The Basic Features:
(i) As Kingsley Davis has pointed out, any society involves a certain level of association. But this association is more intricate than a mere aggregation and less complex than an organism, (ii) Further, the units that the societies bring together at the level of association are not cells or organs, but individuals. The terms ‘aggregation’ and ‘organism’ are to be understood to know the real nature of societies.
(i) An aggregation refers to collection of individuals who are subjected to the same external conditions. For example, a flood may bring together accidentally a collection of animals or insects. In the same manner temperature, moisture or light may draw together to a common place some creatures which are responsive to such stimuli?
Similarly, animals often come to common water hole or tank to quench their thirst. In these instances, they are not actually drawn towards one another to have some relationship. Such collections or aggregations have no resemblance to society as such.
Sometimes, the animals and insects in the aggregate may help one another to satisfy their appetite, to quench their thirst or to protect themselves from external danger. A pack of wolves may be able to kill the game that could not otherwise be killed. A group of ants may kill and carry an earthworm.
Thus, when the individual organisms are welded together into a network of mutual stimulus and response the basis of an association is laid down. In the absence of mutual responsiveness the ‘aggregation’ may disappear as soon as the external stimulus disappears.
Thus, when the flood is over, the animals which have come to common spot because of that may disappear. The aggregation cannot perpetuate itself nor can it have an internal unity of its own.
(ii) It is true that the Organisms who are stimulating each other contribute to the making of society. Still society cannot be understood just by studying its constituent individuals. The following explanation would clarify this point.
A living organism is made up of cells which are interrelated. It has a unity and a structure of its own which the cells cannot decide. The cells may live and die but the organism survives for a longer period.
The organism is subjected to the different stages of growth, maturity, decay and death. It has the primary needs such as: nutrition, protection and reproduction. All these needs are interdependent the satisfaction of which contributes to the perpetuation of the organism.
Society too has a system of relations. These are only the relations between organisms and not between cells. Society has its own structure. The parts of this structure fulfill functions and contribute to its existence as a whole.
This existence is a continuous one and is independent of its constituent individuals. Society is like a building which is composed of bricks, cement, sand, iron, nails, wood, etc. But these materials alone cannot help us to understand the building. It has its own structure and a function as a building.
For a few organisms life in society serves as one mode of adjustment of the environment. It provides for the associated individuals the satisfaction of their needs for nutrition, protection and reproduction.
The societal mode of existence has a great survival value for those species which have become adapted to such a mode of existence. Man who belongs to the Homo sapiens has been a social animal from the very beginning.
He cannot exist apart from his own peculiar kind of society, for he has inherited this quality of living in society from his animal ancestors. In fact, we do not find a single species that belongs to the category of mammals and which is living without the help of society. Society, thus, has become a biological necessity for man. It has emerged in the line of descent and hence is capable of affecting the direction of organic change.
The emergence of society can be considered to be a great step in organic evolution. Rut. vi Is a. step taken by only some species and not by all. It is associated with the emergence of the multicellular organism and with the vertebrate system. It is an example of what is called ’emergent evolution’. It is called so, because society is different from the organisms of which it is composed.
Previously, it was fashionable for some to use the analogy between organism and society to emphasise the idea that social system is, after all a system. This analogy had its own limitations. For example, the cells of the organisms are too rigidly fixed in their mutual relations and are completely sub-ordinated to the organism.
They are too specialised to be called members of a society. Like the individual members they are not so spatially detached and independently mobile. Further, the organism has got a ‘sensorium’ and consciousness which no society possesses. The society does not have the characteristic of the fixed life story of the organism.
Society may be subjected to the stages of growth, maturity, and decay. But due -to the lesser unity of society they are not as properly defined as the organic stages. The types of organisms are also clear and they can be easily classified than the types of societies.
Thus the analogy must be understood only as an analogy and not as an identity. In this way the society is different from the organisms that compose it. It must be a new quality or thing added to these. It is a new emergent.