Social structure

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Social structure is a term used in sociology to describe the dividing order of human societies according to their social characteristics , especially their social stratification . The social structure analysis carries out the scientific research and classification of the social structure on the basis of different theories , while the population science ( demography ) records stock figures and numerical changes in a society. Stratified or grouped societies differ from “ segmental societies ” with similar and equal populations. In addition to the sociological classification, the social structure also has dynamic characteristics, both in terms of its development and in terms of social processes .

The term social structure was introduced in 1905 by the German sociologist and philosopher Ferdinand Tönnies ; In general, it refers to the grouping of the social structure of relationships in a society as a whole according to similarities and differences in several dimensions. Structural groups are, for example, social class, class , caste , social situation , social milieu , lifestyle or, historically, the class order . Depending on the sociological perspective and interest in knowledge , these are individually divided into the characteristics that are important for the respective dimension in order to recognize and explain the permanent social interactions between these groups.

In the social structure analysis, the social structure is examined empirically and socially. The goals are the description, the explanation of connections, the comparison and the political advice.

Sociodemographic characteristics to describe the social structure

In demographics and statistics, population structure is understood to be the composition of a population from subgroups. Sociodemography is a term used in empirical social research that describes the characteristics of the population at the person level ( micro level ), according to which the members of a sample or a target group are described. From such socio-demographic information, aggregate data can be formed that can be used to describe the population structure.

If information is requested particularly frequently, it is also referred to as standard sociodemography. The most common sociodemographic data (also known as social indicators ) include the following characteristics:

feature Common forms, classifications Common aggregate data, social inequality Common terms related to change over time, social change
Biological gender or social gender female , male , non-binary gender identities Gender distribution , gender pay gap Emancipation of women
Age Age in years Age structure , life expectancy Aging population
marital status married, divorced, widowed
Nationality , migration and country of origin German, other Proportion of foreigners integration
Regional affiliation East West; State; Nielsen area ; Local sizes segregation
Religious affiliation Catholic, Protestant, other, none secularization
Family structure Children in the household: yes / no, number of people in the household Household size Customization
education Casmin classification , highest professional qualification Educational inequality Educational expansion
Education Without school leaving certificate, secondary school leaving certificate, secondary school leaving certificate or high school diploma
Employment status, occupation Full / part time , professional position Breaking the boundaries of work
job z. B. Classification of Occupations , ISCO 88 Professional prestige Prestige scale
income Main earner income , net household income , number of income earners in the household Distribution of income Poverty report
Social status , socio-economic status International Socio-Economic Index of Occupational Status Social class , social class Social mobility , vertical permeability
health specific diseases Socially determined inequality of health opportunities Health policy
flat Rent , condominium Census , population Housing policy

Similar standard characteristics are collected in empirical social research on companies , companies and organizations ( meso level ) and regions or countries (macro level).

Other scientific studies also collect socio-demographic data. In market research , sociodemographic data are e.g. B. collected in order to better tailor products to the specific target groups or to evaluate in which population group a product is most consumed in order to draw conclusions about the design of the marketing strategy .

Dynamic characteristics of the social structure and its development

In developing the social structure, Friedrich von Hayek differentiates the spontaneous social order , "... a polycentric order, undirected and unplanned, which arises from the interaction of many individuals and given boundary conditions ," from the social organization, which is the result of a conscious social design. He summarizes both processes under the term extended order . According to Hayek, the forms of society and their rules are subject to a cultural evolution in which emergent self-organization and the competitiveness of the form of society play a major role.

These processes and the development of structures in human society are largely self-organized and take place under conditions of complexity . The reason for this is the social feedback within society and the ability of the non-linear building blocks of society, people and their institutions, characterized as limited rationality . The complexity is generated by the non-linear dynamics of the processes in society.

According to Klaus Mainzer , one can structurally distinguish between the micro and macro levels; these influence each other within the framework of social processes and are thus fed back. The resulting social structure is called Mainz socio-configuration and its processes sociodynamics .

Social structure of individual countries

See also


  • Nicole Burzan : Social Inequality . VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2005.
  • Theodor Geiger : The social stratification of the German people . Enke, Stuttgart 1932.
  • Rainer Geißler: The social structure of Germany. Social development with a balance sheet for unification . 6th edition, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Springer Fachmedien, Wiesbaden 2011, ISBN 978-3-531-17611-6
  • Jörg Gutberger: People, space and social structure. Social structure and social space research in the “Third Reich”. LIT, Münster 1999, ISBN 3-8258-2852-2 .
  • Dieter Holtmann: The social structure of the Federal Republic of Germany in an international comparison. Universitätsverlag, Potsdam 2007, ISBN 978-3-939469-62-9
  • Stefan Hradil : The social structure of Germany in international comparison . 2nd Edition. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2006, ISBN 978-3-531-14939-4 .
  • George P. Murdock: Social Structure. New York / London 1966.
  • Bernhard Schäfers : Social Structure and Social Change in Germany. 2005.
  • Georg Simmel : Digression on the nobility . In: Sociology. Investigation of the forms of socialization , Berlin 1908.
  • Michael Vester , Peter von Oertzen , Heiko Geiling, Thomas Hermann, Dagmar Müller: Social milieus in social structural change. Between integration and exclusion. Suhrkamp, ​​Frankfurt am Main 2001.

Web links

Wiktionary: Social structure  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. ZUMA standard demographics. ZUMA Nachrichten, 1 (1): 1977, 4-7 (article)
  2. Kai Kugler: Population structure: population breakdown and composition according to various aspects , University of Trier , 2005 (PDF file; 225 kB)
  3. Friedrich von Hayek: The theory of complex phenomena, in: The presumption of knowledge, Mohr 1996 (manuscript from 1961)
  4. ^ Friedrich von Hayek: The fatal arrogance, Mohr Siebeck 2011
  5. Gottfried Jetschke: Mathematics of Self-Organization, 2nd edition, Harri Deutsch 2009
  6. Klaus Mainzer: Complexity, Fink UTB 2008