The Echoes of the Mind (172-4) Society


Neither the life of an individual nor the history of a society can be understood without understanding both. ~ American sociologist Charles Wright Mills

▫ The core of a culture comprises folkways and a common worldview. Shared ideology is a central element in intergroup behaviors and discrimination.

All societies are based upon imagined hierarchies, but not necessarily on the same hierarchies. In most cases, the hierarchy originated as a result of accidental historical circumstances and was then perpetuated and refined over many generations as different groups developed vested interests in it. ~ Yuval Noah Harari

▫ Most human societies contain 3 interlocking hierarchical systems: gender, age, and group status.

Where ethnicity is not a defining feature of social hierarchy, status is typically based on economics, which is in large part a product of tribe membership.

The deepest problems of modern life derive from the claim of the individual to preserve the autonomy and individuality of his existence in the face of overwhelming social forces. ~ Georg Simmel

▫ Societal stratification emanates from the economics of private property. When a society can sustain an economic surplus, role specialization evolves from coalition formation among men. From this arises a tribal hierarchy. In multi-ethnic societies, stratification is primarily defined by a dominant tribe lording over subordinate tribes that struggle against unequal resource allocation.

▫ Once established, tribal dominance systems tend to be stable, even as the strength of the hierarchy may shift from one historical period to the next because of cross-cultural intercourse and technological change. The stability derives from institutional discrimination.

Institutional discrimination remains a very significant feature of modern “democratic” states. Most often, institutional discrimination within states with democratic pretensions is covert rather than overt. ~ Jim Sidanius & Felicia Pratto

▫ Culture and economic status almost always intertwine, with value for education a salient factor, as knowledge is power. In Western societies, this goes a long way in explaining the abiding relative success of the perpetual out-group: Jews.

▫ The competitive demands of modern capitalism require people to define themselves as marketable commodities. This unnatural state of life – dominated by forces of human invention – has been a successful formula for alienation on a vast scale and serves to engender cynicism.

Society is the walls of our imprisonment in history. ~ Peter Berger