March 02, 2020

Social Institutions: Central to our Lives—and Beyond

Sally Raskoff: Social Institutions Central to our Lives - and Beyond

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author photoBy Karen Sternheimer

Social institutions, the building blocks of societies, are not only central to our lives, but they continue to be part of us even after death. Social institutions such as family, medicine, government, religion, and the economy are part of the process of death as well as its aftermath.

In this podcast conversation, Sally Raskoff and I discuss our experiences with these social institutions following the deaths of family members. We do not just mourn with family members when someone passes away. After a death it also takes work to disentangle all of the threads from other social institutions (think closing bank accounts, taking a name off of a title deed to a house, ending pension and Social Security payments, to name a few tasks for survivors).

In this brief conversation, we touch upon the involvement of family members with hospitals and hospice, mortuaries, religious practices, and the long-term process of dissolving economic arrangements.

As you listen to this podcast, think about the following questions:

  1. What roles do social institutions play in our lives that are often hidden? How does the death of a loved one reveal these connections with social institutions?
  2. How does the involvement with these social institutions vary by age, gender, and socio-economic status?
  3. How else might social institutions be part of our lives, and how might these connections linger beyond death? What other social institutions might be an ongoing part of our lives and their aftermath?
  4. Are there social institutions that we can never fully separate from, even after death?

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