Society and Social Interaction

Read this chapter for a review of society and social interaction. As you read each section, consider the following topics:

  • Take note of the Maasai village in Tanzania. How does this village differ from a rural American town?
  • Take note of the different types of societies, making connections to the society in which you currently live.
  • Take notes on Durkheim's functionalist approach, Marx's conflict approach, and Weber's symbolic interactionist approach to studying societies.
  • Take note of the bold terms and how they contribute to your own construction of reality as well as how they affect larger social phenomena.


Types of Societies

Societies are classified according to their development and use of technology. For most of human history, people lived in preindustrial societies characterized by limited technology and low production of goods. After the Industrial Revolution, many societies based their economies around mechanized labor, leading to greater profits and a trend toward greater social mobility. At the turn of the new millennium, a new type of society emerged. This postindustrial, or information, society is built on digital technology and nonmaterial goods.

Theoretical Perspectives on Society

Émile Durkheim believed that as societies advance, they make the transition from mechanical to organic solidarity. For Karl Marx, society exists in terms of class conflict. With the rise of capitalism, workers become alienated from themselves and others in society. Sociologist Max Weber noted that the rationalization of society can be taken to unhealthy extremes.

Social Constructions of Reality

Society is based on the social construction of reality. How we define society influences how society actually is. Likewise, how we see other people influences their actions as well as our actions toward them. We all take on various roles throughout our lives, and our social interactions depend on what types of roles we assume, who we assume them with, and the scene where interaction takes place.