Society and Social Groups

In the study of society, there are two schools of thought. According to some analysts, human interaction is a highly complex system involving multiple interacting agents. According to other analysts, human interaction is neither a highly complex system nor necessarily governed by reciprocity. However, both theories also agree that human society is highly organized, characterized by multiple interacting agents with a common goal of mutual advantage.

Defining Society A society is a set of individuals interacting with each other within a specific framework. Within such a society, humans may organize into many different social groups. These groups generally define specific norms, values, interests, and physical proximity. In some theories of society, there is a marked distinction between the self and the community, while in others the community may include all members of the population.

The nature of the primary groups that people consider themselves a part of may differ. In terms of the definition of a primary group, in modern theory it is the “dominant” group that rules the society or the community. The idea behind the “dominant” concept is that, in a community or society, those who are most closely related in the biological, emotional, psychological, or even economic traits end up at the top.

Within this concept, the children of parents who are close in kin will be considered first. This may account for the existence of families in societies where there is little tradition of marriage or fertility, or when women are much less dominant in the economy. The children of parents who are not close in kin may belong to a secondary group, although their place in the pecking order may be much less than that of their parents. The children of cohabiters, who are technically single, are considered to be within the primary group even though they might have a cohabiting partner. These three primary groups, which are based on biological, psychological, or economic factors, are referred to collectively as the society.

In contemporary society, there are two main reference groups. These reference groups are the primary and secondary groups. Within these groups, the society contains two broad categories: the primary groups which include the actual people, and the secondary groups which include the institutions, groups, or individuals that make up the society.

The larger category, which is referred to as the informal group, consists of those who do not necessarily participate in the institution of marriage, fertility, or childbearing, but who share a number of similar characteristics. This could be extended to all persons who exhibit similar economic, emotional, psychological, or other common characteristics. For example, an informal group could include all unmarried mothers, all single fathers, or all unemployed persons.

The second primary group is the second level of the society. This second level is comprised of the members of the institution of marriage, family, and children, as well as those who, for reasons that vary from a variety of factors, appear to be the natural members of the primary group, but are neither married nor related to anyone. This may include such persons as university students, shop assistants, working mothers, or anybody who is not directly related to any of the above. On the other hand, the second level includes the institutionalized members of the society, which may be any group that has a formal membership or who have established a face-to-face interaction with a variety of other people, regardless of whether they meet the primary or the impersonal criteria. Some examples include: nursing homes, juvenile delinquents, prisoners, mentally ill, mentally retarded, or any other group that has a face-to-face relationship with a large number of the others in the same category.

On the other hand, the third main category is the social organization. Here, each of the three categories is combined, as in the case of the third group, or one might say, the traditional groups (i.e., families) and other such socially organized institutions. Examples of these would be clubs, neighborhood organizations, professional associations, religious groups, academic institutions, professional organizations, charitable groups, sports teams, professional associations, or any other group that has established a face-to-face interaction with a large number of the others in the same category. Within the three main social groups, we can further subdivide them into the different types that they represent, as in the case of families, neighborhoods, professional organizations, groups, and so on. The grouping of the three main social groups is therefore further divided into several subgroups, as in the case of youth, men, women, and so on.

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