Home >> Basic Concepts >> Concept of Society

Concept of Society

Arther Britten has written about various strategies to conceptualize society. In order to concretize society mainstream sociologists have tended to define it as structure that is a recognizable network of inter-relating institutions.

The word recognizable iscrucial in its context because it suggests that the way in which societies differ from one another depends on the manner in which their particular institutions are inter-connected. The notion that societies are structured depends upon their reproduction over time. In this respect the term institution is crucial. To speak of institutionalized forms of social conduct is to refer to modes of belief and behaviors that occur and recur are socially reproduced. While we may subscribe to the arguments that society is both structured and reproduced the Marxist account attempts to provide us with a basis for understanding how particular social formations arise and correspond with particular mode of production. Society is not a static or peace-fully evolving structure but is conceived of as the tentative solution to the conflicts arising out of antagonistic social relations of production. Frequently social scientists emphasize the cultural aspect of social relationships. In doing so they see society as being made possible by the shared understanding of its members. Because human beings exist in a linguistic and symbolic universe that they themselves have constructed the temptation is to construe society as a highly complex symbolic and communication system.

This stress on culture is associated with the notion that society is underpinned by ideas and values. Society is a process in which people continuously interact with one another, the key terms are negotiation, selfother, reflexivity the implication being that society is constituted and reconstituted in social interaction. Society is not imposed upon people in the processual definition rather it has to be accepted and confirmed by participants. Each interaction episode contains within it the possibility of innovation and change. So against the view of society that sees it as structure the process view asserts that people make structure.

All these strategies contain implicit or explicit assumptions about human nature and the individual. Some recent theories have completely rejected the individual as a datum for social analysis. Nevertheless the opposition between individual and society remains a theme of popular and academic consciousness.