• In a permanent voluntary association, the group exists as long as individuals are interested in belonging to it.

Example: Many individuals who join Alcoholics Anonymous remain active members for the rest of their lives.

Formal Organizations

A formal organization is a secondary group organized to achieve specific goals. Formal organizations tend to be larger and more impersonal than voluntary associations. There are many formal organizations in industrialized countries, but few exist in nonindustrialized societies.

Example: A corporation is usually a formal organization. Corporations tend to be large and are characterized by secondary relations among their employees. The goal of most corporations is very specific: to increase profits.


As identified by the sociologist Max Weber, a bureaucracy is a type of formal organization in which a rational approach is used to handle large tasks. Weber believed that as societies modernize, they become more rational, resulting in the creation of bureaucracies. As they industrialize, they grow larger, which means that the tasks to be accomplished become more numerous and complex.

Weber was convinced that bureaucracies would gain increasing power over modern life. Before long, almost every aspect of society would be governed by bureaucratic rules and regulations. Weber called this process the rationalization of society.

Popular pages: Social Groups and Organizations