This article provides information about the basic elements or characteristics which constitute society:
Man is a social animal. He always lives in society. Like him some other creatures such as, ants, birds, monkeys, apes, etc., also live in society. Human society in comparison with other societies, is unique in several respects.
In order to interpret society in a wider sense, it is necessary to examine the basic elements or characteristics which constitute society.
Society possesses the following elements:
Likeness of members in a social group is the primary basis of their mutuality. May be in the beginning assumed or real common lineage, tribal affinity, family benefit or the compactness due to a common to time inculcated between and among the members in the group the feeling of likeness. Likeness means mutuality, and that means Society.
Maclver points out, “Comradeship, intimacy, association of any kind or degree would be impossible without some understanding of each by the other, and that understanding depends on the likeness which each apprehends in the other. ‘Likeness is the one element which must have strongly stimulated the group feelings in bringing men, women and children together. Likeness is the link-up for mutuality.
2. The Reciprocal Awareness:
Likeness is generative of reciprocity. Once some are aware of the mutual likeness, they, certainly differentiate against those who are not like them. The problem of likes and dislikes was concomitant to the social growth. Consciousness of this kind, alone could make sense of likeness. All social action is based on reciprocal response. This alone, makes possible, the we-feeling.
Sense of likeness in not always sufficient. It alone is not adequate for social organisation. This does not exclude diversity or variation. The social structure of humanity is based on the family which rests upon the biological differences between the sexes, viz, men and women. The economic structure of society is based upon division of labour in which the professions and economic activities of people are different or dissimilar. The culture of society prospers with the differences in thoughts ideals, viewpoints, etc. No two individuals are alike in their nature.
They differ from each other in respect of their interests, capacities, abilities and tendencies etc. These differences do not imply mutual conflict; instead; by it the organisation of society is further strengthened. A 100 per cent organised society is not possible.
It is a myth. Society to run smoothly there must be some differences. If people were exactly alike their social relationship would be very much limited. There would be little reciprocity, little give and take. They would contribute very little to one another.
A society based exclusively on likeness or uniformity is bound to loose in socialites. Life would be boring, monotonous, prosaic and uninteresting if differences are not present. We cannot imagine a society in which all people are adults or all old or all young. Having realised the chaotic state of society, the importance of differences will be apparent.
Differences subordinate to likeness:
Society means likeness but the contrary of the statement is not true. Differences is necessary to society but it by itself does not create society. Difference, is subordinate to likeness. Maclver says “Primary likeness and secondary differences create the greatest of all social institutions- the division of labour”. There were evolved conflicting management mechanism to resolve the differences, yet despite it, these were subordinated to the good of the totality.
Society implies interdependence. It is another essential element to constitute society. It is not possible for human being to satisfy his desire in isolation.
He cannot live alone. He needs the help of others for his survival. Society fulfills all the needs of the people. For example, the institution of family rests on the biological interdependence of sexes. None of the two sexes is complete by itself and, therefore, each seeks fulfillment by the aid of the other. This fact of interdependence is very much visible in the present day society. Today not only countries but also continents depend upon one another. Likewise, communities, social groups and nations are also interdependent.
Cooperation is also another essential element to constitute society. Without cooperation, no society can exist. If the members of the society do not work together for the common purposes, they cannot lead a happy and comfortable life. Cooperation avoids mutual destructiveness and results in economy. In the words of P. Gisbert, “Cooperation is the most elementary process of social life without which society is impossible.”
For want of cooperation, the entire fabric of society may collapse. It is the very basis of social life. C.H. Cooley has rightly remarked, “Cooperation-arises when men realise that they have common interests. So great is the realisation of the necessity of cooperation on the part of every society, Kropotkin says, it is difficult to survive without it.
Conflict is an ever present phenomenon present in every human society. Not only cooperation but also conflict in necessary for the formation of society. They must coexist in a healthy society. Conflict is a process of struggle through which all things have come into existence.
George Simmel maintained that a conflict free harmonious society is practically an impossibility. There is no denying the fact that society requires for its formation and growth both harmony and disharmony, cooperation and conflict. Maclver rightly states that “Cooperation Crossed by conflict marks society wherever it is revealed.
Besides these above elements, Maclver has also mentioned some seven other elements of society such as, usages, procedures, authority, mutual aid, groupings, controls and liberties.