Social order  

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This page Social order is part of the politics series.Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.
This page Social order is part of the politics series.
Illustration:Liberty Leading the People (1831, detail) by Eugène Delacroix.

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Social order is a concept used in sociology, history and other social sciences.

It refers to a set of linked social structures, social institutions and social practices which conserve, maintain and enforce "normal" ways of relating and behaving.

Thus, a "social order" is a relatively stable system of institutions, pattern of interactions and customs, capable of continually reproducing at least those conditions essential for its own existence. The concept thus refers to all those facets of society which remain relatively constant over time.

These conditions could include both property, exchange and power relations, but also cultural forms, communication relations and ideological systems of values.

The "problem of social order," how and why it is that social orders exists at all, is historically central to sociology. Thomas Hobbes is recognized as the first to clearly formulate the problem, to answer which he conceived the notion of a social contract. Social theorists (such as Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Jürgen Habermas) have proposed different explanations for what a social order consists of, and what its real basis is. For Marx, it is the relations of production or economic structure which is the basis of a social order. For Durkheim, it is a set of shared social norms. For Parsons, it is a set of social institutions determining moral behaviour. For Habermas, it is all of these, as well as communicative action.

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