DR. NEAL HOUSTON

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Wednesday, December 28, 2011

What exactly is the meaning of a "Society"?

 
 



 
Understanding what a Society means:


Human beings are social animals. The quality we call "humanity" can be achieved only through social living, for there is no such thing as a person whose personality and behavior have not developed within some human society. We take social living so much for granted that we sometimes overlook the immense influence society has on us. But in the complex interaction between individual and society, the latter is usually dominant. Society exist long before we are born into it, and it exist long after we're gone. Society gives content, direction, and meaning to our lives, and we, in turn, in countless ways, reshaped the society that we leave for the next generation.


Neal Houston, PhD
 We are not social animals just because we happen to find social living convenient. Without society we cannot survive. No infant could reach maturity without the care and protection of other people, and no adult could remain alive without using the vast store of information about the world that has been learned and passed on through society. Almost everything that we do is a social in some sense – learned from another, done with others, directed by toward others. Some very rare individuals try to escape from society, yet even they carry with them into their isolation the techniques, the ideas, and the identities they have learned from others. Hermits in their caves the of with society in their memories.

What exactly is a society? Several conditions must be met before people can be said to be living in one. First, they must occupy a common territory. Second, they must share the same government or other political authority. Third, they must to some extent have a common culture in a sense of membership in, and committed to, the same group. We may say, then, that a society is a population that occupies the same territory, is subject to the same political authority, and participates in a common culture. In the modern world, most societies are nations – states – that is, countries like Canada or China. Societies and Nations – States are not necessarily identical, however, as many nation – states include smaller societies within their borders. Most of the countries of South America, for example, contain tribal societies of indigenous Indian people who have not been integrated into a larger society.

Many other animals that are social – such as ants, herrings, keys, and elephants. But the species depend for their survival primarily on unlearned "instinctive" patterns of behavior. As a result, different societies of anyone species, be they termites or zebras, are virtually identical, with little difference in the social behavior of the members from one society to another. When you have seen one nest of a particular termite species, you have for the most purposes seen all the nest of that species. Human societies, on the other hand, are astonishingly diverse. Because they are created by human beings themselves and are learned and modified by each new generation. Consequently every human society is different – so different that a person suddenly transplanted from, say, the United States to a jungle tribe of Brazil or vice versa would be mystified by the new social environment and unable to behave appropriately. Each society thus presents a unique and exciting challenge to our understanding.



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