Google dictionary offers two descriptions of the word society one “the aggregate of people living together in a more or less ordered community” and second “an organization or club formed for a particular purpose or activity.” The same source offers a number of synonyms related to the this word when taken in its first meaning including the community, the public, the general public, the people, the population, the world at large, humankind, mankind and humanity. The Wikipedia encyclopedia’s article on society describes that a society is a group of people involved in persistent social interaction or a large social group sharing the same geographical or social territory, typically subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations. In simple observation we use the word society to refer to a group of individuals that may be joined or connected together by any unique set of characteristic/s for example a society of doctors or a society of retired soldiers.
According to the same article if we look into broader aspects of the society from a conception point of view we appreciate the fact that in animal kingdom in general and in human population in particular the individuals have rather limited meanings as autonomous unit. It’s a matter of common observation that in animal kingdom living in a society is a means of survival. The great apes for example Gorilla, Bonobos and chimpanzees have always been social animals. Instead of criticising or judging cultures in a society or calling them primitive, better or worse the term cultural relativism is used to understand and learn various cultural norms in a society.
In political science societies are considered as units that are structured politically. They may range from bands to tribes to state societies. The political societies may have different degree of political power depending upon various factors. From political sciences approach a society’s isolation might be beneficial for it when it comes to retaining resources and avoiding other societies that lack similar resources. On the other hand when it comes to competition between societies, a less prepared, and poorly competitive society will lose to the one that is stronger and more competitive, that can lead to the weaker society being subsumed in the stronger one or completely losing its existence.
Sociology is the study of the development, structure, and functioning of human society. Wikipedia’s article on society includes references to two prominent sociologists one Sociologist Peter L. Berger who defines society as “…a human product, and nothing but a human product, that yet continuously acts upon its producers.” According to him, society was created by humans but this creation turns back and creates or molds humans every day. The other Sociologist is Gerhard Lenski who differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication, and economy including (1) hunters and gatherers, (2) simple agricultural, (3) advanced agricultural, (4) industrial, and (5) special (e.g. fishing societies or maritime societies).
Anthropology is the study of human societies and cultures and their development. Anthropologists sometimes categorise societies according to the how human beings use the technology to provide needs for themselves. Wikipedia’s article on society also elaborates that although humans have established many types of societies throughout history, anthropologists tend to classify different societies according to the degree to which different groups within a society have unequal access to advantages such as resources, prestige, or power. Virtually all societies have developed some degree of inequality among their people through the process of social stratification, the division of members of a society into levels with unequal wealth, prestige, or power. Sociologists place societies in three broad categories: pre-industrial, industrial, and post-industrial.
In the past food production was the main goal for societies in general that was based on human and animal labour that was the main economic activity as well. Therefore Anthropologists further divide the pre-industrial societies according to the technology and method of producing food. These subdivisions are hunting and gathering, pastoral, horticultural, agricultural, and feudal. Hunting and gathering societies involve daily hunting in search of food, As hunters are constantly moving hence they don’t make permanent villages and may make small tribes or bands. Pastorals don’t search for food daily, they rely on some more efficient ways that is domesticated herd animals. In horticulture societies food (vegetables and fruit) is grown in garden plots. In Agrarian societies agricultural advances and technologies are used to cultivate crops over a large area. Sociologists use the word agricultural revolution to denote an era 8500 years ago. In Feudalism the farmer’s cultivate the lord’s land in exchange for military protection. In Industrial societies that emerged in 15th and 16th century, new economic system replaced the feudalism. In capitalism people compete in free market for and means of production are privately owned. According to Wikipedia article on post-industrial society, Post-industrial societies are societies dominated by information, services, and high technology more than the production of goods. Advanced industrial societies are now seeing a shift toward an increase in service sectors over manufacturing and production.
In order to understand the developmental, psychological and interpersonal aspects of an individual, a group or even a nation the societal and cultural aspects of the environment and surroundings need to be kept on board.