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What is society?

As far as science has proved, we are all human beings. As humans we live through all kinds of experiences, all of which are different and unique in their own way. As individuals we have different approaches and behaviours in diverse situations, with variables such as origin, personal and environmental development, and the influence of organisations and institutions around us. This is the study of sociology – so what constitutes a society?

Photo by Tobias Zils

To my knowledge, and perhaps yours, society is a group of individuals who agree to work together for the better good; a civilisation built on relationships. Regardless of religion and orientation, professional background and experience, economic status, it is the link that binds us together. This is what many of us are taught back in school, where supposedly we lay and build the foundations of our careers, our futures and ourselves. So, how can we dismiss the structure that we live in, the structure that, as a society, we have created?

The authorities we elect control most of our lives. They maintain, aid and support our rights, laws, healthcare, taxes, and the economic basis in which we function. This is what we expect from them, and we have roles that we follow as citizens to help sustain a ‘harmonious’ environment. However, we would not be in endless debates about ongoing inequality, justice, and corruption if we, as a society, saw this system fair.

Philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau has often named the regulations that we live by as “the social contract”. We play a great part in agreeing to the laws that our elected leaders supposedly follow in order to make this world a happy place.

Photo by Christopher Windus

The infamous concept of the sociological imagination, by C. Wright Mills, aims to find solutions to problems within society via research and theory about social behaviour. Take the act of drinking coffee. To many of us drinking coffee is more than just that, it is figurative value that is part of our day-to-day life. Often the ritual of drinking coffee is more significant than actually drinking the coffee itself.

Just as it has become a ritual to criticise and accuse those in power of our society’s flaws, where the ritual of blaming is more important than the actual reason. Often we do not even know why we accuse but because they are authoritative institutions they must be used to it and therefore deserve it.

It is a vicious cycle. We choose and allow certain institutions to govern us, take the weight off our hands, ‘do the dirty work’ and yet accept our disapproval of our lack of freedom.

We live in a society, a system, with no exact power to blame. It is on you, it is on me, and it is on us all. We are all part of the structure, from voters to candidates; from the gardener, the student, the unemployed, to the head CEO of a multinational. We all have a role, some which we choose, some from which we cannot escape. That is society to me. What is society to you?

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