Essay on the Classification of Social Groups

A single criterion may be taken or a combination of some factors may be preferred for a classification. The following are some of the main classifications. Of course, they are not mutually exclusive and they do overlap.

The Classifications:

1. ‘In-Groups’ and ‘Out-Group’:

W.G. Sumner in his ‘Folkways’ differentiates between ‘in-groups ‘and ‘out-groups’. An ‘In-Group’ is simply the We-group, an ‘Out,-Group’ the ‘they- group.

This classification is more subjective, in the sense; it depends on the tendency on the part of an individual to identify himself with a particular group in a particular situation for a particular reason.

For example, for a Hindu, all the other Hindus constitute his ‘in-group’ and members of other religious groups, ‘out-group For a Lingayat, the other Lingayats may constitute his ‘in-group’, and other people, his ‘out-group’ and so on.

2. Involuntary and Voluntary Groups:

Institutional and Non-Institutional Groups and Temporary and Permanent Groups. Charles A. Ellwood in his ‘Psychology of Human Society’ has mentioned these three categories.

Involuntary groups include the groups such as family, city, the state, community, caste, race etc., and the voluntary groups include political parties, trade unions, youth associations, religious associations, cultural associations and so on.

Institutional groups are mostly permanent in nature and include church, state, caste, the school and so on while the non-institutional groups are temporary in nature and include groups such as crowds, mobs, public, audience and so on.

3. Horizontal Groups and Vertical Groups:

P.A. Sorokin has divided groups into two major types – the horizontal and the vertical. The former are large, inclusive groups ; such as nations, religious organisations and political parties. The latter are smaller divisions, such as economic classes which give the individual his status in society.

4. Territorial Groups and Non-Territorial Groups:

Park and Burgess have distinguished between territorial groups [e.g., communities and states] and non-territorial groups [e.g., classes, castes, crowds and public],

5. Crowds, Groups and Collectivities:

Leopold Von Wiese and Howard Becker classified human groups into three categories: (1) Crowds, which are described as ‘loose-textured and transi­tory’, (2) Groups, aggregations of long duration, and (3) abstract collectivities such as a state or a church.

6. Primary Groups and Secondary Groups:

On the basis of nature and quality of social interaction groups have been classified into primary and secondary. The name of C.H- Cooley is very much associated with this classification though in actuality, he has not made any such classifi­cation. Cooley introduced the term ‘primary group’ and spoke nothing about ‘secondary group’. The secondary groups are regarded as a ‘residual’ category.

7. Social Groups, Social Category and Statistical Aggregate:

A distinction is also made between social groups, social categories and statistical aggregate;

(i) Social groups are those which are characterised by some established pattern of interaction.

Example: Peer groups, classroom groups, family, political party etc.

(ii) A social category refers to the people who share a common status.

Example: Bank officials, soldiers, teachers, farmers, women etc.

(iii) A statistical aggregate include people who share similar interests.

Example: Cricket fans, subscribers of a magazine.

8. Genetic Groups and Congregate Group:

F. Q. Giddings has introduced this classifica­tion. Genetic groups are involuntary in nature and the individuals are born in them. Congregate groups are voluntary in nature and the individuals are at liberty to join them or not. Family groups, racial groups, ethnic groups are genetic groups, political parties; trade unions, etc. are congregate groups.

9. Tonnies Classification of Communities (or Groups):

A German Sociologist Ferdinand Tonnies has classified communities into “Gemeinschaft” and “Gesellschaft”. These two terms have been translated into English as “Community” and “Association” respectively. Tonnies made the distinction between ‘Community’ and ‘Association’ at two levels. The distinction was applied to both: (i) to the social groups within a society, and (ii) to the societies themselves.

(i) Gemeinschaft (Community):

The ‘Gemeinschaft’ is characterised by “intimate, private, and exclusive living together.” It represents a community or social groups in which individuals are involved in the process of interaction as ‘persons’.

They feel that they can satisfy all or most of a wide range of purposes in the group. The family, kin group, the neighbourhood, the rural village, the friends group represent the Gemeinschaft. In such groups intimate, friendly and personal relations are found among the members.

(ii) Gesellschaft (Association):

The Gesellschaft is defined as “public life”, as something which is purposefully entered upon. Tonnies says that these associations largely represent group with eco­nomic interests. The Gesellschaft or the ‘association’ represents relationships that are specific, par­tial, and utilitarian.

Business contract, legal pacts between individuals represent the Gesellschaft relationships. Business Companies, Corporations, Cities, and Towns etc. represent ‘Gesellschaft’ type groups. In these groups the individuals are not wholly involved in the group life. They look to the group for the satisfaction of some specific and partial ends.

Thus, Gemeinschaft or the Community is united by kind of feeling or sentiment between indi­viduals. It acts as a cementing factor. On the other hand, Gesellschaft or the Association is united by a rational agreement of interests. This classification of communities made by Tonnies is very much akin to the classification of groups into ‘primary groups’ and ‘secondary groups.

10. Small Groups and Large Groups:

George Simmel introduced this classification. Size is the basis of this classification. Small groups include ‘dyad’, ‘triad’ and other small groups. Large groups represent racial groups, political groups, nation and other big collectivities.

Other Classifications:

In addition to the above, there are also other classifications such as the following:

1. Organised groups and Unorganised groups.

2. Congregated groups and dispersed groups.

3. Majority groups and Minority groups.

4. Open groups and closed groups.

5. Independent groups and Dependent groups.

6. Formal groups and Informal groups.