Basic Sociological Concepts Society Culture and Social Structure

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The basic concepts of Sociology are not as basic as we would like them to be! As soon as a brilliant theorist comes up with an immutable set of laws that explain human activity or that operate on humans, humans find a way to challenge the conceptual constitutionality of that law in the court of real life. 

Just as Marx convinced the world that he had the only way to achieve a decent life for workers in the industrial complexes of society, Americans came along with the unionization of labor, which did not entail overthrowing the government and replacing it with a more people friendly form of oppression. Marx did not account for a true democracy, where, at one point, the people used to have a say in the way that social movements were adopted into the mainstream of law and society.

But the building blocks of an understanding of the science and art of sociology have a base in the concept of society. When a group of humans decide to stop fighting with, running away from and killing off each other, they form into a rudimentary society, with agreements on issues that pertain to group effort in surviving against predators, enemies, and in combining skills and labor.  Early groups involved families, which spread to greater numbers as survival improved from group efforts, life expectancy stretched to cover multiple generations, and as enemies were captured and either enslaved or adopted into the more successful group.

Next came social structure, as confirmed facts or sensible beliefs about how to survive, kill food, find safe food, deal with health and spiritual matters were formed into codified rules for doing things. The most powerful in the group demonstrated the ability to reinforce order by killing or running off those who could not get with the programs. Later, social structure became more refined as codified rules, roles, beliefs, norms and values that worked well were passed on through oral tradition. Secession of leadership, the roles of women, ownership of property, rights and privileges, religious rituals, complex tales of human origin and divine involvement, and ways of taking and maintaining power were developed into somewhat definitive and fixed traditions that were passed from generation to generation, until successful acts of war or conspiracy succeeded in replacing the existing leadership and social structure with another.

With invention, time for the most intelligent to study and theorize, and time for craftsmen and craftswomen to improve their work. In the early stages this improvement usually came by adapting the discoveries of inventors and early scientists to the arts and crafts, or by incorporating accidents of discovery into the craft itself. As the settling of societies allowed more time and resources for refinement of thought and craft, such activities as refined symbolic expression through the arts, mathematics, written language, and more theory of the world and of religion were possible among those who were intelligent, talented, creative, and who were not needed for the hard and lengthy labors of farming, animal husbandry, war, and industry.

And that is how humans came to have culture. Humans always have had a drive to culture whenever there was enough safety, food, clothing and shelter to allow for attention to activity that was not directly related to survival. Striving for excellence is the heart and soul of culture, so that even when we look at the most rudimentary pots and cave paintings, we see that some human was trying to do the most excellent job that they could.

More about this author: Elizabeth M Young

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