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  1. #1
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Default Is there such thing as society?

    Is society more than the sum of its parts or just a collection of individuals and their families? Do you think sociology has any credibility? Is it a hangover from the sixties?

  2. #2
    Senior Member Beargryllz's Avatar
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    Societies are wonderfully complex super organisms that change in predictable and chaotic ways alike. I see it more as a well-organized machine than a heap of tiny units like individuals and families.

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    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    I think, to reject the existence to of society, requires one to either reify the metaphysical concept of parsimony, or to somehow assert the that the actions of one person does not affect another perseon. The former I philosophically disagree with, the latter is patently stupid.

    I do not believe particulars or universals are in anyway more legitimate than the other as [I]real[I] things. A society exists as a thing in so far as it has constituent parts which are influenced by each other and will subsequently follows patterns. If you don't think that makes something real, then I'm sorry to tell you that water isn't real either.

    The individual is a fundamental component of society, is quite real, and must be understood as an individual, but the individual has influence beyond him/her self, and there are other individuals who are just as real, and the impact of one upon the other is surely as real then as a ripple in a lake.

    So is society more than a sum of its parts? Since the interaction between things is what makes it so, but just one of those things alone could create no such interaction, I could in that sense say society is more than the sum of its parts, as adding more people does not just create a quantitative difference, but a qualitative difference. The society is then as much a uniquely identifiable thing as the any one of the people constituting it.

    The other objection, that people do not actually influence other people, is so obviously false that I'm not sure how someone could believe and thus I would not know how to show them otherwise.

    And if anyone says sociology is a hangover from the sixties, they need to study the history of sociology.
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  4. #4
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    If society is an illusion, then are families just collections of individuals? What about villages? Tribes? Is society not just an enlargement (and abstraction) of those groups, and their interplay and functioning?

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    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    And if anyone says sociology is a hangover from the sixties, they need to study the history of sociology.
    I think so too but a lot of the lecturers, some of the publishers and most definitely the students are all so Marxian, and pretty much sixties Marxian, as to make it seriously seem so.

    I find this incredibly ironic since when I read Burke, especially "Nasty Burke" when he is singing a hymn to prejudice and the like, and others like him I tend to read it as a massive assault on reformers and revolutionaries for their ignorance of what would today be called sociology or sociological insights.

    Although a lot of sociological text books seem to take Herbert Spencer's functionalism, especially his analogies about the state and society being a body (which is to me a kind of Hobbesian idea) the amelioration of poverty or social distress being akin to physiological treatments resulting in atrophied limbs, as ideology rather than reality.

    At the moment I'm unsure about this topic, Thatchers denial of society's existence for instance was based upon staunch Hayekian classical liberalism and an observation of how people practically function. It is, to me, both coherent and plausible.

    While most people considering society or social reality to be ontologically a priori are going to look at individuality or individualism as a social construction I'm unsure now.

    In a way it comes down to is considering individuality as a social construct essentially a chicken and egg scenario, like the Zen riddle, which came first? Sociology definitely deals with how society reproduces itself. Or is suggesting that individuality is a social construct in reality placing the cart before the horse? Does individuality exist a priori and individuals then form families, neighbourhoods, at the most communities (such as an online forum for instance) out of either habit or a desire to share and share alike and this constitutes or is labelled society?

    It may not seem like it matters or appears very abstract or academic but I tend to think that society as articulated in one sense is more tangible than the other, which is a fable agreed upon by individuals. However, if it is more tangible how can it exist, what invocation brought it forth? How can it be? Without possessing what can really be said to be a consciousness but instead a kind of "Ghost In The Machine"?

  6. #6
    Nips away your dignity Fluffywolf's Avatar
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    As for sociology being credible. There is no alternative so we make it credible. It's not physics, or even psychology. It's a study conforming every aspect of every interaction on every conceivable grounds. It's not something tangible. Unless you make a space shuttle and live the rest of your life in solitude growing space carrots to live off on, 'society' is not something you can run from or distance yourself from. It exists in every encounter with other people and every time you listen to the radio or watch TV. When you pay your bills, buy your house, go to the mall. That is society. It's a collaberation of every interaction us humans have.

    Sociology attempts to guide these interactions or manipulate these interactions in certain ways to achieve a set goal.
    ~Self-depricating Megalomaniacal Superwolf

  7. #7
    & Badger, Ratty and Toad Mole's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by nebbykoo View Post
    If society is an illusion, then are families just collections of individuals? What about villages? Tribes? Is society not just an enlargement (and abstraction) of those groups, and their interplay and functioning?
    Catholicism discovered society a long time ago and called it the Body of Christ. And if one part of the body hurts all of the body hurts. So every part of the body helps every other part of the body.

    The Utilitarians translated this as the greatest good for the greatest number and the Three Musketeers gave us the slogan, one for all and all for one. And for the Marines it is, no man left behind.

    But extreme individualism hides society from us, and in particular hides the power relations within.

    Extreme individualism hides the power relations between owner and consumer, between employer and employee, between men and women, between adults and children, between teacher and pupil, between black and white, between rich and poor, between the normal and the mentally ill and between liberal democrats and fundamentalists.

    Of course the Body of Christ is a Conceit, and some would say an illusion. But it is an illusion we need just as we need the Conceits of poetry.

  8. #8
    ^He pronks, too! Magic Poriferan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    I think so too but a lot of the lecturers, some of the publishers and most definitely the students are all so Marxian, and pretty much sixties Marxian, as to make it seriously seem so.

    I find this incredibly ironic since when I read Burke, especially "Nasty Burke" when he is singing a hymn to prejudice and the like, and others like him I tend to read it as a massive assault on reformers and revolutionaries for their ignorance of what would today be called sociology or sociological insights.
    May be so, I haven't noticed so much myself and I suppose it also depends on how loosely you define Marxists. You could say I'm Marxist because I generally subscribe to conflict theory and Marx essentially invented that. But the very fact that these people could be called sixties Marxists, if that is credible, reveals the long history of sociology.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    Although a lot of sociological text books seem to take Herbert Spencer's functionalism, especially his analogies about the state and society being a body (which is to me a kind of Hobbesian idea) the amelioration of poverty or social distress being akin to physiological treatments resulting in atrophied limbs, as ideology rather than reality.
    That's because it is ideology rather than reality. One can acknowledge society as an ontological thing without going to the extreme, perscriptive lengths that Spencer did.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    At the moment I'm unsure about this topic, Thatchers denial of society's existence for instance was based upon staunch Hayekian classical liberalism and an observation of how people practically function. It is, to me, both coherent and plausible.
    I never thought Hayek had a particularly useful or accurate view of society. In a sense, he artifically spread open a dichotomy between the most superlative individualism and the most superlative centralization. This dichotomy is neither real, nor are either end of it practicable, though he of course seemed to think the former was with his over-emphasis on spontaneous order and all of that tosh.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    While most people considering society or social reality to be ontologically a priori are going to look at individuality or individualism as a social construction I'm unsure now.

    In a way it comes down to is considering individuality as a social construct essentially a chicken and egg scenario, like the Zen riddle, which came first? Sociology definitely deals with how society reproduces itself. Or is suggesting that individuality is a social construct in reality placing the cart before the horse? Does individuality exist a priori and individuals then form families, neighbourhoods, at the most communities (such as an online forum for instance) out of either habit or a desire to share and share alike and this constitutes or is labelled society?
    I see no chicken and egg problem. It's blatantly obvious that as a physical thing the individual comes first, and individuals put together create a society, provided that they can influence each other (if you could somehow get a mass of people together, and yet cut them all of from contact with each other, you would not get a society).

    However, there is a reciprocal process here. Clearly humans do have malleable and impressionable psychology that is in part determined by the influence of those the individual is exposed to. Once you have a group of people clustered together enough that a new person can be born into the group itself, then you now have the group influence the people who will eventually be consituting the group even as those who influence the individual in the first place have passed away. The whole thing is driven by the exchange of characteristics from one member to another and so forth. So if we are talking strictly about culture, there still isn't a chicken and egg effect. Rather than one following the other, it's more like they co-exist and starting with either one will invoke the other.

    Quote Originally Posted by Lark View Post
    It may not seem like it matters or appears very abstract or academic but I tend to think that society as articulated in one sense is more tangible than the other, which is a fable agreed upon by individuals. However, if it is more tangible how can it exist, what invocation brought it forth? How can it be? Without possessing what can really be said to be a consciousness but instead a kind of "Ghost In The Machine"?
    How can society exist? I think biological evolution is a much more bizarre and complex idea than society, but I don't refence ghost in machines or higher powers for that, either. Like I said, it's just a more complicateed version of ripples in a pond. Do you have an idea of what I mean?
    Go to sleep, iguana.


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  9. #9
    Senior Member Survive & Stay Free's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Magic Poriferan View Post
    May be so, I haven't noticed so much myself and I suppose it also depends on how loosely you define Marxists. You could say I'm Marxist because I generally subscribe to conflict theory and Marx essentially invented that. But the very fact that these people could be called sixties Marxists, if that is credible, reveals the long history of sociology.
    I dont mean it is a popular or prejorative sense, just the academic or theorist sense.

    That's because it is ideology rather than reality. One can acknowledge society as an ontological thing without going to the extreme, perscriptive lengths that Spencer did.
    Its interesting that you say this because you seem to be saying something later.

    I never thought Hayek had a particularly useful or accurate view of society. In a sense, he artifically spread open a dichotomy between the most superlative individualism and the most superlative centralization. This dichotomy is neither real, nor are either end of it practicable, though he of course seemed to think the former was with his over-emphasis on spontaneous order and all of that tosh.
    I consider him more of a polemicist too than theorist but as far as individualist vs. sociological explanations go he is typical of the individualists.

    I see no chicken and egg problem. It's blatantly obvious that as a physical thing the individual comes first, and individuals put together create a society, provided that they can influence each other (if you could somehow get a mass of people together, and yet cut them all of from contact with each other, you would not get a society).
    No you wouldnt get a society is you set people apart but then do you see that naturally occuring or is it an abstraction or merely a thought experiment? Its an incredibly rare thing to actually ever encounter the kinds of hypothetical scenarios proposed by Hobbes, Locke or Rousseau as pre-dating society and the state.

    Instead you have society existing as an ontological entity which will influence the child, family is the primary mechanism and source of its reproduction of itself but there are a lot of others. I think it has become a much less conscious thing since the idea of a unified or singular society or social conscience disappeared as a popular, academic, cultural or political idea and was replaced by the personal, the consumer and the diverse.

    However, there is a reciprocal process here. Clearly humans do have malleable and impressionable psychology that is in part determined by the influence of those the individual is exposed to. Once you have a group of people clustered together enough that a new person can be born into the group itself, then you now have the group influence the people who will eventually be consituting the group even as those who influence the individual in the first place have passed away. The whole thing is driven by the exchange of characteristics from one member to another and so forth. So if we are talking strictly about culture, there still isn't a chicken and egg effect. Rather than one following the other, it's more like they co-exist and starting with either one will invoke the other.
    I'm not sure, I do think that this explanation appears to mechanical or deliberately fabricated, any individual or group of individuals can try but as adults or adolescents, when they have the noticeable voice or means to exert an influence they are already shaped by society. Does society make the adult/adolescent or vice versa?

    How can society exist? I think biological evolution is a much more bizarre and complex idea than society, but I don't refence ghost in machines or higher powers for that, either. Like I said, it's just a more complicateed version of ripples in a pond. Do you have an idea of what I mean?
    You misunderstand, I'm not suggesting anything about a higher power, unsure where that comes in and to be honest I believe that most of those who reference that theory in relation to evolutionary theory are projecting a lot of things from their own consciousness upon religion or its legacies.

    I was suggesting that, contra the ripple theory, that society is not an intentional creation of those living in a constituting a society so called, perhaps if you affirm the Hayekian individuals in aggregate theory but if you consider society an ontological phenomenon to individuals and that individualism itself is a social construct then it is an unconscious, undirected entity.

  10. #10
    Dreaming the life onemoretime's Avatar
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    Society is to an individual as an individual is to a cell.

    Interpret that however you like, there's more than one way based on your perception.

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