My Own Pie

Libertarian Thoughts from Renaissance Guy

The Myth of Society

with 7 comments

     Long ago the people of the world were tired of taking the blame for everything bad that happened to them. They asked the Great Sky Father and the Great Earth Mother to give them a god that could be blamed instead.  The Sky and the Earth did what fathers and mothers do, and they gave the world. . .Society.

     If somebody committed a crime, the people could say, “It’s not his fault.  It’s the fault of Society, because Society drove him to commit the crime.

     If somebody noticed a problem, such as people fighting with each other, he would say, “Society should do something about that.  Really!”

     Nothing much got done, and crimes grew increasingly common.

     Time rolled on, as time always does, and eventually a very wise man arose among the people, seemingly out of nowhere.  “There’s no such thing as Society,” he proclaimed.  “Society is people.  You are Society, and I am Society. ”

     “If people are fighting, then you  have to do something about it, or I have to do something about it.  No entity called Society can do anything about it.  In fact, the best thing of all would be for the people who are fighting to realize that it is bad and just stop.

     It’s their fault after all.  There’s no such being as Society that can override people’s wills.  People are sovereign.  They have volition.  They can do whatever the want regardless of what others do or what others say.  To say that somebody else should be blamed for bad actions is actually belittling the person involved.  It strips that person of his humanity if he is under the control of some other entity.”

     The people listened.  As individuals began taking responsibility for themselves and for their own words and actions, an amazing thing happened.  The god called Society became more and more transparent–like a vapor.  As people began to solve their problems instead of waiting for Society to solve them, the god grew so transparent that he disappeared completely.

     Then things got done, because people were doing them.  Crime rates dropped, because people knew that they would be held responsible for the bad things that they did.

     The world is much better off with people than with Society.


Written by ambrosianideas

November 12, 2009 at 11:46 am

7 Responses

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  1. However, once you put groups of people together, you have a different entity, described by the word “society”. There have been numerous studies proving that the psychology of groups of people is different from the psychology of one person, and that the psychology of a person in a group is different from a person alone.

    Personal Failure

    November 12, 2009 at 1:52 pm

  2. Society is a human concept used to describe observable patterns of human behavior in cultures and communities. Using society as a level of analysis can yield insights you can’t get with reduction to the individual level of analysis. Not only are individuals often in relationships, with those relationships having attributes that can be studied (teacher-student, boss-employee, husband-wife, slave-master), but cultural beliefs are transmited from society to individuals. If you were born in Cairo you would be a different person than you are now, you’d have different beliefs, tastes, and behaviors. Thus who you are is very dependent on your society and culture; individualism is a myth, nobody is a true individual, all people have identities and capacities that come from their place in society and their relationships with others.

    Scott Erb

    November 12, 2009 at 2:58 pm

  3. There are multiple causes for just about everything. Saying that X is to blame for something doesn’t mean that Y is not to blame, or vice versa. I happen to be a very law-abiding person, with the exception of exceeding the speed limit by a few mph when I’m in a hurry (or my husband is) or I just don’t notice and go with the flow of traffic. I can say that is because I choose to obey the law. I can say it is because my parents were very law-abiding and taught me to do the same. I can say it is because of my personality, that I am very conscientious about most things, even things that aren’t particularly important (I probably show a little bit of OCD). The fact that I choose to obey the law doesn’t mean that it’s not because of my personality and the way my parents raised me.

    If I chose instead to break the law, it would be because I chose to. But if I had been raised in a very different kind of household, it might be also true to say that it was because of the way I was brought up. And the way I was brought up (in this hypothetical situation) would probably have been caused in part by my parents’ upbringing, and the type of society in which they grew up, as well as their own choices. None of that would absolve me of making wrong choices, but the other factors are hardly irrelevant either.

    As the above comments point out, society has a very large influence on how we think and act. It doesn’t force us to act a certain way, but the people who act contrary to those influences, particularly without intervention by people with very different views, are in a distinct minority.

    Since there are multiple causes, that means there are multiple solutions. Teaching people to take personal responsibility is very important. But that doesn’t mean that it’s not also important to address some of the social issues as well.


    November 12, 2009 at 8:52 pm

  4. Pauline’s comment makes me think a bit and reflect on other aspects of RG’s post. I do believe that the most important thing to teach children, or even for me as a teacher to teach students is to take personal responsibility for their actions, and not to blame others for their situation. Even if others are to blame, it does no use whining, just take control of the situation as best you can. So I do agree that personal responsibility is important. I want to be clear that in stressing that society matters, I don’t want to deny RG’s claim about the importance of personal responsibility.

    Scott Erb

    November 13, 2009 at 1:37 am

  5. Yes, there is another side to the story. I agree. It’s hard to write a decent blog post that covers a topic exhaustively.

    I think that the concept of society is useful to certain fields of study, such as history, sociology, psychology, and even economics. I ackowledge that people do form groups and that groups of people have characteristics in common.

    I was speaking in a very limited context, which was the use of “society” as an excuse for doing wrong and the lazy or misguided wish that “society” solve human problems.

    I think it is important for people to have a definition in mind when they use the term. Otherwise, they are simply finding some way out of blaming responsible parties for crimes or finding a way out of tackling a challenging problems themselves.

    Pauline, I certainly agree that society exerts an influence on people. However, I’m sure that you will agree (pretty sure) that nobody should say that any societal influence forces them to behave in certain ways. I hope that all of us, except the mentally ill and the sociopathic, have an override mechanism that allows us to make choices that are completely contrary to the society around us.

    Otherwise, where would any of the great innovations or reforms have come from? Where would the moral heroes come from that we admire so much?

    I think that two of the hallmarks of being human are volition and self-control. If we blame everything on society or expect society to do everything for us, then we no longer have those traits, and, I think, we are no longer acting fully human.


    November 13, 2009 at 8:43 am

  6. OK, this is Wikipedia, but I’ve always rather liked the distinction made in sociology (and the German language) between Gemeinschaft (community) and a looser Gesellschaft (society):

    Scott Erb

    November 13, 2009 at 3:48 pm

  7. I really likes reading this blog, i completely agree in the fact that people do blame society for peoples actions whereas society is the people. And if the people are unhappy about society then they should change. Not everyone else except them. You should read my post a bit of wisdom. It kinda speaks my opinion a little on society, or a mass group of people living in one caotic nation. 🙂


    March 17, 2010 at 3:23 am

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