Getting a Picture of a Society

Dr. C. George Boeree

What makes up a society?  How do we describe one?  It is a complicated affair, but here are some suggestions as to how to organize the process:


1.  Who -- the individuals, the roles, the qualifications....
2.  What -- the objects, clothing, tools, ritual objects, technology....
3.  When -- scheduling, timing, cycles....
4.  Where -- the locale, buildings, furnishings....
5.  How -- the activities, rituals, techniques....
Domains (or Why we do these things)
1.  Organization -- order (kinship systems, government, guilds, corporations).
2.  Power structures -- enforcement (the military, police, defense, war).
3.  Production -- subsistance (work, industry, agriculture, crafts, technology, cooking, cleaning, sewing, modern professions, applied science...).
4.  Education -- learning (school, apprenticeship, research).
5.  Recreation -- entertainment (play, sports, toys, games, art, music, musical instruments, stories, literature, theater...).
6.  Belief systems -- stability (propitiation of the gods or spirits, satisfaction of superstitious tendencies, social manipulation, moral control, religion, magic, theoretical science...).
Layers of society (the "concentric domains")
1.  Family -- the most intimate circle and its activities, including meals, sexuality and reproduction, child rearing, male/female and adult/child role differentiation....
2.  Community -- a larger circle of people that we still think of as "us," and all that pertains to "us."
3.  The Others -- the people beyond our community, whom we think of as "them," and how we relate to "them."
(There may be additional layers and sublayers, depending on the complexity of the society.)

Prerequisites of any society

Societies such as we humans have require the capacity for abstract thought and language.

© Copyright 2002, C. George Boeree