Definition of Society
(noun) A large group of interacting people in a defined territory, sharing a common culture.
Types of Society
Pronunciation Usage Guide
- American English – /suh-sIE-uh-tee/
- British English – /suh-sIE-uh-tee/
International Phonetic Alphabet
- American English – /səˈsaɪədi/
- British English – /səˈsʌɪəti/
- “A social fact is every way of acting, whether fixed or not, which is capable of exercising an external constraint on the individual; or, which is general throughout a given society, whilst having an existence of its own, independent of its individual manifestations” (Durkheim  2004:50).
- “Each of us is a social being. We are born into a social environment; we fully develop in to human beings in a social environment; and we live our lives in a social environment. What we think, how we feel, and what we say and do all are shaped by our interactions with other people. The scientific study of these social interactions and of social organization is called sociology” (Hughes and Kroehler 2008:3).
- “If one wants to change society, one needs to understand the logic of how it operates” (Babbie 2011:62).
- “If religion protects man against the desire to kill himself, it is not because it preaches respect for his person based on arguments sui generis, but because it is a society. What constitutes this society is the existence of a certain number of beliefs and practices common to all the faithful which are traditional and therefore obligatory. The more numerous and strong these collective states are, the more strongly integrated is the religious community, and the greater its preservative value” (Durkheim  2004:74).
- “If the rights and perquisites of different positions in a society must be unequal, then the society must be stratified, because that is precisely what stratification means. Social inequality is thus an unconsciously evolved device by which societies insure that the most important positions are conscientiously filled by the most qualified persons. Hence every society, no matter how simple or complex, must differentiate persons in terms of both prestige and esteem, and must therefore possess a certain amount of institutionalized inequality” (Davis and Moore 1945:243).
- “In American society, the basic kinship system consists of parents and children, but it may include other relatives as well, especially grandparents. Each person in this system has certain rights and obligations as a result of his or her position in the family structure. Furthermore, a person may occupy several positions at the same time. For example, an 18-year-old woman may simultaneously be a daughter, a sister, a cousin, an aunt, and a granddaughter. Each role entails different rights and obligations. As a daughter, the young woman may have to defer to certain decisions of her parents; as a sister, to share her bedroom; as a cousin, to attend a wedding; and as a granddaughter, to visit her grandparents during the holidays” (Strong, Devault, and Cohen 2011:19).
- “No society lacks norms governing conduct. But societies do differ in the degree to which folkways, mores and institutional controls are effectively integrated with the goals which stand high in the hierarchy of cultural values. The culture may be such as to lead individuals to center their emotional convictions upon the complex of culturally acclaimed ends, with far less emotional support for prescribed methods of reaching out for these ends. With such differential emphases upon goals and institutional procedures, the latter may be so vitiated by the stress on goals as to have the behavior of many individuals limited only by considerations of technical expediency. In this context, the sole significant question becomes: Which of the available procedures is most efficient in netting the culturally approved value? The technically most effective procedure, whether culturally legitimate or not, becomes typically preferred to institutionally prescribed conduct. As this process of attenuation continues, the society becomes unstable and there develops what Durkheim called ‘anomie‘ (normlessness)” (Merton  1968:189).
- “Patriarchy literally means ‘rule of the fathers‘ and comes from the Old Testament—all power was given to male elders. Today, its meaning is more general: male domination of all the major institutions of society including government, religion, education, the economy, the military and the media” (Kaufman and Kimmel 2011:112).
- “Social stratification is universal but variable. Social stratification is found everywhere. Yet what is unequal and how unequal it is varies from one society to another. In some societies, inequality is mostly a matter of prestige; in others, wealth or power is the key element of difference. In addition, some societies contain more inequality than others” (Macionis 2012:225).
- “Societies appear to be subject, every now and then, to periods of moral panic. A condition, episode, person or group of persons emerges to become defined as a threat to societal values and interests; its nature is presented in a stylized and stereotypical fashion by the mass media; the moral barricades are manned by editors, bishops, politicians and other right-thinking people; socially accredited experts pronounce their diagnoses and solutions; ways of coping are evolved or (more often) resorted to; the condition then disappears, submerges or deteriorates and becomes more visible. Sometimes the object of the panic is quite novel and at other times it is something which has been in existence long enough, but suddenly appears in the limelight. Sometimes the panic passes over and is forgotten, except in folklore and collective memory; at other times it has more serious and long-lasting repercussions and might produce such changes as those in legal and social policy or even in the way society conceives itself” (Cohen 2002:1).
- “Sociology is the systematic study of human society and social interaction. It is a systematic study because sociologists apply both theoretical perspectives and research methods (or orderly approaches) to examinations of social behavior” (Kendall 2006:2).
- “Such an assumption seems to me to ignore the central fact about deviance: it is created by society. I do not mean this in the way it is ordinarily understood, in which the causes of deviance are located in the social situation of the deviant or in ‘social factors’ which prompt his action. I mean, rather, that social groups create deviance by making rules whose infraction constitutes deviance, and by applying those rules to particular people and labelling them as outsiders. From this point of view, deviance is not a quality of the act the person commits, but rather a consequence of the application by others of rules and sanctions to an ‘offender’. The deviant is one to whom that label has successfully been applied; deviant behaviour is behaviour that people so label” (Becker 1963:8–9).
- “The totality of beliefs and sentiments common to average members of the same society forms a particular system with a life of its own life; one might call it the collective or common consciousness” (Durkheim  2004:24).
- “The undue reliance which sociologists have placed upon the idea of ‘society’, where this means a bounded system, should be replaced by a starting point that concentrates upon analysing how social life is ordered across time and space – the problem of time-space distanciation. The conceptual framework of time-space distanciation directs our attention to the complex relations between local involvements (circumstances of co-presence) and interaction across distance (the connections of presence and absence). In the modern era, the level of time-space distanciation is much higher than in any previous period, and the relations between local and distant social forms and events become correspondingly ‘stretched’. Globalisation refers essentially to that stretching process, in so far as the modes of connection between different social contexts or regions become networked across the earth’s surface as a whole. Globalisation can thus be defined as the intensification of worldwide social relations which link distant localities in such a way that local happenings are shaped by events occurring many miles away and vice versa” (Giddens 1991:63–64).
- Word origin of “society” – Online Etymology Dictionary: etymonline.com
- Durkheim, Émile.  2013. The Division of Labour in Society, 2nd ed. edited by S. Lukes. London: Macmillan.
- Edwards, Michael. 2015. Civil Society. 3rd ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Elias, Norbert.  2000. The Civilizing Process: Sociogenetic and Psychogenetic Investigations. Rev. ed. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Foley, Michael W., and Virginia Ann Hodgkinson, eds. 2003. The Civil Society Reader. Hanover, NH: University Press of New England.
- Giddens, Anthony. 1973. The Class Structure of the Advanced Societies. London: Hutchinson.
- Grusky, David B., ed. 2014. Social Stratification: Class, Race, and Gender in Sociological Perspective. 4th ed. Boulder, CO: Westview Press.
- Harris, José, ed. 2001. Tönnies: Community and Civil Society. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
- Jenkins, R. 2002. Foundations of Sociology: Towards a Better Understanding of the Human World. Basingstoke, United Kingdom: Palgrave Macmillan.
- Kerbo, Harold Ray. 2012. Social Stratification and Inequality: Class Conflict in Historical, Comparative, and Global Perspective. 8th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
- Macionis, John J. 2017. Society: The Basics. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.
- Massey, Douglas S. 2007. Categorically Unequal: The American Stratification System. New York: Russell Sage Foundation.
- Outhwaite, W. 2006. The Future of Society. Oxford: Blackwell.
- Urry, John. 2000. Sociology Beyond Societies: Mobilities for the Twenty-first Century. London: Routledge.
- Urry, John. 2007. Mobilities. Cambridge: Polity Press.
- Weber, Max. 1946. From Max Weber: Essays in Sociology, edited by H. H. Gerth and C. W. Mills. New York: Oxford University Press.
- Williams, R. 2015. Keywords: A Vocabulary of Culture and Society. 2nd ed. London: Fontana.
Babbie, Earl R. 2011. The Basics of Social Research. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Becker, Howard Saul. 1963. Outsiders: Studies in the Sociology of Deviance. New York: Free Press.
Cohen, Stanley. 2002. Folk Devils and Moral Panics. 3rd ed. New York: Routledge.
Davis, Kingsley, and Wilbert E. Moore. 1945. “Some Principles of Stratification.” American Sociological Review 10(2):242–49. doi:10.2307/2085643.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “The Division of Labour in Society.” Pp. 19–38 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “The Rules of Sociological Method.” Pp. 43–63 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Durkheim, Émile.  2004. “Suicide.” Pp. 65–83 in Readings from Emile Durkheim. Rev. ed., edited and translated by K. Thompson. New York: Routledge.
Giddens, Anthony. 1991. The Consequences of Modernity. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2008. Sociology: The Core. 8th ed. Boston: McGraw-Hill.
Kaufman, Michael, and Michael S. Kimmel. 2011. The Guy’s Guide to Feminism. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.
Kendall, Diana. 2006. Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials. 5th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson/Prentice Hall.
Strong, Bryan, Christine DeVault, and Theodore F. Cohen. 2011. The Marriage and Family Experience: Intimate Relationships in a Changing Society. 11th ed. Boston: Cengage Learning.
Abercrombie, Nicholas, Stephen Hill, and Bryan Turner. 2006. The Penguin Dictionary of Sociology. 5th ed. London: Penguin.
The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language. 5th ed. 2011. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.
Andersen, Margaret L., and Howard Francis Taylor. 2011. Sociology: The Essentials. 6th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Brinkerhoff, David, Lynn White, Suzanne Ortega, and Rose Weitz. 2011. Essentials of Sociology. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Bruce, Steve, and Steven Yearley. 2006. The SAGE Dictionary of Sociology. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Brym, Robert J., and John Lie. 2007. Sociology: Your Compass for a New World. 3rd ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Collins English Dictionary: Complete and Unabridged. 6th ed. 2003. Glasgow, Scotland: Collins.
Delaney, Tim, and Tim Madigan. 2015. The Sociology of Sports: An Introduction. 2nd ed. Jefferson, NC: McFarland.
Dillon, Michele. 2014. Introduction to Sociological Theory: Theorists, Concepts, and their Applicability to the Twenty-First Century. 2nd ed. Malden, MA: Wiley-Blackwell.
Encyclopædia Britannica. (N.d.) Britannica Digital Learning. (https://britannicalearn.com/).
Farlex. (N.d.) TheFreeDictionary.com: Dictionary, Encyclopedia and Thesaurus. Farlex. (http://www.thefreedictionary.com/).
Ferrante, Joan. 2011a. Seeing Sociology: An Introduction. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferrante, Joan. 2011b. Sociology: A Global Perspective. 7th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Ferris, Kerry, and Jill Stein. 2010. The Real World: An Introduction to Sociology. 2nd ed. New York: Norton.
Giddens, Anthony, and Philip W. Sutton. 2014. Essential Concepts in Sociology. Cambridge: Polity Press.
Griffiths, Heather, Nathan Keirns, Eric Strayer, Susan Cody-Rydzewski, Gail Scaramuzzo, Tommy Sadler, Sally Vyain, Jeff Bry, Faye Jones. 2016. Introduction to Sociology 2e. Houston, TX: OpenStax.
Henslin, James M. 2012. Sociology: A Down-to-Earth Approach. 10th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Hughes, Michael, and Carolyn J. Kroehler. 2011. Sociology: The Core. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Jary, David, and Julia Jary. 2000. Collins Dictionary of Sociology. 3rd ed. Glasgow, Scotland: HarperCollins.
Kendall, Diana. 2011. Sociology in Our Times. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Kimmel, Michael S., and Amy Aronson. 2012. Sociology Now. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Kornblum, William. 2008. Sociology in a Changing World. 8th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Macionis, John. 2012. Sociology. 14th ed. Boston: Pearson.
Macmillan. (N.d.) Macmillan Dictionary. (https://www.macmillandictionary.com/).
Marsh, Ian, and Mike Keating, eds. 2006. Sociology: Making Sense of Society. 3rd ed. Harlow, England: Pearson Education.
Merriam-Webster. (N.d.) Merriam-Webster Dictionary. (http://www.merriam-webster.com/).
O’Leary, Zina. 2007. The Social Science Jargon Buster: The Key Terms You Need to Know. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.
Oxford University Press. (N.d.) Oxford Dictionaries. (https://www.oxforddictionaries.com/).
Princeton University. 2010. WordNet. (https://wordnet.princeton.edu/).
Random House Webster’s College Dictionary. 1997. New York: Random House.
Schaefer, Richard. 2013. Sociology: A Brief Introduction. 10th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill.
Scott, John, and Gordon Marshall. 2005. A Dictionary of Sociology. New York: Oxford University Press.
Shepard, Jon M. 2010. Sociology. 11th ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.
Shepard, Jon M., and Robert W. Greene. 2003. Sociology and You. New York: Glencoe.
Stewart, Paul, and Johan Zaaiman, eds. 2015. Sociology: A Concise South African Introduction. Cape Town: Juta.
Stolley, Kathy S. 2005. The Basics of Sociology. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press.
Taylor & Francis. (N.d.) Routledge Handbooks Online. (https://www.routledgehandbooks.com/).
Thompson, William E., and Joseph V. Hickey. 2012. Society in Focus: An Introduction to Sociology. 7th ed. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
Turner, Bryan S., ed. 2006. The Cambridge Dictionary of Sociology. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. Wikimedia Foundation. (https://en.wikipedia.org/).
Wikipedia contributors. (N.d.) Wiktionary, The Free Dictionary. Wikimedia Foundation. (http://en.wiktionary.org).
Wiley. (N.d.) Wiley Online Library. (http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/).
Cite the Definition of Society
ASA – American Sociological Association (5th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “society.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Retrieved March 26, 2020 (https://sociologydictionary.org/society/).
APA – American Psychological Association (6th edition)
society. (2013). In K. Bell (Ed.), Open education sociology dictionary. Retrieved from https://sociologydictionary.org/society/
Chicago/Turabian: Author-Date – Chicago Manual of Style (16th edition)
Bell, Kenton, ed. 2013. “society.” In Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Accessed March 26, 2020. https://sociologydictionary.org/society/.
MLA – Modern Language Association (7th edition)
“society.” Open Education Sociology Dictionary. Ed. Kenton Bell. 2013. Web. 26 Mar. 2020. <https://sociologydictionary.org/society/>.