Institutions Are a Fundamental Framework

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Institutions can be defined as structures that standardize patterns of rule based behaviors in society, when serving the community effectively and functioning normally, they can become almost invisible. It become possible for institutions to disappear because they organize nearly every level of society can can appear to be intrinsic attributes of human culture instead of social constructions. Institutions such as marriage, religion, education and government provide the framework in which we think about our role in society and what kind of behavior is expected from us at each point in our lives. Because institutions can effectively disappear from our worldview it becomes easy to forget that other patterns of behavior, ones that deviate from current normative social behavior, can be acceptable even though they conflict with the established order. James M. Henslin uses the incredible story of Flight 227 to illustrate how normal and deviant behavior can flip when a situation reveals that current normative behavior is in fact a social construction. By social construction Henslin tells us that nothing has built in meaning. Meaning is instead arbitrarily assigned and socially constructed. For the passengers of Flight 227 the value assigned to bodies was such that bodies, while not a person, were still human and deserved to be treated with respect and certainly were never to be considered as food. But as Henslin relates, when the passengers were given the choice between death or cannibalism the group was able to socially construct new definitions of acceptable behavior as relates to human bodies. Acceptable behavior within the group was redefined to include eating human flesh as long as certain requirements were met, such as no o... ... middle of paper ... ...nd much my sisters seemed more sensitive to the teasing by classmates and would beg to be sent to school with a lunch that better conformed to the lunch standards of her peers. This kind of peer pressure and ostracization of deviants is one way that institutions can enforce normal behavior. Institutions do this by working at multiple levels and embedding the norms so deep that other members of society act as enforcers, often unknowingly. It is not immediately obvious that the rules being enforced are arbitrarily constructed by society, because of this it is difficult to separate social conventions from the intrinsic nature humans or society. But through examination of normal and deviant behavior it’s possible to peer deeper and realize that our behaviors and our values are socially constructed, not supernaturally prescribed or intrinsically part of who we are.

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