What do you mean by Society ?


Every science has its own terms and concepts, which carry some precise meaning these terms, help a student of science to understand it more clearly. The students of sociology also should have a clear understanding of its basic concepts. In this chapter we shall try to explain some basic concepts used in sociology.

Meaning of Society:

The term Society is the most fundamental one in sociology. It is used in very wide sense. In common parlance, the society is to refer to members of specific groups. For example, we speak of Harijan Society, Teacher’s Society, and Students society and the like. Similarly, the word is used to refer to some specific institution like, Brahma Samaj, Arya Samaj, etc. Bui in sociology, the term “Society” refers not to group of people but to the complex pattern of the norms of interaction that arise among them. People are only the agents of social relationship, they are regarded as things. A society is intangible; it is a process rather than a thing, motion rather than structure”. Society is a web of social relationships, the pattern of norms of interaction by which the members of the society maintain themselves.


Some scholars are of the opinion that society exists only when the members know each other and possess common interests or objects. For instance, two persons travelling in the same train, in the same compartment, at the same seat, do not form society, because they are not socially related and do not have mutual recognition. But as soon as they come to know each other, the element of society is created.

Definition of society:

Some definitions of the term “society” are given below:

Maclver and Page:


“Society is a system of usages and procedures, authority and mutual aid, of many groupings and divisions, of human behavior and of liberties”


“Society is a complex of forms or processes each of which is living and growing by interaction with the other, the whole being so unified that what takes place in one part affects all the rest”.



“Society is the union itself, the organization, the sum of formal relations in which associating individuals are bound together”.


“A Society is a collection of individuals united by certain relations or modes of behavior which mark them off from others who do not enter into these relations or who differ from them in behavior”.



“The term Society refers not to group of people, hut to the complex pattern of the norms of interaction, which arise among and between them”.

G.D.H. Cole:

“Society is the complex of organised associations and institutions within the community” If we analyse these definitions it will appear that all these fall under two types:

(i) The functional definition which views a society as a process and


(ii) The structural definition which views Society as a structure.

From the functional point of view, Society is defined as a complex of groups in reciprocal relationship, interacting upon one another, enabling human organism to carry on their life -activities structural point of view, society is the total social heritage of folkways, mores and institutions, of habits, sentiments and ideals. Maclver, Cooley and Lapiere have given functional definition of society while Ginsberg Giddings and Cole take a structural view of Society.


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