Society and Norms

What is a society? It is an organized group of people living together in an ordered community with a particular purpose, interest, and activity. The society is also composed of social groups which have an interaction between one another and serve a specific goal and principle.

The following are the elements of society:

Territory. Most countries have formal boundaries and territory that the world recognizes as theirs. However, the boundaries don’t need to have geopolitical borders, such as the border between the United States and Canada. Instead, both members and nonmembers of a society, must recognize the particular land as belonging to that society.

Interaction. Members of a society must come in contact with one another. If a person remains off or no regular contact with another person, therefore, these persons cannot be considered part of the one society. Geographic distance and language barriers can separate societies within a country.

Culture. People of the same society share aspects of their culture, such as language or beliefs. This refers to the language used by everyone in the society, their values, beliefs, behavior, and material objects that embody a people’s way of living. It is a defining element of society.

Society today has changed due to the different technological developments which propelled humans as well as the elements mentioned above, to be part of the new age.

An industrial society uses new sources of energy, rather than humans and animals, to use large apparatus. Industrialization began in the mid-1700s, when Great Britain first used a steam engine as a means of running other machines. The twentieth century made industrialized societies change dramatically:

People and goods traversed much longer distance because of innovations in transportation, such as the train and the steamship.

Population in rural areas is reducing due to the large mass of people who were engaged in factory work and had to move to the cities.

In agriculture, only few people were needed in the production of goods, and societies became urbanized, which means that the majority of the population lived within commuting distance of a major city.

Suburbs were raised around the cities to provide city-dwellers with alternative places to live.

The twentieth century brought sudden, but innovative changes in our society, including the people who live therein. Aside from having industries and modern inventions, we now have a more developed and more organized ways of transportation and communication.

As industrialized societies become more substantial, they evolve into large, impersonal mass societies. In a mass society, a person’s achievement is valued over kinship ties, and people often feel isolation. Personal incomes inflated, and there is absolute diversity among people.

Every society has expectations about how its members should and should not behave. A norm is a guideline or an expectation for behavior. Each society has its own rules for behavior and decides when those rules have been violated and what to do about it. Norms basically change on a regular basis.

Norms differ widely among societies, and they even differ from group to group within the same society.

Different settings: Wherever we go, expectations towards behavior come first. Even within the same society, these norms change from setting to setting.

Different countries: Norms are specific to places, and what is considered appropriate in one country may be considered highly inappropriate in another.

Different time periods: Appropriate and inappropriate behavior often changes dramatically from generation to generation. Norms can and do shift over time.

Sociologists differentiated four categories of norm:

Folkways. A folkway is a norm of everyday behavior that people follow for the sake of convenience or tradition. Folkways are a practice done by people. Violating a folkway does not usually have serious consequences.

Mores. A more is a norm situated on morality, or the definition of right and wrong. Since mores have moral importance, people violating a more usually results in disapproval.

Laws. A law is a norm that is enacted and promulgated by a legitimate authority. Violating these laws will result in a specific sanction and punishment.