Maharashtra State BoardHSC Science (General) 11th
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Characteristics of Society

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notes

CHARACTERISTICS OF SOCIETY:

1. Society is abstract:

If society is viewed as a web of social relation­ships, it is distinct from a physical entity which we can see and perceive through senses. As written earlier, Maclver argued, “we may see the people but cannot see society or social structure, but only its only external aspects”. Social relationships are invisible and abstract. We can just realize them but cannot see or touch them. Therefore, society is abstract. Reuter wrote: “Just as life is not a thing but a process of living, so society is not a thing but a process of associating”.

2. Likeness and difference in society:

Society involves both likeness and difference. If people are all exactly alike, merely alike, their relationships would be limited. There would be little give-and-take and little reciprocity. If all men thought alike, felt alike, and acted alike, if they had the same standards and same interests, if they all accepted the same customs and echoed the same opinions without questioning and without variation, civilization could never have advanced and culture would have remained rudimentary. Thus, society needs difference also for its existence and continuance.

We can illustrate this point through the most familiar example of family. The family rests upon the biological differences between the sexes. There are natural differences of aptitude, of capacity, of interest. For they all involve relation­ships in which differences complement one another, in which exchange takes place.

Likeness and difference are logical opposites but for under­standing likeness, comprehension of its relation to the other is necessary. Society exists among those who have some degree of likeness in mind and in the body. F.H. Giddings called this quality of society as “consciousness of kind” (a sense of likeness). Though likeness and difference both are necessary for the society to exist, the difference is always subordinated to likeness in society. The likeness has a predominant share in the constitution of society.

3. Cooperation and conflict in society:

Cooperation and conflict are universal elements in human life. Society is based on cooper­ation but because of internal differences, there is conflict also among its members. This is why Maclver and Page observed that “society is cooperation crossed by conflict”. We know from our own experience that a person would be handicapped, showed down, and feels frustrated if he is expected to do every­thing alone, without the aid of others. “Cooperation is the most elementary process of social life without which society is impos­sible” (Gisbert, 1957).

Though cooperation is essential for the constitution of society but modem conflict theorists (such as Marx) have highlighted the role of conflict in society. If there is no conflict, even in small measures, society may become stagnant and people may become inert and inactive. However, the expression of disagreement in the form of conflict must always be held within tolerable bounds.

4. Society is a process and not a product:

“Society exists only as a time sequence. It is becoming, not a being; a process and not a product” (Maclver and Page, 1956). In other words, as soon as the process ceases, the product disappears. The product of a machine endures after the machine has been scrapped. To some extent, the same is true not only of material relics of man’s past culture but even of his immaterial cultural achievements.

5. Society as a system of stratification:

The society provides a system of stratification of statuses and classes that each individual has a relatively stable and recognisable position in the social structure.

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