The Problem of Social Order in Nested Group Structures

Edward J. Lawler, Shane R. Thye, Jeongkoo Yoon

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


We theorize the problems of social order that are created by nested-group structures. Almost universally, people interact in local groups that are nested in larger more removed or distant groups. These structures often generate fragmented, balkanized social orders in part because people tend to develop stronger ties and commitments to local (proximal) groups where they interact with others. A key reason is that positive emotions from those local interactions tend to be associated with or attributed to local, immediate groups, which leads to stronger affective ties to and cohesion in the local group often at the expense of ties to the larger group. This paper elaborates and extends select micro-sociological theories that identify foundations of these problems of social order and indicate how larger, more removed social units (communities, corporations, nations) may mitigate problems of fragmentation and balkanization by promoting mutually-supportive or stronger affective ties to the larger, distal group. In the process, we show how properties of social interactions create the nested-group problem, but also contain “seeds” of stable, resilient social orders across micro and macro levels.

Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
PublisherSpringer Science and Business Media B.V.
Number of pages18
StatePublished - 2016

Publication series

NameHandbooks of Sociology and Social Research
ISSN (Print)1389-6903
ISSN (Electronic)2542-839X

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2016, Springer International Publishing Switzerland.


  • Emotions
  • Microsociology
  • Social exchange
  • Social order
  • Social psychology


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