Social Institutions and Culture

Penn State faculty and students in the Social Institutions and Culture area are actively conducting research on education, social movements, NGOs, politics, prisons, corporations, crime, and religion. Utilizing a wide range of social theories and a diverse array of research methods, their research addresses questions ranging from small-scale interactions to global change. Faculty in this area investigate how institutions and culture promote social action, social control, meaning, innovation and inequality. Both students and faculty benefit from collaboration and contact with related departments across the university. Faculty members hold joint appointments in education, international affairs, demography, criminology and religious studies, and students participate in seminars, study groups and programs that overlap departments. The result is that students benefit from a diverse faculty within the department and an abundance of scholarly support from related departments.

The department is also home for Penn State's interdisciplinary Social Thought Program and the international and heavily used Association of Religion Data Archives. Collaborative projects for the study of social institutions and culture are also developed within Penn State’s Social Science Research Institute and the Population Research Institute.  

Questions Our Faculty and Graduate Students Are Asking About Social Institutions and Culture

  • How has recent social theory of institutions and culture transformed sociological inquiry? 
  • How do social networks and small-scale interaction patterns promote division, introduce opportunity, and create larger patterns of social change?
  • How are new forms of culture and social organization changing social life?
  • How do values and beliefs shape and how are they shaped by social institutions?
  • How are institutions and organizations changing? 
  • How is the study of social institutions and culture being transformed by new research methods and data sources?