How is Society Possible?
By definition, society is a collective group of individuals that are involved in the same things, either culturally or politically. A society is the largest and most self-sufficient social structure in existence and it is composed of people living within defined territorial borders, sharing a common culture. Todays’ society has changed drastically from several thousand years ago and will be completely different in another thousand years but what really makes a society and what really keeps it going? How is society possible? It is ever changing and constantly happening. There are several different ways to look at how society is possible, through conflict theory, symbolic interaction theory, and structural functionalism theory. Looking at society in these three different ways, we can begin to understand how it is possible. Also, looking at the three big founders of sociology, Max Weber, Emile Durkheim, and Karl Marx, we can really begin to understand how society works. After society is formed though, other theories, such as modernization, begin occur. What makes all this possible or does society simply exist in the minds of the individuals that make it up?
According to the conflict theory by Karl Marx, society is all about competition and different social groups competing for resources. Social order is maintained by domination, not consensus, with power in the hands of those with the greatest political, economic, and social resources. Coercion and self-control, not shared values and conformity, bind people to society. Conflict theorists find that society functions under these terms well and this is how a capitalist society is born. Under a capitalist society, it is the economy that is the driving force in the society. People are laid off, wages are reduced, and factories are closed because of “the economy.” Capitalism, however, is a good thing for society because it is constantly changing with technological advancements and makes society change with it to keep up. It also creates a global society for different countries to trade goods, services, and resources with each other. Aside from the growth of capitalism under the conflict theory, society also sees conflicts with race, class, and gender. All of these conflicts going on among different individuals make up an organized society of people who are constantly competing for something. This competition makes society possible, according to Marx.
The conflict theory has its critics who believe that competition is not what society is all about. Talcott Parsons, for example, has a different theory as to how society is possible. He believes that society is formed of a general consensus of people agreeing upon values and beliefs then acting upon them. Somehow, a society develops a set of cultural elements, beliefs about how things are, about how things should be, and what people should do; these are installed in its main parts and regulate the broad pattern of its arrangements. This directly relates to Emile Durkheim’s structural functionalist theory of sociology which states that “society is a system of interconnected parts that work together in harmony to maintain a state of balance and social equilibrium for the whole.” In order for society to function, the different parts must work together. If the different social groups do not work together, there are consequences and society will, in turn, fall apart. Thus, structural functionalism states that society is possible because of a general consensus among the individuals that make it up that decide upon values that are acceptable and the society works together like a well-oiled machine. As long as equilibrium is maintained among the society, it functions correctly but if it is not maintained, there are consequences and society could in turn fall apart.
Out of the consensus theory, comes the collective behavior theory which also relates to how society is possible. Individuals in...
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