Social Institutions: Definition & Examples

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: Social Institutions Flashcards

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 1:02 Economy
  • 2:00 Government
  • 2:51 Family
  • 3:24 Education
  • 4:12 Religion
  • 4:54 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed Audio mode

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Kimberly Devore
Explore the inner workings of how societies establish subsystems that facilitate their survival. Learn about how each of these institutions contributes to the overall functioning of a society.

Social Institutions

Have you ever asked yourself what the purpose of an economy is? Or, why governments even matter? Try to think of government and economy like parts of a bicycle. Each piece serves a different purpose to the overall operation of the bike. In sociology, social institutions, such as economy and government, are the 'bike parts' and the overall society is the 'bicycle.'

Social institutions are established sets of norms and subsystems that support each society's survival. Each sector carries out certain tasks and has different responsibilities that contribute to the overall functioning and stability of a society. This helps to decrease chaos and increase structure. While societies may differ in how they establish these responsibilities, they all have economic, governmental, family, educational and religious institutions.


You can think of the economic institution like the tires on the bicycle. Without them, the bike will not move. In society, without an economic system, the transfer of materials would break down. The economy is responsible for managing how a society produces and distributes its goods, services and resources. There are two dominant economic systems in the world: capitalism and socialism. Both of these have the same purpose but are structured differently. It's like having a pair of racing tires and a pair of all-terrain tires. Both will roll, but do so differently.

For example, in China, a socialist society, the government controls the management of its goods and resources, with little say from the citizens. In the United States of America, a capitalist society, businesses and citizens control much of the materials, with some regulation from the government.


The governmental institution develops and implements rules and decides how to manage relations with other societies. Much like the handlebars on a bike, it helps decide what direction to go and how to get there. The four main types of governments throughout the world are democracy, authoritarian, monarchy and totalitarian. Each has differing views on who runs the government, as well as the amount of freedom and opinions the citizens are allowed to have.

For example, in the United States of America (a democratic government), the citizens' opinions and freedoms are respected and are essential to selecting who manages their government. In January 2013, President Barack Obama was sworn into office for his second term, as a direct result of the citizens' votes.

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it now

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 220 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Used by over 30 million students worldwide
Create an account