Essay 10 - Emergent Society

9 November 2000 


Society is arguably the single most important aspect of human development and our position in the world. Through society, through interacting with one another, we have made ourselves, as humanity, more than we ever could have been as individual humans. And so, our social nature being as important to us as it is, it is only natural that we study it.

Usually, when studying society, we try to find causes for various social practices and patterns. In understanding various elements of society, we seek to gain insight into why it exists at all, and how we can attempt to predict and shape it. Various basic ideas have been proposed as solutions to this question: society is a result of how our genes play with our innate need for social interaction, society and religion birthed each other by bringing people together, society is just random trends influencing each other in different populations.

Generally, though, I think that all of these come to the conclusion that ultimately society is the result of our human nature and its interaction with our social actions. Differences in societies point to behaviors that we have adopted, while things that hold from one society to the next are a part of who we are as human beings. After coming to that conclusion, all that is left to do is to find just which is which, and why elements that don't appear to be our nature exist at all.

What is interesting about this is that all of the ideas I mentioned above, and in fact the shared idea that they all come to, depend on adopting what Professor Levine called a 'greedy' philosophy. I think that the vast majority of social study necessarily takes on the idea that society can be taken down, reduced if you will, to some other element. Society is in no case what it appears to be, but instead the layer on top of or the construction of other elements.

Professor Levine appeared to think that this idea was not a good one, pointing out how each sociologists idea of society was wrong and stating, eventually, that "The world is socially constructed and that there are as many worlds as there are cultures!" Clearly, then, any person who was a part of one culture would have a difficult time understanding any other, since nothing necessarily is constant from one culture to another.

I think, though, that if we are to understand ourselves and other people, then we must share something with those people. If that something is forced to be simply our perception as human beings of like mind and society, so be it. I, however, like to think that there is something we all can see that binds all thinking beings together.


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