Traditionally, there have been two answers to the problem of the relationship between the individual and his society.
One is the social contract theory and the other is the organic theory which we have already discussed in detail. According to the social contract theory, society is the result of an agreement or contract entered into by men who originally lived in a pre-social state.
Thus society is made by man and he is more real than his creation. On the other hand, according to the organic theory, society is an organic.
Just as the parts of an animal body are functionally related and none can exist isolated from the rest, similarly, the members of society are functionally related to each other and no one can exist without society.
Hence, the society is more real than the individual. The relationship between the individual and the society is not one sided as these two theories seem to indicate.
Before we proceed to examine the true relationship between the individual and the society, we may just see in what sense man can be called a social animal. Aristotle, the great Greek philosopher, says “Man is a social animal. He who lives without society is either a beast or a God”.
Actually man is by nature and necessity, a social animal, man cannot survive in the absence of society. Society is indispensable for human race.
Professor Park says “Man is not born human but to be made human”. Human nature is the result of social interaction in a cultural milieu. Man can be called a social animal on the basis of three important grounds mentioned below.
1. Man is social by nature
Firstly, man is a social animal by nature. The nature of human being is such that he can’t afford to live alone. No human being is normally developed in isolation.
The essential qualities of human nature such as the capacity to acquire knowledge, to learn language, enquire and think, respect and regard, play and work, help and the like are developed in society only. These capacities are revealed through social interaction.
The human infant comes into the world as a biological organism with animal needs. He is gradually moulded into a social being and learn social ways’ of acting and feeling through the society.
Mac Iver has cited three cases in which human infants were isolated from all social relationships to make experiments about man’s social nature, it proves that man is a social animal by nature.
(i) Case of Kaspar Hauser
Kaspar Hauser, a young German boy was born in 1911. After his birth, due to the political conspiracy, he lived in isolation in the forest of Nuremberg until he reached the age of seventeen.
He was brought out in 1928 and left in the German city. In his case it was found that at the age of seventeen he could hardly walk, had” the mind of an infant and could mutter only a few meaningless phrases.
He could not distinguish between inanimate objects and living beings. His brain development was found to be subnormal. In spite of his subsequent education he could never make himself a normal man.
(ii) Case of Amala and Kamala
Amala and Kamala, two Hindu children in India were taken away by a she-wolf. They were found in a wolf-den in 1920, Kamala was eight years old-when she was discovered her brother Amala was only two years old. The younger brother died within a few months of discovery.
But Kamala survived until 1929. Here case-history in human traits when she was discovered, she could walk only on all four legs like a wolf.
She learned no language. She was growling like a wolf. She was shy of other human beings and afraid of them. It was only after careful and sympathetic training she could learn some rudimentary social habits.
She had learnt some simple speeches, eating and dressing habits and the like. Kamala considered herself as the wolf’s child.
She lacked the sense of human selfhood when she was first found. But the sense of human selfhood gradually emerged. Thus, Mac Iver says that the emergence of her individuality was altogether dependent upon her membership in society.
(iii) Case of Anna
Anna, an illegitimate child was born in a private nursing home in America. When only six months old, she was separated from all kinds of human contract and was kept confined in a room for a long period. She was discovered five years later in 1938. It was found that .she could neither walk nor speak.
She was completely indifferent to people around her. With the care of the human society, Anna became more active, smiling and cheerful.
After a few months it was found that Anna could hold an apple in her hand, and eat, drink liquid from the glass and eat with a spoon.
Anna responded to careful treatment and she became humanised rapidly. Anna’s case illustrates that human nature developed in man only when he is one of many men sharing a common life.”
The above cases prove that human being is social by nature. Human nature develops only when he lives in society, only when he shares his fellow-being’s common life. Thus no human being can normally develop in isolation.
2. Necessity makes a man social
Secondly, man is a social animal by his necessity. Man lives in society because necessity compels him. Many of his needs will remain unsatisfied if he does not have the co-operation of his fellow beings. The fundamental needs of individuals such as food, clothing and shelters can be fulfilled only by living in society and co-operating with others.
The child is brought up under the care of his parents and learns the first lessons of citizenship in their company. He is totally dependent upon the society for his survival.
For instance, if a new born baby does not receive protection by the society, he will not survive even a day. No one can become a human being unless he lives with society. Apart from fulfilling the basic needs of a man, the human society satisfies his desires, dreams and aspirations by the solid co-operation of his fellow beings.
In society man can easily fulfill his various needs such as education, protection, nature, comfort, opportunity, equipment and so on.
The self-preservation desired by every human being, is a need which society alone fulfills. Therefore, it is not due to his nature alone but also due to his necessities man lives in society and regarded as a social animal.
3. Society determines human personality
Lastly, man lives in society for his mental, psychological and intellectual development. Society both liberates and limits our potentialities as individual and moulds our attitudes, beliefs, morals and ideals. It preserves the culture, customs, folkways, mores, norms, values etc. and transmits it to succeeding generations.
One of the important functions of society is to preserve the social heritage which is intimately related to human beings. The social heritage helps his personality to develop in society.
It is no doubt that the personality of an individual cannot develop at all in the absence of social heritage. Thus society not only moulds and directs human personality but also determines the personality of the individuals. The personality, which is the total quality of individual’s behaviour, only develops in human society.
From the foregoing discussion it may be concluded that man is a social animal. Individual and society are interrelated and interdependent.
Both are complementary and supplementary to each other. The relationship between the individual and the society is not one-sided, both are essential for the comprehension of either.
In the words of Mac Iver “No one can really be an absolute individualist, any more than any one can be an absolute socialist, for the individual and the society interest one another and depend upon one another”.