An institution is established law, practice or organization that serves a political, economic, religious or educational purpose. 

  • Institutions have the following characteristics:
  • A hierarchical structure
  • An organizational structure
  • Serves a need in society
  • Has written rules
  • Has rewards and penalties
  • Endures over time

Institutions are classified as

  1. Political: 
    governments, political parties
  2. Economic: 
    banks, insurance companies, credit unions
  3. Educational: 
    primary schools, high schools, universities
  4. Religious: 
    churches, mosques, synagogues
  5. Recreational: 
    sports club, art club

Hierarchical structure

Institutions have formal structures. For the purpose of functioning efficiently, there are chains of authority and responsibility. These are often clearly defined as many institutions are large and it helps to avoid confusion. 

Institutions serve a specific function in society

Institutions are established because of a particular need in society. Schools have been around for centuries with the specific function of educating people. In modern times the function of schools has adapted to changes in society. With advancements in technology, workplaces increasingly needed trained employees. More schools were created and more students were given the opportunity to learn in order to create a larger skilled workforce. 

Institutions have written rules

Institutions are formal groups. They have written rules that govern how they function. These rules regulate the actions of the members of an institution. Those who abide by the rules are often rewarded and those who break the rules are penalized. 

Institutions use symbols

The use of symbols is often found in institutions. In religious institutions such as the church, the members of the clergy wear religious garments that symbolize their station. In the police force rank is displayed by the types of uniforms the officers wear. 

Institutions endure

Institutions endure for a long time because they exist to fulfill a need in society. These needs are fundamental to the existence of a society and as such institutions continue to be relevant. For example, society will always need a skilled workforce, so schools will always be needed to produce qualified people. Society will always need security so the police force will endure as an institution to fulfill that need.  

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