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... What is the meaning of society? It's a simple word but with a very complicated definition. Society is our own everyday reality. It's features such as economics, culture, language and philosophy is what unites individuals and creates a society. In the book, "The Discovery of Society", written by Randall Collins and Michael Makowsky we are able to capture the ideas and beliefs of a variety of social thinkers. All of these thinkers had a different perspective towards what a society needs to survive and maintain itself afloat.
One of these social thinkers was Karl Marx (1818-1883). He was a German political philosopher and revolutionist. Marx was very concern with the history of class struggle. He felt that the history of society was a history itself of the struggles that existed between the ruling and the oppressed social classes.
In Marx's time, slaves were considered the "have not's" and were the ones doing all the work while the "have's" were taking advantage of their effort. According to Marx, the economy was organized around industrial production and commercial exchange, which explains why he classified the bourgeois society into two main classes. These classes were; the capitalist who owned the factories, banks and the goods to trade and the proletarians who owned nothing but their own labor power. Marx felt that the division of classes was what was responsible for the conflict and suffering of all society. This is what encouraged Marx to believe that chaos was the only way in which classes would break up and no longer exist. Marx was able to get his point across in the modern socialist doctrine, better known as the Communist Manifesto.
Even though, Marx was ordered to leave Paris because of all his revolutionary activities he did set a great influence on all communist literature. The situation of the banishment of Marx was very similar to what one of the characters in the book of, "Brave New World", Bernard Marx, had to experience. This certain character is similar to Karl Marx because of the way in which he didn't agree with the system that already existed. This caused the World Controller to decide that it was best to sent him away in order to prevent him from putting ideas in the minds of other individuals of the society. In the case of Karl Marx the character, World Controller, could be associated with the Belgian government, who was the one fearful that the revolutionary activities undertaken by Marx, could influence people to be against their system. Both of them had to be isolated from their settled lives because of their views towards how the society would function more effectively.
Even though Marx's belief was well acclaimed, everyone did not accept his ideas. In particular, Emile Durkheim was terrified by the idea of chaos revolting in the society and that is why he explains togetherness and not chaos to be what makes up a society. Durkheim, a bourgeois liberal, was concerned with the instability, violence and decline in social order. Durkheim felt that the common values shared by a society, such as morality and religion were the basis of social stability. In his opinion, these values were what maintained a society together and without them it would lead the society into social instability and the individuals within the society feeling anxiety and dissatisfaction. One of the results of these feelings could lead someone into alienation.
We see an example of this concept with Durkheim when his weakness and insecurity lead him to lose reality of both societal and religious tradition. An example of alienation could be identified with the character of Onkonkwa, in "Things Fall Apart." Onkonkwa lost his sense of reality when he finally realized that the British had been successful in converting the society into what he couldn't accept to be so he decided to kill himself. This term of alienation is also seen in the book, "Brave New World", with the Savage, when he sees this brave new world as unsuitable to what he searches from life and feels he doesn't belong and takes his life away. The behavior that results from the feeling of alienation could be viewed as out of place or unfitting which is really social.
As for the interpretation given by Marx concerning alienation, was from only an economic stand. Marx's understanding of this idea was that people were alienated from their own work, which then caused the person to feel as if they weren't creative enough or useful. An example of this would be the use of the assembly line because a human is not necessarily required in order for the machine to do its job. Marx accuses capitalism as a result of this. It was quite obvious that Marx wanted capitalism to be eliminated and be replaced by a classless society of communism. The view of Claude Henri de Rouvroy, Comte de Saint-Simon, (1760-1825) a French socialist, concerning the division of classes was that the society should have remained as a hierarchy.
Saint-Simon wanted to create what was called the perfect meritocracy. In this type of structure the society was to be divided into three different groups. The first one were; the intellectually developed who would become scientists, the second; the more emotional would become the poets and artists, and the third; the more motor-oriented will become workers organizers. This whole entire concept of classifying the society into groups was exactly what Marx was opposed to. This idea is similar to what was portrayed in the book "Brave New World", concerning the issue of conditioning humans and then categorizing each one into named classes. Saint-Simon's concept of perfect meritocracy was wrong because it didn't consider the wants and needs of the individual.
According to Saint-Simon, in the time of feudalism the old era had been devoted to only war and religion. For the new era he proposed that it be dedicated to the production of useful goods and services and also be an era of peace. Saint-Simon was mainly interested with the development of industrialization in the new era of history. Industrialization was a term created by Saint-Simon himself. The meaning of this idea was that it would improve the society by eliminating war and poverty and also by keeping a level of justice in the society. Saint-Simon also believed that religion would be the main force guiding the development of industrialization.
It's difficult to decide on how one should interpret the true meaning of a society. In order to understand the social reality of society you must try to understand the other person's point of views, try to get in touch with their lived experiences and situate yourself in their position. In the book, "Things Fall Apart"; we are able to see this situation when the British attempt and succeed in colonizing the society of the Ibo and other neighboring tribes. In this example, its really a contradiction which is set by the British because they wanted to force this society to be who they weren't and the British didn't take into consideration the organization already set up by the Ibo. I feel we still have a few more years to go before we could actually comprehend the meaning of society. As for the past philosophers, some of them did depict a close picture of what was expected in the present time.
To be honest, the social thinker I could relate the most is Karl Marx for the reason that he was so strongly opposed to class division. Even though, it would be great if there weren't any divisions in our society but it is impossible. I feel this way because in our society exists too much racism. Also no matter how hard we try not to classify people into groups its difficult. You either have money and you are on the top level or middle or you have no money and are homeless. In this society and every other one it's all about the Benjamin's in your pocket and bank account!.
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