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The term Social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary.

Definition

In the absence of agreement about its meaning, the term "social" is used in many different senses and regarded as a fuzzy concept, referring among other things to:

  • Attitudes, orientations, or behaviours which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account (in contrast to anti-social behaviour);has played some role in defining the idea or the principle. For instance terms like social realism, social justice, social constructivism, social psychology and social capital imply that there is some social process involved or considered, a process that is not there in regular, "non-social", realism, justice, constructivism, psychology, or capital.

The adjective "social" is also used often in political discourse, although its meaning in such a context depends heavily on who is using it. In left-wing circles it is often used to imply a positive characteristic, while in right-wing circles it is generally used to imply a negative characteristic. It should also be noted that, overall, this adjective is used much more often by those on the political left than by those on the political right. For these reasons, those seeking to avoid association with the left-right political debates often seek to label their work with phrases that do not include the word "social". An example is quasi-empiricism in mathematics which is sometimes labelled social constructivism by those who see it as an unwarranted intrusion of social considerations in mathematical practice, which is supposed to be "objective" and "above" social concerns.

Social theorists

In the view of Karl Marx [1]human beings are intrinsically, necessarily and by definition social beings who, beyond being "gregarious creatures", cannot survive and meet their needs other than through social co-operation and association. Their social characteristics are therefore to a large extent an objectively given fact, stamped on them from birth and affirmed by socialization processes; and, according to Marx, in producing and reproducing their material life, people must necessarily enter into relations of production which are "independent of their will".

By contrast, the sociologist Max Weber [2] for example defines human action as "social" if, by virtue of the subjective meanings attached to the action by individuals, it "takes account of the behavior of others, and is thereby oriented in its course"..

Social, socialism, social democracy

The term "socialism", used from the 1830s onwards in France and the United Kingdom, was directly related to what was called the social question. In essence, it contended that the emergence of competitive market societies did not create "liberty, equality and fraternity" for all citizens, requiring the intervention of politics and social reform to tackle social problems, injustices and grievances (a topic on which Jean-Jacques Rousseau discourses at length in his classic work The Social Contract). Originally the term "socialist" was often used interchangeably with "co-operative", "mutualist", "associationist" and "collectivist". The modern concept of socialism evolved in response to the development of industrial capitalism.

Modern uses

In contemporary society, "social" often refers to the redistributive policies of the government which aim to apply resources in the public interest, for example, social security. Policy concerns then include the problems of social exclusion and social cohesion. Here, "social" contrasts with "private" and to the distinction between the public and the private (or privatised) spheres, where ownership relations define access to resources and attention.

The social domain is often also contrasted with that of physical nature, but in sociobiology analogies are drawn between humans and other living species in order to explain social behavior in terms of biological factors. The term "social" is also added in various other academic sub-disciplines such as social geography, social psychology, social anthropology, social philosophy, social ontology, social statistics and social choice theory in mathematics.

See also

References

  1. ^ Morrison, Ken. Marx, Durkheim, Weber. Formations of modern social thought
  2. ^ Marx, Durkheim, Weber. Formations of modern social thought

External links


Simple English

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