Social Relationships: Meaning, Types, Examples, Characteristics, Norms

We explain what social relationships are, their types, characteristics, and examples. In addition, social relations of production.

Broadly defined, social relationships refer to the connections that exist between people who have recurring interactions that are perceived by the participants to have personal meaning.

What are social relationships?

Commonly, social relationships are understood as the set of interactions that occur between two or more people, or two or more groups of people, according to a series of mutually accepted protocols or guidelines, that is, according to specific norms.

These relationships are studied by sociology and constitute for her the maximum degree of complexity of social behavior. They are the basis of other concepts such as social organization, social structure, or social movements.

Human beings are gregarious creatures, that is, we tend to live among our peers. Thus, we form communities that require a set of normative interactions to live in relative peace. Therefore, social relations are part of who we are and their study will reveal much of how we think of ourselves and others.

In that sense, both the types of link ( friendship, love, rivalry, etc.) and the type of norms with which we distinguish legitimate or appreciated relationships, from prohibited, unacceptable, or incorrect relationships are of interest. Socialization is the way these elements are changing and plotting the behavior of human beings.

Characteristics of social relations

Social relationships can be:

  • Materials: They involve some kind of exchange of objects. These are concrete relationships that include those that have links with the economy, and the material.
  • Ideological: They involve the adherence or transmission of some kind of thought patterns. They are abstract relationships that are linked to moral, spiritual, political, etc.

On the other hand, social relations are usually based on protocols and norms. These norms are determined historically and culturally, but also based on the needs of the collective.

In fact, courtesy and forms of everyday treatment are evidence that even brief and superficial contacts with those who live around us require a certain way of doing the things we must learn, so as not to clash in society.

Types of social relationships

social labor relations
Labor relations are usually governed by hierarchical norms, and are different from effective ones.

Social relationships can be classified differently, depending on whether our approach in this regard is psychological, sociological, or otherwise. For example, we can distinguish between social relationships according to the type of link established, as follows:

  • Affective relationships: Those we have with the chosen people to form our intimate environment: friends, couples, and partners, people with whom we develop deep emotional connections.
  • Labor relations: Those that we must undertake in our work environment, whatever it may be, and which are usually governed by hierarchical, formal, and different rules from the intimate ones. In general, they are less emotionally deep ties, but very important in everyday life.
  • Family relationships: Another type of intimate and very intense relationship, but that we cannot really choose, since they are given in advance, are those of our family, at least the close core of father-mother-brothers. In fact, these relationships are psychologically vital for individuals, both in a positive and negative sense.
  • Circumstantial relationships: Those superficial, ephemeral, and local relationships that we will have with strangers throughout the day, many of which could become of another type, or not. They usually have a little emotional bond and are quickly forgotten.

Importance of social relationships

As we said at the beginning, social relations are the basis of human society as a whole. They are determined by the social interaction of human beings, especially as it is transmitted to future generations.

Our social relations are the legitimate ways to bond with each other, which is very important if we consider that humanity, at this point, is forced every day to accept those who think differently, who live differently, and present, precisely, another type of social relations.

To what extent is it legitimate to tolerate the other’s ways of linking? To what extent should we sacrifice our own and learn those of others? This is a debate that is at the heart of human civilization at the beginning of the globalized 21st century.

Examples of social relationships

Examples of social relations are the order of the day. We establish them with our friends, family, the people we work with or study with, the rivals of our soccer team, the buyers we serve in our store, the boss who supervises us, or the people with whom we have a romantic date.

As a whole, all of our social relationships are a fundamental aspect of our existence.

Social relationships of production

The term “social relations of production” must be understood in a different area from what we have discussed here. It is a term from the Marxist school of thought, founded in the twentieth century by European theorists Carlos Marx and Federico Engels.

His approach involved a historical reading of society, looking at what social classes held power at each stage. In addition, he studied how they had achieved their power through the control of the mechanisms of the production of consumer goods.

Therefore, in this context, social relations of production are the type of links established between human beings based on their role in the process of economic production. These relationships are determined by the control of the means of production.

These relationships are legally valid and validated. They determine the management of socially produced assets (such as real estate, vehicles, or machines used to produce), and allow the distribution of benefits according to those who occupy the dominant position.

Social Norms

Social norms are rules that are not usually written or explicitly stated and yet govern behavior within a society. The objective of social norms is to achieve harmonious coexistence. (See: examples of standards )

Social norms vary from one society to another, they are already the product of uses, customs, and traditions. They are formed over the years and also vary from one generation to another.

There are different social norms depending on the groups to which one belongs. Social norms in a professional setting differ from those governing relationships in friendly settings. Also, social norms are very different depending on social class.

If other types of norms are violated, such as legal norms, established by law, the consequence is a formal punishment stipulated by law. However, non-compliance with social norms does not result in a specific sanction. Deviating from the social norm can have consequences of all kinds: losing friends, and job opportunities and facing other negative consequences.
Social norms exist in each group because a significant part of it considers them important. Breaking them means going against the customs and values of that group, and therefore it is possible to provoke the rejection of its members.

Types of standards

Social norms are distinguished not only from legal norms (established by the State) but also from norms belonging to specific groups, such as the internal norms of a family, or the norms of certain games. There are also rules in workplaces that may coincide with social norms (such as punctuality) or not (the obligation to wear a helmet).

The behavior of individuals in society is governed by different types of norms:

  • Legal norms: they are defined by an authority, usually the State. They include the imposition of a penalty for non-compliance.
  • Moral norms: they are dictated by one’s own conscience, based on moral values. They develop from their own experience and the influence of different groups, such as family, religion, school, friendships, and, indirectly, society as a whole. They are similar to social norms in that non-compliance does not have an institutionalized sanction but it can provoke rejection by a group or society. (See also: moral judgments )
  • Religious norms: are determined by the interpretation of sacred scriptures that each community makes. When in society the majority of the population belongs to the same religion, it is common for religious norms to be confused with social norms or even to become legal norms.
  • Social norms: associated with moral norms, but that can contradict the morality of an individual. They emerge from respect for others and harmony in coexistence, in addition to the other moral values ​​held by the groups. (See also: cultural values )

Examples of social norms

  1. Greet those present when arriving at a place.
  2. Do not stay too long looking at another person, so as not to make them uncomfortable. This social norm is suspended when a person draws our attention (if he talks to us if he is doing a show, if we talk to him, etc.)
  3. What was a social norm such as not lighting a cigarette without asking others if it bothers them, today has become a legal norm in many of the world’s cities in public places. The legal norm intensified the social norm in private spheres.
  4. Do not open your mouth to speak while eating.
  5. Staying clean in public spaces is a social norm that is not met in sports contexts. In those cases, it is socially acceptable for players of any sport to be sweaty or even muddy in sports like rugby.
  6. Do not interrupt others when they speak.
  7. Avoid profane or obscene language.
  8. Giving the seat to elderly people, those with a motor disability, and pregnant women.
  9. While a general social norm is not to speak loudly, in certain friendly groups it may be welcomed or even encouraged.
  10. Not making noise when the night is late is a social norm that is followed on the streets where houses are located.
  11. Allowing women to pass before men used to be an undisputed social norm, however, it is currently being put on trial.
  12. Punctuality is a social norm that must be respected in almost any context.
  13. The makeup of both women and men strictly depends on the customs of each society.
  14. What is considered appropriate clothing is also a social norm that changes radically in different societies. Even in our society, social norms dictate different types of clothing for different activities and situations.
  15. Respect for opinions other than one’s own.

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