In this paper I will try to explain the puzzle of whether individuals are products of society or society is a product of individuals. I believe that in general, and in the beginning, the answer to this question, is that society is a human product. I will start by presenting early man, the hunter and gatherer as an early form of society, but lacking critical qualities of a society. Then I will continue to support my theory by analyzing the beginning of known society some three and one half thousands years ago. I will present the individual as creation of society, or more precisely, an ongoing social recursive conditioning. I will also present society as creation of individuals. Finally, I will conclude my paper with some thoughts on the paradox of who is the product and who is the producer of the individual and society.
According to Charles Darwin, man developed from the ape. Darwins theory of evolution appears to be unsupported though, because for thousands of years these apes have been there, but none of them have developed into human beings nor did Darwin ever find the missing link. Although unproved, there must be a process of evolution. And if there was evolutionary process, a few of the steps in-between still must be missing. Since man is not asexual, man did not, and could not, survive or prosper by himself. Early man grouped together with other hunters and gathers to form a family which brought order, direction, and stability to his life. According to Rousseau, the earliest and only natural societies are families (Primis 192). The point here is that the individuals choose to become a part of something larger than the individual.
But if Rousseau is correct, there was a time when the individual gave up certain freedoms to find security within a group. This is contra to Thomas Hobbes view. It was not until significant scientific advances in the nineteenth century that the view of this seventeenth century philosopher Hobbes has his views rejected. Hobbes stated that the life of early man was solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short. Hobbes thought that early man was scarcely even human and a club-wielding savage. At either rate, early man lacked the qualities that were considered by John Locke as necessary to begin a society even though it is believed that groups and families existed.
Society as Product of Individuals
Some three and one half thousands years ago a group of individuals gathered their resources together to form the first civilization named Sumer. The people that lived there were called Sumerians. The Sumerians began as a primitive race stemming from the hunters and gatherers who came to the area known as southern Mesopotamia to form the first permanent human settlement. By the end of their occupation in Mesopotamia, they had created the beginnings of society as we know it today. It has been said by the locals that this place is the fabled Garden of Eden and also according to tradition, Eden existed in the marshes of this fertile land that is today known as Iraq today.
The lands of Sumer were fertile and in close relationship to two major rivers which are known as the Euphrates and Tigris Rivers today. The fertile lands were feed by the rivers and allowed the settlers to stop the migratory habits of their predecessors or early man. The constant migration of early man had prevented any real education to exist as they were always on the move in search of food and shelter. Early man was only concerned with survival, which meant that they did not have the leisure time to give thought to the development of academia. The Sumerians, which found the development of agriculture an easy task in this land, found that they had time to develop culture and devote time to academic studies. The Sumerians conceived and began development of mathematics, reading, writing skills and the written text on cunieform tablets, the wheel and agricultural technology, which are heavily relied upon in today’s society. By 3,000 BC, the written script of the Sumerians had evolved into a full syllabic alphabet. The Sumerian’s gift of writing made possible for the recording of history for the first time. The recording of literature, science, society and history is a lasting legacy of the Sumerians and our society.
The individuals in the Sumer originated the development of society through the codes of law that was written as, and to be, social policy. These were the first written laws and law is what defines the norms within our society. This is a defining point as to whether individuals are products of society or society is a product of individuals. Since these individuals conceived what society shall represent, then it is clear that originally society is a product of individuals. It was not only the codes of law that were created by the Sumerians, but tens of thousands of cunieform texts that contain lullabies, poetry, ledgers, administration and property records. The theory that John Locke presents is that man must agree to join society and the community living peaceably and secure in the fact that his personal property is protected by the community by the laws and property records against any that are not of the community. The social concept that began in Sumer would change the face of history.
Individuals as Product of Society
Society is the unconscious collective of the morals and values of individuals that formed that society, but society is only a word. It was there before the individual was born, and it will be there after their death. Society is not tangible although individuals that formed it are. Society has no soul and the individual would find it hard too change anything about it. Yet society has the ability to change the individual based on previous individuals influence on society. The social effect as far as the individual is concerned, I envision as a ceaseless externalization of the individual in the course of their perpetual edification while society is absorbed through social control. But, I also see society is an outgrowth of the individuals particular previous generations, or more precisely, an ongoing recursive human production through which social institutions manifest themselves without intervention of the individual. Therefore I feel that social institutions clearly have a coercive power over the individual.
Individuals that adhere to the morals and values cannot be created instantaneously or by using the same edification principals for great lengths of time. There is no magic that will create the perfect individual based on the norm, nor is there any institution that is capable of doing this. This is where continuing education plays its social role. Education as well as other social institutions always has a history, of which they are the products, but they also must be able to adapt to the constant change of the social environment. Understanding the historical process that produced a social institution is needed before it is possible to understand the institution. Part of that history is that institutions control the individuals conduct by setting up predefined patterns of conduct, which are channeled against the many other deviations that are ideological possible. The given existence of an institution is basic proof of social control of the individual and as such proof that the individual is a product of society, but only of the society past individuals have created. That is, man and his social world interact with each other by which the product acts back upon the producer and the producer act upon the product. Society is a human product and society and an undeniable reality, but the individual is by themselves a social product. Although this is external to the individual, institutions are there, whether the individual likes it or not and inescapable persistent reality. The existence of institutions is not diminished if the individual does not adhere to its social constraints for it has far reaching power.
Who is the Producer
The paradox of whether individuals are products of society or society is a product of individuals is controversial at least. It is the case that the individual is capable of producing a world that the individual experiences as something other than a human product. It is argumentative the individual is the producer of society or that society is the producer of the individual, but maybe they are so inter-linked that they are indistinguishable. This is a different situation when an individual separates themselves from society.
It is apparent that an individual in isolation could not conceive of or build a society. Society is built upon the collective of the morals and valves of the individuals within society, but a singular individual does not have a collective opinion. An individual in isolation can only look at the world from an internal perspective. Only through individual externalization can an individual view the social world as their others that transcended into social conformity. For society to persevere, society must perpetuate its values to further too present and future generation.
I have tried to explain the puzzle of whether individuals are products of society or society is a product of individuals. I then presented early man, but have shown that early man was not the product or producer of society. I have shown that Sumer was the beginning of society and that society was a human product. I then presented the individual as a product of ongoing social conditioning of the institutions of society. I feel that presented difficulty in trying to solve the paradox of who is the product and who is the producer of the individual and society.
Primis Social Science. McGraw-Hill Publishing. Columbus, OH