What Keeps the Society Together?
Social order, cohesion, and solidarity are terms used in sociology to demonstrate the spirit of togetherness in a given social setting. Togetherness in a social setting (society) is an important factor since it ensures that all members of the society have good relations, are free to interact and have an opportunity to learn from one another. A society that embraces togetherness is likely to experience higher levels of development and higher living standards as compared to societies that are divided. Although terms “social order”, “cohesion”, and “solidarity” have similar implications, they all contribute to social togetherness.
Social order can be described as a situation when social settings are moving in a unidirectional way. In the environment with social order, people are allowed to make contributions and present their opinions in a structured and non-chaotic manner. Cohesion is a term that refers to forces that bring people in a society closer together e.g. community projects. Such projects promote social cohesion. Solidarity is a principle in a social setting where members perform their duties together and stand as one to face various problems associated with their social setting. Solidarity promotes confidence, hard work, and safety in a social setting. This paper discusses, evaluates, and reflects on what keeps the society together (solid, cohesive, and orderly) with close reference to classical and contemporary sociology (Calhoun 59).
One of the factors that keep the society together is solidarity. According to Durkheim, solidarity plays an important role when it comes to binding the society together. In fact, he claims that solidarity acts as glue binding the society together as one and that the society could not function in its absence. Individuals connect to form a society through their similarities and uniformity. Durkheim demonstrates this essence of solidarity by stating that similarities between individuals is what constitutes the uniformity and thus resulting into social cohesion. As a functionalist, Durkheim concentrates on roles of actors’ and social objects as well as their functions in the society. According to him, a society is defined by the harmony as opposed to conflicts. Further, Durkheim subdivides solidarity into mechanical and organic solidarity. In this aspect, the former describes integration that is purely based on mutual sentiments and beliefs. On the other hand, the latter describes integration that comes as a result of specialization and interdependence. These are the different ways in which societies organized themselves. In settings where differentiation of labor types was partially practiced, the integration based on shared or common beliefs was evident. However, in social settings where work was mostly differentiated, solidarity became a consequence of mutual dependence. This is a scenario of how Durkheim differentiates ancient societies from the modern ones and demonstrates how society undergoes various changes with a change in complexity (Calhoun 107).
Kinship ties and affiliations also are one of the most crucial factors that keep a society together. In this aspect, social settings of mechanical solidarity are insignificant and tend to be organized based on kinship affiliations and family ties. Main regulations of such settings that keep them bound together are the shared beliefs and common practices. Durkheim refers to such relations as based on common conscience. In these settings, togetherness is highly valued and acts of defiance are likely to lead to a punishment. Any violation of these norms is considered a threat able to disrupt the shared identity of that society or social setting. However, as the society grows large, the division of labor equally increases thus calling for a complex organization of labor in order to provide a material life as suggested by Marx. When such societies grow big, the essence of collectiveness begins to disappear mainly because of specialization. The idea of solidarity no longer remains viable due to lack of a common belief system (Calhoun 193).
Although Durkheim argues that the idea of societies becoming more complex does not bring any disintegration, I personally believe that social ties, kinship relations, and togetherness become weaker as the society becomes more complex. However, my view seems to be different from that of Durkheim who believes that an increase in the complexity of a social unit enhances its interdependence rate thus strengthening its solidarity. He argues that when a society becomes more complex, it becomes impossible for people to produce everything that they need. This fact makes people to interact in search for exchange of their needs and requirements. It is this social interaction that results in a notion that these people need each other to survive thus enhancing their solidarity and togetherness. These are termed as societies of organic solidarity because their arrangements are entirely based on political as well as economic organization and their behavior is mainly based on restitution and exchange as opposed to punishment (Calhoun 254).
Another factor that has an effect on the togetherness of the society is restitutive laws which comprise of both positive and negative relationships. Restitutive laws play a role in enhancing mechanical solidarity through ensuring that order is maintained. Orderly interdependence between individuals brings a kind of relation termed as positive relationship. It is this positive relationship that brings the positive contribution to the society and cooperation among individuals of that particular society. The best example of positive relationship is contracted since it acts in a way to spearhead cooperation between individuals based on certain terms and the period of the agreement.
On the same note, negative relationship acts to preserve the rights of individual members of the society thus helping to maintain law and order within the society setting. According to the discussion by Durkheim, the negative relationship is related to property rights whereby there is the promotion of social order and individuality. According to Durkheim, property rights make links between persons and property stronger but they do not enhance ties between persons. As stated by Durkheim, negative relationships do not drive the will of individuals to common ends, but rather make things to move around the will of those individuals in a manner that is orderly and fashionable.
It is also important to consider Max Weber’s assertions on the symbolic perspective of integrationist as a contributor to the cohesiveness and togetherness of the society. According to the integrationist perspective, various details and symbols of life as well as people interaction contribute to the solidarity, cohesion, and togetherness within a social setting. When it comes to symbols, individuals of given social community or society attach a meaning to them and this meaning becomes common for all the people who belong to that social setting. For effective communication to take place, words from the sender must have the same meaning as perceived by the recipient of the message. Through this sharing of symbols, people interact and enhance their social relations. It is this commonality of the symbols that keep individuals of a given society together since they tend to have common characteristics that gives them a unique identity. According to Weber, symbols are things like wedding vows, music, flowers, church ceremonies, and many other things that tend to enhance social ties between individuals. Such things are described to enhance commitment of individuals to their respective societies thus enhancing solidarity and togetherness.
Personally, I agree with Weber’s sentiments that togetherness in a society is majorly brought by symbolic objects as well as close interactions which makes individuals recognize their identity and need to relate with one another. It is only through interactions that individuals can learn each other’s weaknesses, strengths, as well as understand behaviors of others. This enables individuals to live with one another and exercise togetherness as people from one society. On the same note, some people have criticized this perspective as being resistant to change and encouraging to maintain a status quo. Therefore, functionalists have been accused of derailing processes that encourage people to participate in various processes that might change social environment (Calhoun 291).
Material interest also appears to be one factor that keeps individuals of a society together. Since society is a social setting with resources, its obligation is to make sure that its members are living well and get access to resources of the society. Most individuals will keep close relationship with society simply to qualify as the beneficiaries of the allocated resources. This is one reason that keeps the society together since most individuals enjoy being closely associated with the society and participate in collective duties so that they can become possible beneficiaries of the resources available.
Equality, freedom, and sovereignty are components what sustain the togetherness in the society. According to Rousseau, these three principle qualities create an environment that is orderly and just thus making occupants happy, free, and ready to be associated with the group. It is this comfort-ability of the environment that encourages occupants to acquire an identity as part of the social setting. This is what brings people together and keeps them together is a social setting. Personally I strongly agree with claims of Rousseau that equality, freedom, and sovereignty bring about social cohesion and togetherness in as social setting. This is because individuals are willing to be associated with social settings that are free from discrimination and give space to freedom where togetherness and solidarity show up (Calhoun 316).
Smith and Simmel tend to have a similar view on what keeps the society together. According to these two sociologists, a society is kept intact and close together through social interaction. According to them, interaction is the major key to every societal situation which promotes creative exchange process. Through interaction people get to know one another and acquire what they do not produce to earn a living. Just like integrationists, these two sociologists believe that no man is an island thus needs others to lead a normal life. In the society people need each other so that an exchange process can take place in orderly manner to sustain life. It is this orderly exchange process that creates solidarity, cohesiveness, as well as togetherness of society members.
According to the action theory developed by Parsons, a society can be cohesively kept together through actions of voluntarism. A society whose members actively engage in activities that benefit the society voluntarily has strong social ties and high level of togetherness. Parsons argues that only those members who have a strong feeling of being affiliated to a certain social setting can be willing to engage in communal voluntary activities.
On the other hand, Merton is a sociologist who tends to take a functional perspective by stating that a society can only be held together by common beliefs, values, and expectations. He states that such things determine how individuals of a given group will behave in consideration of societal expectations. Therefore, a society which emphasizes common beliefs, practices, and expectations attains high levels of cohesiveness and togetherness as compared to other societies. Giddens, on the other hand, argues in his structuration theory that togetherness in a society is enhanced through individual as well as social forces. The willingness of an individual and the drive to remain a committed member of a society is what strengthens the society thus promoting its cohesiveness. On a similar note, social forces comprise of laid out principles that guide members of a given society to remain committed and united with other members. Societies with these forces tend to pull their members together as one and survive as a single unit with solidarity, orderliness, and cohesiveness (Calhoun 294). These notions are echoed by a sociologist Elias who advocates that togetherness of a society entirely relies on common laws and regulations governing that society or social setting. Individuals who got used to this common law will always tend to be closely affiliated with the society thus enhancing togetherness and cohesiveness of that particular society or social setting.
Considering the work of a sociologist Habermas, togetherness of a society is brought about by the rule of law as well as by democracy within the society itself. Societies that insist of the rule of law and allow its members to present their sentiments and opinions to the leaders tend to be more cohesive and solid as compared to societies that practice dictatorship. The rule of law is important as it guides members on expectations of the society. Democracy allows members to have right expectations and moderate to avoid extremes. This is what keeps such societies together. Democracy is also a tool that enhances order within a social setting since members develop sense of belonging to promoting togetherness.
Liberalism is another important factor that contributes to social cohesion, togetherness, orderliness, and solidarity with a social setting. Societies that do not practice liberalism can only be held together through shared conceptions like common ethnicity and religion. Since members of these societies have numerous commonalities, they appear to be ready and willing to make sacrifices for one another. For instance, citizens from England view each other as fellow members of the English nation as opposed to viewing each other as individual rights holders. However, in social setting comprising of individuals from varying cultures, solidarity and togetherness can only be enhanced through rights of these individuals (Calhoun 371).
In conclusion, togetherness involves social cohesion, solidarity, and orderliness in the society. It can be attained by sharing common values material interests, and the sense of belonging to the given society.