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Related to social system: social structure
- any, especially a relatively persistent, ‘patterning of social relations across “time-space", understood as reproduced practices’ (GIDDENS, 1984). Thus in this general sense, a SOCIETY, or any ORGANIZATION or GROUP constitutes a social system. For Giddens, however, social systems are highly variable in the degree to which they manifest a 'systematic pattern’. They ‘rarely have the sort of internal unity’ true of biological systems, or of the kind usually assumed by FUNCTIONALISM (see also SYSTEM, SYSTEMS THEORY). Compare also SOCIAL STRUCTURE, STRUCTURE.
- (more specifically, as in FUNCTIONALISM) any persistent system of interaction between two or more social actors up to and including a unitary SOCIETY, especially where this is associated with a tendency of the system to boundary maintenance, i.e. to preserve its position vis-a-vis its external environment, whether this be other social systems or the physical world. In PARSONS’ thinking (1951), and in most modern forms of functionalist and STRUCTURAL-FUNCTIONALIST sociology, such a conception of social system has been particularly associated with conceptions of FUNCTIONAL PREREQUISITES of societies and of societies as self-maintaining systems, etc. (see also SYSTEMS THEORY, SUBSYSTEMS MODEL).
Collins Dictionary of Sociology, 3rd ed. © HarperCollins Publishers 2000