• The economy is the social institution responsible for the production and distribution of goods.
  • The two dominant economic systems in the world are capitalism, under which resources and means of production are privately owned, and socialism, a system under which those resources are owned by the society as a whole.
  • Welfare capitalism and state capitalism are hybrids of capitalism and socialism. Welfare capitalism features a market-based economy coupled with an extensive social welfare system. Under state capitalism, the government closely monitors and regulates the resources and means of production, which are privately owned.
  • According to Karl Marx, capitalism brings workers and employers into conflict. The only way to resolve the conflict is workers’ revolution to replace capitalism with communism.
  • The economy is a quickly changing social institution. Economic trends include globalization, demand for educated professionals, self-employment, and diversity in the workplace.


  • The government is the institution entrusted with making and enforcing the rules of the society, as well as with regulating relations with other societies.
  • Most of the world’s governments fall into one of four categories: monarchy, democracy, authoritarianism, or totalitarianism.
  • A monarchy is a political system in which a representative from one family controls the government and power is passed on through that family from generation to generation.
  • A democracy is a political system in which the citizens periodically choose officials to run their government.
  • Authoritarianism is a political system that does not allow citizens to participate in government.
  • Totalitarianism is a political system under which the government maintains tight control over nearly all aspects of citizens’ lives.
  • The U.S. government is characterized by a limited welfare state and a two-party political system.
  • Conflicts in governments generally take three forms: revolution, war, and terrorism.


  • The institution of family has three important functions: to provide for the rearing of children, to provide a sense of identity or belonging among its members, and to transmit culture between generations.
  • There are two types of families. A nuclear family comprises a mother, father, and their children living under one roof. An extended family includes several generations and branches living nearby.
  • Marriage is a foundation of family life. It exists in every society, with some variations.
  • Alternative families such as single-parent households, unmarried couples, and gay and lesbian couples are on the rise in the United States.


  • Religion is a social institution that answers our larger questions and explains the seemingly inexplicable.
  • The world’s major religions include Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, and Buddhism.
  • Religious groups include churches, sects, and cults.
  • In the United States, social class, race, and ethnicity are factors in how religious a person is.


  • Education is the preparation of children for adulthood. It is an important agent of socialization and encourages social integration.
  • The quality of education at public and private schools varies greatly in the United States.


  • The institution of medicine is responsible for defining and treating physical and mental illnesses among members of a society. The goal of a society’s medical establishment is to promote health, the total well-being of its people.
  • The definitions of physical and mental illnesses are different in different cultures.
  • Scientific medicine is an approach to healing that focuses on illness. This method is common in the United States.
  • Holistic medicine is an approach to healing that focuses on a patient’s whole environment.

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