Thomas Hobbes is recognized as the first to clearly formulate the problem, to answer which he conceived the notion of a social contract. Social theorists (such as Karl Marx, Émile Durkheim, Talcott Parsons, and Jürgen Habermas) have proposed different explanations for what a social order consists of, and what its real basis is. For Marx, it is the relations of production or economic structure which is the basis of a social order. For Durkheim, it is a set of shared social norms. For Parsons, it is a set of social institutions regulating the pattern of action-orientation, which again are based on a frame of cultural values. For Habermas, it is all of these, as well as communicative action.
Another key factor concerning social order is the principle of extensiveness. This states the more norms and the more important the norms are to a society, the better these norms tie and hold together the group as a whole.
A good example of this is smaller religions based on the U.S., such as the Amish. Many Amish live together in communities and because they share the same religion and values, it is easier for them to succeed in upholding their religion and views because their way of life is the norm for their community.
In every society, people belong to groups, such as businesses, families, churches, athletic groups, or neighborhoods. The structure inside of these groups mirrors that of the whole society. There are networks and ties between groups, as well as inside of each of the groups, which create social order.
Some people belong to more than one group, and this can sometimes cause conflict. The individual may encounter a situation in which he or she has to choose one group over another. Many who have studied these groups believe that it is necessary to have ties between groups to strengthen the society as a whole, and to promote pride within each group. Others believe that it is best to have stronger ties to a group, enabling social norms and values to be reinforced.