Family. The role of the family is to ensure responsible citizens, preserve society, and balance the desires of individual liberty with the demands of community responsibility.
As James C. Ure, professor at George Wythe University, has written, “The family is the bubble in which a child…feels safe enough to explore his individuality. It is also the first place a child learns to make personal sacrifices for the good of the whole.
“In the family, it is natural for a parent to expose a child to various activities or ideas to determine what unique interests the child may have and to give the child an enhanced sense of self. It is also natural for a parent to ask a child to sacrifice personal interests to benefit the family, such as to provide help with cooking or cleaning.
“In the end, this is not very different from what makes free societies tick…It is in the family that children are expected to learn the core values and beliefs that democratic institutions later draw on to perpetuate themselves.”
Community. The original concept of federalism meant that as many decisions as possible were made at the lowest level possible.
As Cleon Skousen taught, strong, local self-government was the keystone to the original American system. Understanding that power centralizes and expands, the Founders knew that the bulk of our political decisions should be made on the community level.
The role of the community, therefore, is to prevent the centralization of power by keeping responsibility and decision-making close to the people.
Religion. John Adams wrote that, “Religion and virtue are the only foundations, not only of republicanism and of all free government, but of social felicity under all government and in all the combinations of human society.”
George Washington affirmed, “Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure…reason and experience both forbid us to expect that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.”
The role of religion is to remind republican citizens of their duties to and reliance upon God. Virtue is the bedrock of free society, and religion provides a constant reminder of that fact.
Furthermore, religion serves as a venue where citizens serve God by serving their fellowman; philanthropy is enacted in large part through religion.
Academia. Academia advances culture through knowledge, helps to prevent socio-economic inequities, breaks through boundaries of human ignorance and fear, helps societies to avoid repeated historical mistakes, and serves as a check on the government by keeping citizens informed of civic affairs.
As John Adams said, “Liberty cannot be preserved without a general knowledge among the people…They have a right, an indisputable, unalienable, indefeasible, divine right to that most dreaded and envied kind of knowledge — I mean, of the characters and conducts of their rulers.”
Business. The role of business is to provide exchange, commerce, and ultimately widespread prosperity. In a free market economy prices tend to decrease through competition and innovation, the ultimate benefactors being end consumers of products and services.
In a free market economy poverty decreases, the standard of living rises, and people are able to find self-fulfillment as their subsistence needs are met.
Media. The role of the media is to disseminate information, highlight important current events, and to essentially stand as a witness, an observer of cultural, political, community, and educational events.
A healthy media provides a check on the government and increases the political astuteness of republican citizens.
Government. The role of government is to protect unalienable rights. Government is the institutionalization of force, and as such should not do anything that would not be right for an individual to do (such as steal).
As Thomas Jefferson said,
“…a wise and frugal Government, which shall restrain men from injuring one another, shall leave them otherwise free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor the bread it has earned.”
Why It Matters. Freedom occurs when all seven of these societal institutions are on an equal plane, with no one form being more important or having more power or influence than another. When one gains predominance, some form or level of tyranny always emerges.
For example, having family run society results in the mafia. The Dark Ages illustrate the problems of religion ruling. When business is predominant, the society is oligarchic. When the government is predominant, this usually occurs as a monarchy or aristocracy.
The best way to ensure that all seven institutions remain on a level plane is to keep the government within its proper role.
Since the government does not produce — it only takes what others have produced and redistributes — any time it favors one institution over another it does so to the aggrandizement of the one favored and the detriment of the other.
When government tries to get into the business of philanthropy through wealth redistribution, family, community, and religion are weakened.
When government stifles the press, the media is obviously weakened, and so is academia as citizens are kept in the dark on important matters.
4. Some of the major functions performed by an institutions are as follows:
For satisfaction of needs like love, affection, hunger, fear, self-preservation, self-gratification, and fear of the supernatural.
Satisfies the material needs of people and for satisfaction of basic necessities of food, clothing and shelter.
Establishes the institution of marriage and family for the continuation of human species through structured means.
Deals with man’s inherent fear of the supernatural. It deals with this fear through religious prayers and offerings.
Deals with the basic necessity of governing large groups of people through formalized means of government and laws.
1. Institutions are important means, by which social behaviour can be regulated and controlled.
2. Institutions are instrumental in transmitting culture from one generation to another.
3. Institutions unite people and groups. They maintain unity and harmony in society by providing unified patterns of behaviour that is followed by all members despite diversities.
4. Institutions provide status to every individual. For instance, the status of married/unmarried, status of son/daughter or sibling, economic status and so on can come under this.
5. Not all the functions of institutions are positive. Certain aspects of institutions have a negative impact on the functioning of society. For example, the institution of religion has led to religious fundamentalism, besides reinforcing religious identities, that has resulted in conflicts and communalism.
Questions for Review: Participant observation requires that an “observer” become a member of his or her subjects' community. An advantage of this method of research is the opportunity it provides to study what actually occurs within a community, and then consider that
information within the political, economic, social, and religious systems of that community. Cross‐cultural research demonstrates that Western cultural standards do not necessarily apply to other societies.