Social Issues




Socialinstitutions have different definitions. The first definition is “agroup of individuals that come together to execute a particularpurpose on behalf of the society, normally to enhance societal normsthat basically serve to preserve the social of values of thesociety”(Macionis, Benoit, &ampJansson, 2000). The seconddefinition is “a group of people that play certain roles togetherin tandem with societal expectations and behavior”. In many ways,the institutions form the script of any deviant behavior thatcontradicts the expectations of the society. Examples of socialinstitutions are education, family, and religion. Other socialinstitutions that are not part of this discussion are economicinstitutions and the government. They play specific roles thatconstitute the wholeness of the society. Each of these institutionsplays certain roles as follows:


Thefamily is the modern context, is the nuclear family, but by extensionthe extended family. The family is the basic institution of thesociety because the population of any society begins the formation ofa family. Thus, the family plays a very important position incompleting the society. The family is the source of society’sstability. The family ensures that the society continues to existthrough childbearing. As children grow and also form their ownfamilies, they propagate the values and cultures to the nextgenerations. Family is also the source of informal education. Onecan also argue that it provides formal institutions because manypeople earn an education through family support and financing. Peoplealso derive their personalities from the social boundaries that theirfamilies impart in them.


Religion,as a social institution serves to demystify spiritual issues in thesociety. There are a variety of religious beliefs in the world andalmost all of them have a particular deity that its followers look upto as a symbol of their commonality. There are major roles ofreligion that project as a vital social institution: 1) it solidifiesal members of the society that subscribe to it, 2) has values thatdefine a moral community, 3) a basis of social control, and 4)providing social support through psychotherapy and emotional support. In some cases, religion also plays a vital position as the agent ofsocial change.


Educationinvolves passing knowledge and the value of the society to childrenand other younger members of the society. Practically, educationnever ends because people keep learning issues and values about theirsociety even in their old age. Education brings people togetherthrough bringing all children and learners of different backgroundsin one place to learn from each other. Thus, it is also anintegrative tool in the society. Furthermore, education is the sourceof social development. Many people achieve different positions in thesociety after acquiring knowledge that befits a specific position inthe society.

Thesocial institutions addressed in the videos

Thefirst video that addresses a social issue is “Why More AmericansAre Living Alone”. In the video, Eric Klinenberg and Ray Suarez arehosted by PBS’ Gwen Ifill. They contend the rising number ofAmericans are opting to live alone rather than live with a spouse asit has had always been the case. According to Ray, the number hasrisen from 22 percent of Americans in 1950, which was about ninepercent of the total number of households, to 50 percent today. Thismeans the number has risen to about 28 percent of total households. Suarez also cites a convergence of several factors that lead to thistrend. Some the factors that he talks about are: divorce, choice,and death of spouse. Everybody in the video seems eager to unravelone singular cause of the trend, but they eventually settle on whatSuarez enumerates as the real factors.

Thesecond video that entails a social issue is,“Has religioustolerance changed in America?”Jeffrey Brown, is thecorrespondent that moderates the discussion on the level of religioustolerance in the United States. The panelists, who include, ReverendVincent, Nick Gillespie, Bishop Fredrick Jackson, and Reza Aslan,talk about the state of religious tolerance. Aslan, for instance,views the rise of anti-Islamic sentiments across the United Statesand one of possible factors he cites is the fact that some 20 percentof Americans believe that President Barrack Obama is a Muslim.Another issue that comes up in the conversation is the controversybehind the ground zero mosque. The key word for the video is“islamophobia”. Reverend Vincent blames the failure of thepolitical leadership to help the American society process September11 as a way to enhance religious tolerance. Bishop Jackson agreeswith reverend Vincent that leadership in general need to be onforefront. The subtle agreement among the panelists is thatAmericans are tolerant but not as much as it was years beforeSeptember 11.

Thethird video that talks about a social issue is “Unbreakable: OneGirl Changing the World”. The video is aboutsixteen-year old MalalaYousafzai who was shot in Pakistan for her insistence on getting aneducation. The surprising issue about Malala is that she was shot inher head at short range, but she survived. She is a strong believerof the education of a girl child in every society. Malala’s fatheris a teacher. Her paternal grandfather was a teacher. Althougheducation seems a value in her family, the deadly story of Talibanextremism almost brought her down. The video is a perfect example ofhow education is the most effective tool of social change. Malala’sdream is to become a doctor.

Functionalist,Conflict, and Interactionist perspectives

Thefunctionalist view of the society views the society as dependent onthe contributions each section that constitutes it(Giddens, Duneier,Appelbaum, &amp Carr, 2000)..This view considers the stability inthe society as product of the role that each part plays rather thanan agglomeration of all the parts. The Interactionist perspectivepays attention to all happens to an individual and how that impactsthe society. Internationalists view issues such as individualinterpretation of symbols and the portrayals one intends to make attheir individual level as vital to the stability of the society.Finally, the conflict perspective as coined by Karl Marx, views thesociety as a place of competition and struggle for the limitedresources or for the rewards. The consequence is that the societybecomes clustered based on those who benefit from endowment ofresources. Thus, the social systems are as a result of this socialview.

Inthe first video, “Why more Americans are living lone”, thepanelist, Suarez uses the internationalist perspective to explain therising level of singlehood. According to Suarez, the situation is aresult of many individual choices that lead to people opting to livealone. In the second video on religious tolerance, the panelist ofreligious leaders and experts use the functionalist view. They agreethat the religious and political leadership in conjunction with thesociety ought to play their specific roles in enhancing religioustolerance. Finally, the final video on Malala uses the conflictperspective. In their attempt to control religious and politicalpower, the Taliban chooses to use force against education, terming ita western element. This is how the world gets to know about Malala asa champion of education.


Socialinstitutions are vital components of the society. Among these arefamily, education, and religion. They determine the way the societyis shaped through cultures and values that generations must learnabout. However, the same social institutions have also been the causeof conflict for mankind. Understanding these conflicts from anysociological perspective provide deep insights as elicited in thevideos discussed.


Giddens,A., Duneier, M., Appelbaum, R. P., &amp Carr, D. (2000).Introductionto sociology.New York: WW Norton.

Macionis,J. J., Benoit, C., &ampJansson, M. (2000). Society:the basics.Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.