It is clear from the above definitions that social order essentially refers to the orderliness in the behaviour and activities of people. The following example stresses the need for orderliness in behaviour we find orderly arrangements in the midst of bustling confusions of a great city.
Thousands of people take their places and perform their tasks with no apparent direction. Thousands of vehicles move their way avoiding accidents in most of the cases. Thousands of kinds of articles arrive at the expected places in the expected amounts at the expected times.
Thousands of people labour their way so that meals will be ready when needed, drains will carry off wastes, moving vehicles will give place for pedestrians to pass, hospitals will give medical treatment to patients, banks will help financial transactions, police stations will offer protection to the needy and various conveniences will meet other needs. A hundred people may serve one within an hour, perhaps, without a word to any of them. This is what is meant by social order.
People cannot get the things done unless they know what they may expect from one another. No society, even the simplest, can function successfully unless the behaviour of most people can reliably be predicted most of the time.
Unless we can depend upon police officer to protect us, workers to go on schedule and motorists to stay on the left side of the road most of the time, there can be no social order.
The orderliness of a society depends upon a network of roles according to which each person accepts certain duties toward others, and claims certain rights from others. An orderly society can operate only as long as most people reliably fulfill most of their duties toward others and are able successfully to claim most of the rights from others.
What makes the people to observe and maintain the network of reciprocal rights and duties? The mechanism of ‘social control’ is the answer. Social Control includes all the means and processes whereby a group or society secures its members’ conformity to its expectations.
It is through social control that the activities of different individuals are brought together into stable and enduring patterns. It helps their activities to be fitted together so that the behaviour of one person produces appropriate responses in another.
Social Order Depends on Social Stability:
Social system is subject to change. Indeed, it must change. But if it changes too rapidly, too completely or too constantly, there can be no system. Order depends on certain amount of stability and continuity. Societies must be stable enough so that their members have motivation to behave predictably. “Only in this situation does yesterday’s training and experience have relevance for today”.
Durkheim and Parsons have stressed upon the importance of stability of equilibrium in social order. Durkheim even believed the suicide rate in a society to be a function of the social order. He found higher suicide rates in developing countries than in the relatively stable societies.
Though sociologists are divided on their emphasis upon consensus or conflict, they all recognise the crucial problem of social order. They also concede the fact that no order is possible without some stability or continuity through time. The basic source of stability of a society is its continuity of past with present. Social Order Depends on Changes Also
Society is dynamic and not static. Nothing in this social world ever remains constant. Hence the concept of ‘social order’ presupposes the prevalence of change. The twin concepts ‘order’ and ‘change’ are not really contradictory.
Rate of social change differs from society to society but change as such prevails over and pervades all the societies. If the change is too slow or inefficient, the social system will decay or be overwhelmed. If change is too rapid or uneven, the system may lose the thread of order that made it a system.
Order and change attend one another in all social systems. Human affairs operate in the complex combination of the two. There is no point in trying to understand either without considering the other.
Even in the midst of rapid changes if a society is able to retain some of its old ideas and operations it may survive. The society should not be too rigid nor too flexible as far as change is concerned. Problems in the Maintenance of Social Order
According to Talcott Parsons, every society or organisation must solve four problems if order (more precisely, equilibrium) is to be maintained.
(i) Problem of adaptation:
A society or social organisation has to successfully adapt itself to the external physical environment. With its system of economy society faces the problem of adaptation.
(ii) Development of Goals:
A society must develop a system of manageable goals and help people in mobilizing efforts to achieve them. The political structure of the society deals with the ‘goals’.
(iii) Development of Social Integration:
Society must evolve the ways of handling the differences and conflicts that inevitably occur among members. This will lead to social integration. Through legal system society struggles to maintain integration.
(iv) Latent Problems:
The important set of problems is latent that is, hidden. They are concerned with what Parsons Calls “pattern maintenance and tension management”. Through family, religion and education the society deals with latency and pattern management. Shared beliefs and values play a vital role in this respect.