Structure and definition of society
The subject of studying sociology is society. This is the simplest and at the same time the most vague definition of the scope of its competence. For many centuries, and to reflect on the nature of society, people began in ancient times, accumulated dozens and hundreds of definitions of this category. In one case, sociologists understand society as a large group of people who have formed a common culture, in another as a complex social system with people inhabiting it, in the third as a socio-political association associated with some territory, in the fourth as a product of interpersonal relations of people, symbolic aspect of social communication.
Historical understanding of society
Human society is extremely diverse: its size ranges from several tens or hundreds of people (local group of collectors, primitive race and tribe, chiefdom) to hundreds of millions and even billions (modern China and India).
The societies are large and small, simple and complex, knowledgeable and unfamiliar with writing, guided in their lives by the law and not subordinate to it. The primitive society consisted of small vagrant groups numbering from 40 to 60 people, including blood relatives who roamed the land in search of poverty. In his time, Plato believed that 5,040 families are sufficient for the formation of a real society. Later, Aristotle called this amount excessive. In the XVIII century. French sociologist Guillaume Rainal called a monstrous society of 20-30 million people. And what about the modern superpowers (the United States, China, Russia) or the ancient Roman empire in which Asia and Africa were modestly listed in the "provinces"?
In Antiquity, when a person thought the world around him much simpler and imagined himself to be much smaller in size, society only covered such everyday relations, in which the Greeks or Spartans saw community, alliance, commonwealth. Today we would call such a society rather a community of fellow countrymen or like-minded people. For Aristotle, the main thing in society was brotherhood and love, and since it was on them that the family was being built, it was from the family that he began his teaching on society. Family love was called social, and the attitude of the wife to her husband was social. The family was called a society because it arose through a contract - a marriage union. That's why marriage was the source of society. The Greeks called societies also the communes of friends who had everything in common, and the union of tribes, clans, phratries.
"A society consisting of several villages is a completely completed state," Aristotle wrote.
In a figurative sense, the concept of society also extended to relations state. In Greece, the state was called city-policy. Originally it was intended exclusively for military purposes, served as a stronghold of defense and the starting point attacks. Its population was a squad, living together and united. Political development was to be understood as the development of urban life, the transition to peaceful professions, trade, and private entrepreneurship. Already at that distant time, the understanding of political as a peaceful and non-political as a military way of solving problems was clearly delineated. Weakened the team-friendly ties, the personal beginning came first.
The ancient society in general, and the ancient Roman in particular, was very complex and along with the class-class structure included various associations and groups. In addition to the communities (civitas), the largest cell of the ancient Romans, the entire socio-political, industrial, spiritual, religious life of a person proceeded within smaller social groups: in family-clan organizations, religious and professional colleges, called (partnership), collegium sodalicium (circle of comrades), sodalitas , partes, and also in small circles and companies amici (friends) and necessitudines (close relatives). It was these small social groups that formed directly the reality given to the ancient society. Within these groups and, as a rule, under their control, the activities and life of the ancient Roman took place, where decisions were jointly taken and plans and intentions were fulfilled.
Unlike the Greeks, the Romans were given the concept of "social" exclusively legal value, and societies called the unions formed to achieve not so much moral, as property goals. In the Roman theory of private and public law, which is the basis of modern European civilization, the origins of the doctrine of civil society are traced. In Romans, society is nothing more than a contract concluded by non-relatives in order to achieve a very concrete property goal.
The ancient Roman state was called citizenship (civitas), meaning the union of citizens, originally only spearmen, warriors, squad, who together acquired property - res publicum (literally - a public thing) and then shared it or jointly owned it. The Roman civitas is greater than the Greek polis, had the character of a free meeting, free will, a contractual association. The state community in ancient Rome gradually grew to a union of tribes, therefore, international communication began to be called social. The political concept of society was used not in a direct, but in a figurative sense, as it only partially described the living practice of relationships. Much more it reflected the moral ideal of the Romans: the complete harmony of all with all, in other words, the achievement of a common goal by all citizens, and not by a separate commune or corporation.
In Antique Greece and Ancient Rome, citizens were considered only free residents of the city, more precisely, city-states. This was a self-governing community that existed for millennia, until it was replaced by a larger community of people - the nation. Since then, instead of city-states ( city-state ), which existed in Europe up to the New time (remember the city-states in Northern Italy of the XV-XVI centuries) there were nation-states ( nation-state ), or national states.
Human society is constantly changing. At the dawn of history a society of primitive hunters and gatherers arose. Later it was replaced by the slave-holding, then feudal and, finally, capitalist society. Strife, bloodshed, usurpation shocked the Ancient World as well as the modern world. This gave rise to the ancient Greek philosopher Heraclitus to say: if people have something in common, then this is war. The reality was far from ideal. A huge state, built on the same consonantal relations as society, was rather a goal to be striven for, but which, perhaps, can not be achieved. Even more, the problem of reconciliation between the state and society worsened at a time when Rome from a small community turned into a world power.
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