Prominent Themes of What Makes a Society Essay

Prominent Themes of What Makes a Society Essay

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What is a society? This comprehensive question has acted as the driving force for much of the work done by theorists in the anthropological and sociological fields throughout time. Although these various social theorists have adopted distinct methodologies and frameworks, which typically guide their research in different directions, they have generally discussed similar themes throughout their work. Over the past 150 years, classical, Western social theorists such as, Émile Durkheim, Ferdinand Tönnies, Max Weber, Georg Simmel, Sigmund Freud, and many others, have all speculated on three specific aspects of society. First, it was common to consider the social players—that is, to discuss the role that individuals play and the freedoms that they have within a given community. Secondly, it was often the goal of the social theorist to discover and explain the structure and order of the society that they were studying. Finally, since these social theorists were writing during the advent and emergence of the modern, Western world, they often used traditional, primitive societies as a foil for analyzing the components of modernity. In addition to the classical social theorists, contemporary social theorists, such as Karl Marx, Claude Lévi-Strauss, Donna Haraway, Michael Foucault, Anthony Giddens, and Clifford Geertz, have considered these three themes, as well.
The classical social theorists generally saw an increase in the individuality of the social players during the transition from a traditional to a modern society. Durkheim formulated his idea of the individual around a concept which he called the “collective consciousness” (Durkheim 2012, 225). In traditional societies, characterized by mechanical solidarity, “the individ...


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...ime, such as feudalism and slavery, however these comparisons act to reveal the similarities and repetitions that have occurred throughout history (Marx 1848). Rather than Haraway comparing pre-modern society and modern society, she created a synthesis between the natural aspects of traditional society and the mechanical and technological aspects of modern society to create a cyborg (Haraway 1993). According to Haraway, “a cyborg is a cybernetic organism, a hybrid of machine and organism” that exists within the post-modern era (Haraway 1993, 597). When considering the post-modern era, it would on the surface seem helpful to use modern society as a foil, however recently post-modernity has “regarded as part of the modern” and therefore the modern foil might lack its effectiveness in explaining the idiosyncrasies of post-modernity (Featherstone 2008, 465).


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