Back To CourseTopics in Sociology
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How do people from different groups in society come together? And how is this maintained? In sociology, the concept of social integration refers to a situation where minority groups come together or are incorporated into mainstream society. Though, we should note, this doesn't mean in a forceful way.
Social integration also refers to a process of largely agreeing on a shared system of meaning, language, culture, and the like. This doesn't mean there aren't any differences, but that we kind of agree to live together and, at least to an extent, feel part of a larger community. Increased social integration helps reduce conflict in society, and it can help us feel more connected to our community. Let's talk about some of the ways that influential sociologists have thought about social integration.
Émile Durkheim, considered one of the founders of modern sociology, had a lot to say about social integration. He was one of the first to explore the concept in a book called The Division of Labor in Society, written in 1892. Durkheim considered society to be the collective consciousness of people. In other words, the way we think, feel, and behave is influenced by society in a major way. But, how do we remain a cohesive whole and avoid too much conflict? Durkheim came up with a couple different types of social integration, which he referred to as kinds of solidarity.
First, mechanical solidarity is what binds more primitive, or smaller, societies together. In this kind of solidarity, it's things like kinship and shared beliefs that hold us together. We're integrated because we're all pretty similar. In more advanced societies, we see the emergence of organic solidarity. In a more complex society, a complex division of labor requires us to rely on each other more. This kind of interdependence creates increased social integration, instead of simply our similarities.
But what if we don't achieve this integration? In Durkheim's view, this leads to a problem known as anomie, or a sense of feeling very disconnected from others and from our community. Decreased social integration leads to anomie and, potentially, conflict. Now that we know a little about the foundation of social integration theory, let's talk about a more contemporary take.
Another important perspective on social integration comes from Peter Blau, a sociologist who began writing about social integration and related issues in the 1960s. Not unlike Durkheim, Blau saw social integration and how we might achieve it as key concerns in modern society. Group life consists of the different kinds of exchanges that groups have, and Blau saw some specific things that lead to group formation and, hopefully, social integration.
First, attraction is key to Blau's theory of social integration. Now, this doesn't mean exactly what we might think it means. Attraction is not necessarily based on physical appearance but instead on how well a person is able to demonstrate his or her value to a group. Blau saw potential members of a group making an effort to present themselves as very attractive to existing group members. The hope is that existing group members will see a new member as potentially making an important contribution to the group.
So, what factors make us attractive to others? Blau noted that things like high social status tend to make others view us favorably. Having an affable personality can also help us achieve what Blau called social bonds with others, which can lead to group cohesion. However we do it, in order to be fully integrated into a group, we need to be seen as attractive to the group.
But Blau also noted that this can create tension. In fact, appearing too attractive to group members can foster feelings of competition. This can make existing group members resentful, which can hinder integration. For example, let's say you really want to join a community organization and be part of that group. You find you're very attractive to group members because of your great organizing skills. But, this creates some tension when the current president of the organization becomes worried about her position. So, what could new group members do about this? Blau suggested that we need to make sure we're both attractive and approachable. Being approachable means that we can put other group members at ease. We might do this by deliberately downplaying some of our skills or accomplishments.
But, being very attractive isn't all bad. Blau noted that it can show other members of a group that we are valuable and that we might be able to help achieve a common goal. But, just to add a little more conflict: Blau also said that this might compel others to respect us, which they might resent. Basically, Blau saw social integration as a constant tension between being an admired perspective group member and being a figure who creates competition. The very processes that lead to integration can also lead to disintegration!
In sociology, the concept of social integration refers to the ways that different groups come together to form a whole in society. It might refer to cases when minority groups become part of mainstream society or when groups of individuals come together to make a cohesive whole. It's a process where we decide to live harmoniously and relatively conflict-free.
Sociologist and one of the founders of sociology, Émile Durkheim, identified a few types of social integration. In simple and more primitive societies, we see mechanical solidarity, which is based on things like shared beliefs. In more complicated societies, integration comes from organic solidarity, which comes from being interdependent on one another. Anomie, or a feeling of disconnection from the community, can lead to social disintegration.
Peter Blau, a sociologist who began writing about social integration and related issues in the 1960s, shared Durkheim's concern with social integration. He viewed the process as based on how attractive, or able to show our value to others, we are to a group we want to join. While this can create tension and foster competition with existing group members, we can ease this by being approachable, meaning we can put others at ease, and demonstrating how we might contribute to a particular group.
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Back To CourseTopics in Sociology
8 chapters | 89 lessons