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The Nature of Human Society
Money and capital in the development of Human Society
Sex and gender
From species to humanity. Humankind and culture
The world and society
The Nature of Human Society
Specialty 050202 - International Relations
Chair of International Relations
FACULTY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS
KAZAKH ABLAI KHAN UNIVERSITY OF INTERNATIONAL RELATIONS AND WORLD LANGUAGES
1.David Popenoe. Sociology, 1977
2.Richard T.Shaefer, Sociology,1988
3.Jean Stockard. Sociology. Discovering society, 1991
4.Contemporary Society. An introduction to Social science. 6 edition. John A.Perry, Erna K.Perry, 1993
5.Sociology: An introduction. Book by Neil J.Smelser, 1967
6.Sociology: The Basics. Book by Martin Albrow, 1999
Questions for Control Works:
1. Why do we call Sociology as the systematic and objective study of human society and social interaction?
2. What research techniques do sociologists use as a similar to those of the natural sciences, such as biology and physics?
3. What is the difference between Sociology and other Social sciences?
Discipline – Sociology
Theme «Society as the main category of Sociology»
Theme «Society as the main category of Sociology»
5. Evolution and history of Human Society
Sociology is the study of human society, or societies. But such a simple initial definition of the subject begs the question ‘What is human society?’ This lecture answers this by setting out its unique properties which make it different from anything else in creation.
We study society not because it is fixed, obvious and permanent, but because it is fluid, elusive and changing. It is this flux which makes living in society a challenge for each of us as individuals. We need to be able to find our bearings in it. This is why sociology, as it charts and documents this shifting basis for our lives, has an ever-renewed fascination.
Ceaseless movement may be daunting but it also offers room for manoeuvre. It means that we can all hope that our lives can make a difference to society however limited our sphere of activities may be. Indeed sociology can help us realise such a hope so far as it sets out the extent and limits of our powers. That’s reason enough for studying Sociology.
The world and society
There is a difference of emphasis between talking of society in the singular or in the plural. ‘Society’ in the singular appears more general and unlimited over any time or space, taking in all human beings. The plural, ‘societies’, sounds more like a set of container units distinct from each other, as if you can take them one by one to inspect their contents.
In fact sociology has always studied societies, both taken separately and also all together, as ‘human society’. The balance between the two aspects may vary, but in the end the study of the one absolutely requires study of the other. Neither makes sense on its own.
For instance, consider the United States as a society. We can think of it in cities, factories, schools, farms or prisons. We also find it in what politicians do, in what people see on the media or in what they believe about God. We recognise the connections between these things. We might treat them as confined within the boundaries of the United States and refer to them under the general heading of ‘American society’.
But for every link to the territory of the United States there will also be links beyond. People in prison may be there because they have been caught with drugs. But these don’t simply arrive out of the blue. People travel across national boundaries to supply them. These are ‘connections’, the theme of the American Academy Oscar award winning film The French Connection where Gene Hackman as the New York cop shows the federal agents how to break a US drug ring. He does it by smashing it abroad—in Marseilles in France. The film may amount to subtle propaganda to make us see drugs as foreign, un-American and therefore to be resisted. But ‘foreign connections’ are essential to the most law-abiding institutions. The ‘local’ church may well also be ‘foreign’ at the same time. The Roman Catholic Church is a world-wide organisation with headquarters in Rome. The Unification Church began in Korea. The President of the United States discusses shared problems, is ‘at home’ with leaders of other nation-states. Ford is a global corporation, making and selling cars world-wide. So is Mazda. They both have plants in Detroit.
The boundaries of a country, its people and culture are only maintained through constant interaction with other countries. The great majority of people in the United States can trace their ancestry back to foreign countries. People’s ties to countries are not natural facts, even though they may fix them to land. Boundaries and nationality have to be made and then ‘recognised’, and then they are always subject to change.
Where is the Soviet Union now? Where are Soviet citizens? The term ‘international relations’ has customarily been used for political relations between nation-states. But relations between countries are social as well as political, and, for that matter, economic and cultural too.
Yet societies are both more and less than countries. While we often call a country a ‘society’, we can use that word for a collection of any number of people whose activities link them in some way. We thus refer to the Mafia, the Freemasons as societies. Nothing stops us using it for Amnesty International, the Green Movement, or equally McDonald’s if we recognise that even the most single-minded profit-making business depends on the people who control and work for it.
In all these cases relations across state boundaries are as much part of the maintenance of the society as connections within. Indeed societies are always potentially transnational, whether they be state inspired or voluntary, religious or economic. So where does that leave ‘countries’? It’s better to refer to them as ‘human collectivities’ and return to this point later.
Clear-cut boundaries do not make society any more real. Societies extend over time and space and it’s often difficult to say where they begin and end. Some societies endure for millennia, as the Chinese or Christian, others less than a century like the Soviet Union. Some have spread over the globe, like capitalist society has done since the sixteenth century, while others are very localised and ephemeral, like the Brotherhood of Independent Workers which lasted in Cleveland from 1942 to 1944.
We can date the beginning of the Brotherhood with a meeting of 50 workers in the Thompson Main engineering plant in 1942. It faded out in 1944. It was small and local, began and ended. But like any society its reality was a thread woven into the lives of people. Its existence did not rest just on their occasional co-presence in a meeting room but in mutual dependencies on which they based their activities when they were apart.
Neither society in general nor societies have to be attached to a particular patch of earth. Countries are often called ‘nation-state societies’ and it is their special feature that they lay claim to territory. But family and friendship are vital aspects of society. They are not normally tied to a place, or indeed a particular time. Nor are corporations or churches.
Only recently have we reinstated the idea that societies are not essentially tied to territories. In the eighteenth century the Scottish professor Adam Ferguson (1723-1816) observed that modern people had come to think of the loss of land as the end of society whereas the ancient Greeks laughed at their enemies as they escaped a conquered city. 2 Four centuries earlier the great Arab judge and sociologist before sociology, Ibn Khaldun (1332-1406), wrote a treatise on how societies change and was in no doubt that they were essentially mobile and held together by the human spirit.
The physical limit of any society is the earth, which is also the medium for its movement. When we put down roots at any spot we create our own world which is why we can’t equate ‘world’ and ‘earth’. So when we talk about societies, in the plural, moving in a ‘world’, this varies for each, is a construct, a heritage of special links with an environment which is both a human achievement as well as a set of natural conditions.
If we add up all these special worlds we have a sum of worlds which is far larger than the earth can bear. It is within this larger world of worlds that we find human society. Because societies traverse the earth, expanding and contracting, they are bound constantly to cross and recross each other. Their fates depend on their ongoing relations with each other, especially as these centre on their respective share of the earth and its resources. They can relate through conflict or mutual aid, competition or alliance. The outcome of these struggles is a collective fate for humankind as a whole.
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