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Social Pathology

Social Pathology

Generally speaking in late 19th and early 20th century sociologists grouped together under the heading of social pathology those human actions which ran contrary to ideals of residential stability, property ownership, sobriety, thrift, habituation to work, small business enterprise, sexual discretion, family solidarity, neighbourliness and discipline of the will. In effect social problems were considered to be any forms of behavior violating the mores from which these ideals were projected.

The concept of disorganization was developed by Thomas and Zananiecki in their famous book 'The Polish Peasant in Europe and America'. According to them the term social disorganization refers to the decrease in the influence of the existing social rules of behavior upon individual members. As a result of this there develops individuation and lack of cohesion in society. It was explained by them as a process which will automatically and inevitably create social problems.

  • Social Disorganization
  • Approaches to the study of Social Disorganization
  • The nature of Social Disorganization
  • The nature of Personal Disorganization
  • Personal Disorganization and Social Disorganization
  • Causes of Social Disorganization

Approaches to the study of Social Disorganization

The earliest approach to the study of social disorganization is that of the social problems. The problems were discussed without any particular sociological frame of reference both the facts and suggested reform programmes being taken from the fields in which the problems were found. Each problem was considered in complete isolation from others. It was assumed that society could progress if it would attack the mal-adjustment which delayed human advancement. Thus the social problems were the diseases of society which threatened the welfare of the group. This is not a scientific approach because social problems in one period of history are not so considered in another. Besides some of the so called social problems are not generally accepted as such. Therefore this approach is called evangelistic one. For all its imperfections and inadequacies the social problem approach contributed to the understanding of social disorganization paving the way for a more scientific analysis.

The second approach to the study of social disorganization is the bio-pyschological.It is the result of the development of the sciences; biology and psychology. The beginnings of this approach can be traced in the formulation of racial theories by Gobineau.He and his followers declared the theory that the decay of all societies is the result of racial intermixing. This is because that the races are not equal in capacity. The eugenists were of the view that there are biological differences not only between races but between individuals within the same race. Therefore society would take drastic steps to prevent conception among the mentally unfit. This is only way open to solve social problems and for the prevention of social disorganization. This approach helps us to know that the disorganization of society is the direct result of deficiencies in the biological make-up passed on from generation through heredity. The third approach is geographical. Geographical factors such as land, water, rainfall, climate and soil decide the superiority of a given culture or the backwardness of people. The forms of social disorganization which are explained in terms of geographical factors are crime, cultural retardation, illiteracy, suicide, divorce and insanity. Geography imposes limitation to man's ingenuity but it does not determine the patterns of social adjustment.

The fourth approach to the study of social disorganization is cultural because it explains social problems in terms of cultural processes. Thus the different forms of social-organization show institutional malfunctioning.

The fifth approach is the cultural lag frame of reference. The term cultural lag explained by Ogburn is based upon the distinction between material and non-material culture. Rapid changes takes place in the material culture whereas slow changes in non-material culture. Changes in material culture necessitate related changes in non-material culture. According to this school the disorganization of the modern family is the result of a lag in the continued functioning of and failure to develop suitable substitutes for the old folkways and mores governing family relations. Cultural anthropologists attempt to broaden the concept cultural lag to include lack of harmonious functioning between two associated cultural traits. Thomas and Znaniecki in their Polish Peasant talk of the cultural approach. This may be called the culture conflict approach. According to them the social disorganization of the immigrant community is the result of conflict between the cultures of the old and the new worlds in which the control of the primary group breaks down.

The nature of Social Disorganization

The philosophically organic approach postulates the interdependence of culture and human nature. It must be included in the formulation of the nature of the social and personal disorganization. Human nature reflects culture in the responses of the individual mechanism. Culture includes those responses which are common to the group and which are passed from generation to generation.

Social disorganization in a simple society

The social change, social disorganization and personal disorganization have their genesis in the variant behavior of the individuals. In simple societies, however deviations in behavior are minimum. Therefore there is a little awareness of their existence by the group. New coordination is made both for the society and for the individual with a minimum of stress and strain.

Social disorganization in a complex society

The functioning of three important factors is commonly held responsible for spontaneous variations in behaviour.They are - the specialized functioning inherent in complex society. The family as a culture defining agency and cultural participation outside the particular social order. The result is the emergence of a wide variety of various response patterns out of which develops disorganization both in society and individual. Some innovations find ready acceptance because they are related to those aspect of culture which are found outside institutional pattern. Innovations in mores, ideas and beliefs often meet with social disapproval because they vary from the accepted pattern. In simple society people revamp the discordant elements to the degree that their variance is no longer apparent. Innovations which meet with organized resistance tend to result in marked social disorganization. All positive response to social disapproval does not result in attempts to explain the variant behavior in terms of the welfare of the group.

Social disorganization is the inevitable result until such time as the new behavior pattern loses group support or becomes incorporated into the social order. When however social disapproval of variations is met negatively by retreat into a world of fantasy there is no corresponding social disorganization except to the extent to which the individual becomes a threat to the safety of society and its members. This point of view does not deny the causative role of social organization in the production of personal disorganization.

All social change involves some social disorganization. It is important to think of social disorganization related to those aspects of social change which result in the disturbance and revamping of social institutions and of the patterns of interrelationship between them. In the same way the social responses of the individual are always in flux. But only when changes take place in the individual's pattern of adjustment to social situations which arouse social disapproval that one may speak of personal disorganization.

Nature of Personal Disorganization

Personal disorganization represents the behavior of the individual which deviates from the social norms. It results in social disapproval which may express itself in a wide variety of degree. The individual may also react in different ways. Social reality presents an endless confusion of social disapproval from time to time. It may be mild or violent. Accordingly individuals respond either positively or negatively to social disapproval. The most visible aspect of personal disorganization in complex societies is that in which there is mild social disapproval to which the individual responds positively. This kind of personal disorganization does not deeply disturb the social order.

The second aspect of social disorganization is that in which there is violent social disapproval and yet the individual responds positively. In the third aspect in which the individual's response to social disapproval is subjective the person retreats into an individually defined inner world. His innovations lose their social character. He becomes enmeshed in the development of mechanisms which further isolate him from the normal influences of group life. This type of personal disorganization results in psychosis through which the individual tries to escape from the web of social relations and in suicide.

Personal Disorganization and Social Disorganization

Social disorganization consists of the co-ordination of individual responses as a result of the operation of consensus and control. Personal organization refers to the coordination and integration of the attitude systems within the personality. A change in the cultural context which destroys the functioning of coordination that constitutes the social order represents social disorganization. Similarly any variant behavior which disturbs the integration of the attitude systems within the personality represents personal disorganization.

Causes of Social Disorganization

According to Maclver and Page five main factors such as psychological, biological, physical, technological and culture bring about social change. When the changes brought about these factors in the social structure are so disturbing that the present institution and other means of social control are no longer able to control them by adjusting themselves to the new situations there arise social disorganization. Factors of social disorganization at a particular period are so interrelated that it is difficult to find which factor is predominant.

Elliott and Merrill observe that in order to understand the full implications of a study of social disorganization we must keep in mind the complex nature of all social phenomena. Out of man's fruitless search for unique causes has come recognition of the multiple factors which account for such characteristics of modern society as the decline in the acceptance of revealed religion the changing structure of the family, the increasing importance of the central government, and the lowering standards of morality. Others would rely on a reconstructuction of the fundamental economic institutions to bring about the changes. Still another group insists that the basis of all human woe lies in the biological field. Each of these groups however ignore the selective nature of the interpretation while on the other hand any realistic social understanding must consider all the factors related to the particular manifestation of social disorganization which is under investigation.

Causes of Social Disorganization

Elliott and Merrill has ascribed the four main causes for the disorganization-

  • The social processes under the three main heads-cultural, political and economic
  • Cultural lag
  • Conflicting attitudes and values
  • Social crises
Sorokin is of the opinion that disorganization is mainly due to cultural degeneration of values in various spheres such as art, science, philosophy, religion, law and politics. In brief change from the idealistic and ideational culture to sensate culture is the main cause of social disorganization.

According to Karl Mannheim unplanned capitalism and policy of laissez faire are responsible for social disintegration in the present age which Bertrand Russell observes that the lack of adjustment in institutions based on authority in the past is responsible for the present social disorganization.

G.R Madan has listed a few factors responsible for disorganization.

  • Psychological factors-The cause of social disorganization is to be found in the human psychology itself. Psychological factors contribute to disorganization in two ways:-
      Failure to maintain proper communication among fellow beings.
      Failure to modify or change one's attitudes in tune with demands of time.
  • Cultural lag- Cultural lag the concept used by W.E.Ogburn refers to the imbalance in the rate and speed of change between the material cultural and non-material culture. Objects of material culture such as mode of housing, means of transport and communication, types of dresses, patterns of ornaments, technical and mechanical devices, instruments change very quickly. But ideas, beliefs, attitudes, taste, philosophies, habits, ideologies, instiutional structures and such other aspects of non-material culture change slowly and gradually. Hence a gap or a lag arises between the material and non-material culture. This lag referred to as cultural lag invites the process of disorganization to set in.
  • Physical or geographic factors-The maladjustment of man and his culture to certain extraordinary physical or geographic conditions or situations may cause disorganization in society. This is especially true in the case of natural calamities such as storms, cyclones, hurricanes, famines, floods, epidemics etc which upset the social balance and bring in social disorganization.
  • Biological factors-Population explosion or extreme scarcity of population the instances of racial intermixture, defective hereditary traits and such other biological factors may also cause disorganizing effects upon society.
  • Ecological factor-Social disorganization is related to environment in terms of regions and neighborhoods.
  • Social problems leading to social disorganization-Social problems and forces such as a revolution, social upheaval, a class struggle, a financial or economic crisis, a war between nations, mental illness, and political corruption threaten the welfare of the society.
  • Degeneration of values-Social values is often regarded as the sustaining forces of society.They contribute to the strength and stability of social order. But due to rapid social change new values come up and some of the old values decline. At the same time people are not in a position to reject the old completely and accept the new altogether. Hence conflict between the old and the new is the inevitable result of which leads to the social disorganization.
  • Disintegration and confusion of roles-Members of society are expected to perform certain definite roles in accordance with their placements in society. Due to profound social changes these expectations also undergo change. Consequently people are confused with regard to their new roles.
  • Political subservience-Political subordination of a country will result in social disorganization. The subordinate country is not permitted to develop its economy and institutions independently and is made as a means to serve the interest of the dominant country.
  • Conflict of goals and means-Conflict of goals and means for achieving them may also cause disorganization. Most of the individuals share the dominant goals of the society and act accordingly. But lacking the means for achieving the goals by legitimate means some may resort to illegitimate and illegal means resulting in vice, crime and other expression of social disorganization.
  • Decline of social control-The declining control of religion, morals, customs, traditions and other institutions on the behavior of men has also enhanced the process of disorganization. There is an increase in interpersonal conflicts, crimes, tensions, divorce, delinquency, mental derangement etc.According to Thomas and Znaniecki the very decrease of the influence of existing rule of behavior upon the individual members of the group itself indicates social disorganization.
  • Extreme divisions of labor-According to Durkheim social disorganization is often brought about by extreme division of labour.In normal course according to him division of labor leads to social solidarity may become disturbed.
  • Disruptive social change-Society undergoes change mainly due to the operation of physical, biological, technological and cultural factors. Sudden and radical social changes may disrupt the stability and the organization of the society. The result is social disorganization.

Attached: Social Pathology
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