Society (sociology)

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Company referred to in the sociology generally a by different characteristics summarized and accrued number of people as social agents ( actors ) live interlinked and directly or indirectly interact socially . Society refers both to humanity as a whole (in relation to animals and plants) and to certain groups of people, for example a people or a nation . Society can also refer to a spatially delimited and structured relationship between people, to collectives or to a knot ( cluster ) in the social network of humanity, which can be delimited by the network density and multiplexity of the interactions. In current social sciences , the term is often used with imprecise meaning.

The concept of society in ethnology or anthropology as well as in constitutional law is defined and used differently than in sociology.

Concept history

“Society literally means the epitome of spatially united people living or temporarily united in one space. So it follows from the etymological derivation of the word from ahdsal = space, ahd.  selida = dwelling; still preserved today in: nhd. 'hall', Scand.  sal = floor, Russian  ssjelo = courtyard, country residence (perhaps related to the Latin  solum = land). Journeyman, ahd.  Gisellio , is the 'hall mate'. "

The term is probably derived directly from journeyman or from society . Society was the union of journeymen to enforce demands to change the working conditions determined by the guild masters (the "championship"). In today's linguistic usage, expressions such as “ socialize ” (cf. equal and like like to join . ) Or “sociable” (“ sociability ”) indicate a spatial and temporal context of people. The conflict between society and mastery of the medieval guild is alien to both terms in today's parlance. In modern legal developments, legal language has established itself as a non-judgmental group term. In Schleiermacher's distinction between society and community that right thinking sounds to.

The ideas of the Enlightenment of a rational government were made known to the general public through the French Revolution . In the 19th century "Society" was then used to translate English. society and French  société . The concept of civil society or " bourgeois society " served the emerging bourgeoisie as an antithesis to the absolutist princely state . From then on, the dualism of the terms state and society became fundamental to the political philosophy of liberalism .

From a bio-sociological point of view, humans are by nature in society. In (already) Aristotle 's words he is a ζώον πολιτικόν ( zóon politikón ), a being based on “state (community, pole-ice ) formation”.

Sociological schools

The term “society” is controversial as a central basic term in sociology. In 2011 Thomas Schwinn wrote an overview of 'strong and weak social terms'. He described these as 'decay of a traditional concept'. He describes the theoretical history of the term and distinguishes among other things. a. systems-theoretical approaches (inter alia Talcott Parsons , Niklas Luhmann ), action-theoretical foundation attempts ( Anthony Giddens , Hartmut Esser ) or combinations of systems and action theory ( Jürgen Habermas , Uwe Schimank ).

In today's sociology, too, the use of the term society is controversial. For example, For example, the British sociologist John Urry turned away from the analysis of societies for a sociology of the 21st century ( Sociology Beyond Societies , London 2000).

Marxism (marx)

According to Karl Marx , society is the totality of relationships between people, that is, the sum of relationships and relationships among individuals, and not individuals as such. Society is analyzed here according to the historical level of development of the economic conditions, whereby Marx first describes three basic social formations :

  • the original primary or archaic formation (primordial society) based on common property and social homogeneity, which at its last and highest stage of development with the division of work, with individually used common property, gradually becomes socially differentiated and begins to grow into the secondary formation.
  • the secondary formation of socially heterogeneous societies based on large private property (Asian mode of production, slave-holding society, feudalism and bourgeois - capitalist society)
  • the communist social formation with socialism as a preliminary stage or transition phase to a classless society

Sociological classics

Community and Society (Tönnies)

According to Ferdinand Tönnies , society is a precisely defined grouping of people. He understands "society" as the opposite of "community". The technical term society was introduced analytically in the emerging sociology by Tönnies in 1887 in his work Community and Society . According to this, community is characterized by mutual trust, emotional connection and homogeneity. Tönnies contrasts the concept of community with the concept of society . According to Tönnies, the community is used by actors with individual goals. This leads to a loose connection between the individuals in society. For him, both community and society are a common object of sociology. His concept of society in the narrower sense is therefore axiomatically supported and obtained strictly deductively . In this sense, the term is rarely used in sociology. At Tönnies, society is a special form of mutual, willful affirmation by people who use this form as a means to achieve their individual goals (see above).

Socialization (Weber)

With his term socialization , Max Weber still ties in strongly with Tönnies' characteristics.

Differentiation (Simmel)

In 1890 Georg Simmel introduced the term differentiation (also known as social differentiation or social differentiation ) into sociology . Differentiation describes long-term changes in a society. These changes can be connected with the emergence or breakdown of social positions , life situations and / or lifestyles . Differentiation is also used to describe the result of such processes, namely 'social differentiation'.

Structural functionalism (Parsons)

According to structural functionalism , a society is formed from actors when they are able to satisfy human needs by means of certain social functions (compare Talcott Parsons , as well as functionalism ). Functionally oriented towards this, institutions are formed , and without the development of appropriate structures, permanent satisfaction of needs is not possible. Even a Robinson Crusoe only survives because he has internalized the methods for coping with the world ( norms , values , skills ), because he carries society within himself - for example when he becomes pious on his deserted island . Actor (or disputed: individual ) and society are interdependent. Societies can only stabilize in the long term if they reproduce through socialization , structures and values. The nuclear family is the original instance here through biological determination , but even this is controversial.

Systems theory (Luhmann)

Niklas Luhmann speaks of a “society” when conforming and deviating behavior with regard to norms and values ​​is defined and there is a corresponding differentiation of expectations and reactions.

In Luhmann's conception of communication theory, society is described as “all events that are communicatively accessible to one another”. Society in terms of systems theory is therefore the most comprehensive social system - that unit that no longer has a social environment and includes all other social systems, including organizations, as well as relationships and facts . In other words, society is everything that is accessible to one another through communication .

Practice and Theory of Practice (Bourdieu)

For Pierre Bourdieu , society cannot be fully explained. There are, however, two levels to be distinguished: the level of social practice, in which life takes place according to regularities, the course of which the actors have incorporated largely unconsciously , and the level of theory of practice, where it has to be examined, the unconscious, to uncover in their entirety hardly perceived power relations in social practice, and to do so where they largely break with the habits of action, perception and judgment. Bourdieu's very influential work thus contains a component that is critical of society.

World society

Tönnies' and Luhmann's approaches allow or imply - like those of many other sociological macro-theorists - the idea of ​​a world society :

See also

Portal: Society  - Overview of Wikipedia content on society


Web links

Commons : Society  - collection of pictures, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Society  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
Wikiquote: Society  - Quotes

Individual evidence

  1. ^ Robert Hettlage : Farmer Societies. The rural world as a sociological exotic icon? In: Robert Hettlage: The post-traditional world of farmers. Campus, Frankfurt a. M. 1989, ISBN 3-593-34007-0 . P. 12.
  2. ^ A b Theodor Geiger : Society. In: Alfred Vierkandt (Ed.): Concise dictionary of sociology. Foreword by René König . Introduction by Paul Hochstim. (= Enke social sciences. ) Abridged study edition. Ferdinand Enke Verlag, Stuttgart 1982, ISBN 3-432-91551-9 , pp. 38–48 (the unabridged edition, in connection with […] G. Briefs […] F. Eulenburg […] F. Oppenheimer […] W. Sombart […] F. Tönnies […] A. Weber […] L. v. Wiese […], published in 1931, DNB 36145662X , LCCN  32-019286 , OCLC 753128534 and others; their reprinted unchanged [supplemented by a preface von H. Schelsky ] 1959, DNB 451820479 , OCLC 67599443 et al., pp. 201-211, respectively); here: Chapter I sense of the word and history of general linguistic usage , p. 39 (unabridged edition: p. 202).
  3. Theodor Geiger : Ideology and Truth. A Sociological Critique of Thought. [With an afterword by Frank Benseler .] (= Sociological essays. ) 2nd edition. Hermann Luchterhand Verlag, Neuwied / Berlin 1968, DNB 456713034 , LCCN  73-371605 , OCLC 912098460 u. a., ZDB -ID 2384724-4 (the 1st edition [without afterword] (= Die Universität collection . Volume 41) was published by Humboldt-Verlag, Stuttgart / Vienna 1953, DNB 36377369X , LCCN  ltf90-010286 , OCLC 644700442 and others, ZDB ID 252692-x , one year after Theodor Geiger's death on June 16, 1952); Chapter  Original Strata of Ideology , pp. 93–96 (1st edition: pp. 107–111).
  4. In: Jens Greve, Clemens Kroneberg, Thomas Schwinn: Social Differentiation: Knowledge Gains of Action and System Theory Approaches. VS-Verlag, 2011, ISBN 978-3-531-17388-7 , pp. 27-44.
  5. ^ Karl Marx: Grundrisse der Critique of Political Economy . 1857.
  6. ^ Niklas Luhmann : Interaction, Organization and Society. In: Same: Sociological Enlightenment. Volume 2: Essays on the theory of society. Westdeutscher Verlag, Opladen 1975, pp. ??.