Must "Society" be Abstract?

Tue, 25 Oct 1994 10:17:21 CST

Is "society" abstract, as M. Lieber suggests? From my perspective, a
*social group* consists of two or more organisms of the same species,
engaged in patterned interaction in time and space; and a society is a
politically autonomous social group--i.e., one not under control by
outsiders of the same species. Social groups in general, and societies
in particular, to me are genuine physical objects. True, their
boundaries are fuzzied because the interacting organisms are more or
less separate in space; but they are demonstrably there, in principle,
nonetheless. Sociologists err by requiring a "sense of identification"
in their definition of society, thereby adopting a definition that
impedes rather than promotes the progress of inquiry. " Culture" I
define as the socially acquired way of life of a social group,
epsecially an entire society's (1) interfaces with its physical and
social environments (other societies); (2) interactions between members;
and (3) interpretations of reality, if any. Want to see a society,
which from Lieber's perspective is impossible? From my perspective,
take a good look at an anthill. Culture is more abstract than society;
to spot it, you have to have good evidence that some features of a
social group's way of life are a social rather than a biological acquisi
tion--easy for human groups, difficult for an anthill. --Bob Graber