When we are asked to define society, those of us without studies on the matter can only come up with subjective answers, with definitions that express our point of view on the world. For a professional, accustomed to only taking facts into consideration, the definition of society goes something like this: society refers to a smaller or larger group of people who are connected to each other by various relations or by culture and tradition. A society can refer to a small group of people who have something in common like a hobby, a passion, a common interest or activity, but to a village, town or country as well, and so on. A larger society connects its people through language, traditions and culture, like stated above.
Where a definition of society is required, one should also look at the word’s etymology which is sometimes more revelatory than the definition; here we find out that “society” comes from the Latin word societas, a derivative of the noun socius, and it is used to refer to the bond or relations of a group of people which are usually friendly or courteous. However, people also use the word “society” to refer to humanity in a more general sense, whereas those who dislike people and companionship are described as “antisocial”.
Like we were saying earlier, every culture or country has one or more societies, but how they view and utilize them is often quite different. For example, even through the West is very modern in societal terms, one can still talk of something such as “high society”, meaning the gathering and connectivity of people who are of higher birth, nobility, or who possess a lot of financial assets. In Asian countries like India, a caste-divided society still exists; hierarchy is part of every society, and it should in fact be part of a definition of society because there were very few exceptions from that in history. Thus, in India, those of lower caste are still forbidden from mixing with higher castes, and their blood is considered impure.
These ancient and old traditions should have no standing in today’s civilization, but they are so well-grounded in the people that they continue to follow them and to believe in them. One of the conclusions that we can draw at this point is that although we live in the 21st century, the 21st century doesn’t live everywhere; although a globalization of culture and language is starting to take place, certain parts of the world are still so different and so unique that they cannot define society the same as us.
This becomes even more obvious when we think about aboriginal tribes in Africa or the Amazon, ancient tribes who follow centuries’ old traditions, who speak their own dialects, who have their own laws and their own singular cultures. While above most of us progress swept and changed everything, others still live as their ancestors used to; to consider our “civilized” society as being the right one would be to think in a prejudiced and biased way, because modernity and technology are not the standards for civilization among and between people. Our so-called civilized societies are kept in place by numerous written and unwritten laws, and yet people still find reasons to hate and hurt each other; things become even more violent when another, different society shows up, and the fear of the unknown makes people hate. So is it really that our definition of society is right, is it the correct one?
The truth is that there is still room for improvement in all societies, and in the world’s society in general; we need to learn to realize, truly realize that we are all much better off if we stick together and try to be more accepting and understanding of each other. Perhaps in the future we will define society in a totally different way, and consider today’s methods to be crude and primitive.