roles in a community.


Calhoun, C. J. (2002). Contemporary sociological theory. Princeton, NJ: Recording for the Blind & Dyslexic

~I Talcott Parsons I. http://www.csun.edu/~snk1966/Talcott%20Parsons%20-%20An%20Outline%20of%20the%20Social%20System.pdf (February 3, 2016).

Press, Princeton University. 2009. http://press.princeton.edu/chapters/s8912.pdf (February 3, 2016).

Gerhardt, U. (2011). The social thought of Talcott Parsons: Methodology and American ethos. Farnham: Ashgate.

The Presentation of Self (Goffmans Dramaturgical Model). http://web.csulb.edu/~hmarlowe/SOC335/Goffman_Dramaturgical_Model.pdf (February 3, 2016).

World Socialist Web Sitewsws.orgPublished by the International Committee of the Fourth International (ICFI). http://www.wsws.org/topics/socialIssuesCategory/au-ineq/ (February 3, 2016).

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