The 5 functions of society: how does it influence our lives?

In psychology and other social sciences, we often talk a lot about “society”. We talk about how it affects us, the types of societies we have built, we talk about the changes our societies have gone through, etc. We even differentiate between western, non-western, individualist, collectivist, knowledge, developed, undeveloped and many other societies. However, we rarely ask ourselves what exactly we mean when we say “society”.

Since there is no single definition, and it is a subject that we could approach from very different angles, in this article we will do a brief review of the psychosocial approach to what is society and what are some of its elements. specifically we will see several of the main functions of life in society.

    What is society and what are its elements?

    From the most classic traditions of the social sciences, society has been presented as the element opposed to the individualThat is to say as an entity external to the subjects and which affects us, shapes us, oppresses us or vice versa: it frees us, strengthens us or animates us. That is to say, society is generally thought of as something that exists outside the subject, but in relation to it: it supports it and at the same time limits it.

    However, the company can also be understood as the result of human activity itself; activity which, being shared, also generates a set of rules. In other words, society can also understand it as the result of our interaction.

    And it is that by interacting, we produce and share a series of codes that allow us to organize ourselves in different ways. These codes translate into elements that promote socialization (the process by which an individual becomes a competent subject for society).

    Examples of these elements are institutions (family, marriage, school, science, religion, etc.), which depends on the geographical, economic, political, traditions, The values ​​and history of each group of individuals.

    In other words, there is no one way to start a company; the same minimal dynamics and processes are not generated everywhere, and they have not been the same all the time. And beyond being an entity different from the subject, society is the result of the activity and interaction of the subjects themselves.

    5 company functions

    Of what has come up before we could ask ourselves: why do we live in society? Why is it? Can we live without or outside society?

    There is no doubt that the functions of society are at least problematic. Beyond whether the company itself is good or bad, harmful or beneficial, all of our own activity is generally uncertain, therefore, the effects and functions of society also become ambiguous.

    If we also think of society in pragmatic terms, we can say that it is not only responsible for influencing our lives or our activity, but it is through society itself that we are able to support our own lives (physical and psychic). However, and depending on the dynamics generated, the opposite effect can also be obtained.

    In general, we can describe the functions of society in different processes that are generated by shared human activity: identity, social norms, care-related practices, supply-related activities and care management environment.

    1. Generate an identity

    Identity is a psychosocial process by means of which a person recognizes himself in relation to a number of characteristics, traits, interests, desires, abilities, etc. Much of this recognition comes from other people. And it is because it is only through others that we can recognize ourselves as “equal to …” or “different from …”, that is, as individuals. unique and at the same time part of a group.

    In other words, if an individual recognizes himself as such, it is because there are other individuals who have also recognized him. Thus, one of the functions of life in society is shaping the topic and small groups: Society generates both psychic structures and social groups, without which we could hardly relate to the world.

    2. Produce social norms

    Social norms are the set of implicit or explicit guidelines that tell us how we should behave. Not only that, but they also tell us what interests, wants, habits or expectations are appropriate or possible. Through social norms we relate to the world and to other members of society.

    We generate and reproduce them through this same relationship, and when it transforms, social norms change as well. For example, the interaction and norms of behavior between humans (and between humans and nature) were not the same before we developed technology, and that’s because by introducing small material changes and discursive, social norms also change.

    In short, another of the main functions of society is to generate and transform the norms of behavior that distinguish us as a member of a social group. Thanks to this, we can adapt our interests without too many conflicts seeming to live close to each other.

    3. Ensure care and affiliation practices

    Another of the functions of life in society is to generate practices that ensure the satisfaction of our human needs. To ensure this satisfaction, it is also necessary that the practices generated correspond to the needs and values ​​of a geographic and historical moment concrete. For example, a need shared by humans is affiliation, which is linked to emotional interdependence and caring practices.

    The latter is a value shared by some companies, and to a lesser extent by others. It is also linked to the sexual division of labor and sexist socialization which can be different between human groups. For example, in some western societies with more economic resources, the practices and affiliation related to care are different from other societies in which, with less resources, there is also a strong need for support and care among individuals. .

      4. Generate activities related to disposition

      In connection with the previous point, another of the functions of life in society is to ensure that practices related to the service are generated, that is to say activities that ensure the supply of basic necessities, Something we have done by exchanging and relating with other people.

      In other words, the interaction and activity shared between human beings has among its objectives to ensure our survival. In this case, like the activities linked to care, the offer is a practice which, in the history of Western societies, is often socialized in relation to the values ​​of the masculine and the based on the sexual division of labor.

      5. Manage the environment in which we operate

      Organizing in society, and becoming competent members, has among its effects the management and manipulation of the medium in which our interaction takes place. In other words, the manipulation of the environment. Living in society not only allows us to take from the environment what we need to survive, but, by the same norms and identities that are generated, social activity can result in excessive wear and tear of the environment due to the constant use of its resources.

      Thus, society often has not only the function of satisfying basic needs, but it generates other needs and other forms of satisfaction which lead to massive exploitation of the environment in which society itself emerges. Therefore, another of the functions that generated our societies has been knowledge production and technological development, Devices which have considerably influenced not only the management of the environment but also the interpersonal relationships themselves.

      In short, rather than having certain functions, life in society has a certain number of effects which are not precisely external to the subjects, but are the result of our interaction. They can also be problematic, so it is important to consider ensuring that this interaction results in coexistence and quality of life.

      Bibliographical references:

      • Ibáñez, T. (2004) (ed.). Introduction to social psychology. UOC Editorial: Barcelona.

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