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What is society?
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A society shares its cultural values, beliefs, and tenets

Societies form around those with common values. Values are a culture’s standard for discerning what is good and just in society. Values are deeply embedded and critical for transmitting and teaching a culture’s beliefs. Beliefs are the tenets or convictions that people hold to be true. Individuals in a society have specific beliefs, but they also share collective values.
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Those in a shared society share a value or belief system that sets them apart from other societies. Values help shape a society by suggesting what is good and bad, beautiful and ugly, sought, or avoided. Consider the value that the United States about individualism. People in the United States tend to rely on themselves and to be independent. For example, in the United States, young adults after 18 years old would seek jobs to earn their own money and live without their parents. However, in countries preferring collectivism, some young adults after 18 years old would still live with their parents and rely on family support to live their life. Countries with collectivism pay attention to the concepts of family, community, and nation, etc., and they are goal is to go for public welfare. Therefore, from the two examples, people can tell that there are shared values in societies that differing from other societies.

The Argument

A society is defined by its value system and beliefs. Judeo-Christian societies are defined by their commitment to the ten commandments as laid out in the holy books. During World War II, Japanese society was defined by its commitment to the Emperor, and US society has been defined by the upholding of the Bill of Rights which protects freedom of speech, freedom of religion and the freedom of the press. [1] A society interprets events through the lens of its values. To demonstrate how integral values are in defining and identifying societies, we can look at modern China and Hong Kong. Hong Kong has been racked by intermittent protests since 2014 because Hong Kong society sees political autonomy and the right to self-determination as a key component of its value system. Chinese society, on the other hand, perceives politics through the lens of communism. This adherence to different value systems makes the two societies clearly distinct and identifiable.

Counter arguments

But what causes a society’s values? If a society's values are the lens, then the force that creates the values is the real foundation of society and the glue that holds it all together. Karl Marx argued that it is a society’s means of production (land, animals, tools, machines—anything that was used in the production process) and relations of production (the social roles of each economic class) that gave birth to a shared culture.[2] Capitalist societies have a different economic model to communist societies and feudalist societies. If these economic models are what give birth to a society’s culture, it would be far more accurate to say these are the defining features of a society.


Societies are definable by their unique values. Within one territory, there can be several different societies as members gravitate towards a society that shares their value and belief system.


[P1] People living in the same territory, speaking the same language, with the same culture can be part of different societies. [P2] This is because they have different value systems. [P3] Societies are organized around members' shared values. [P4] Therefore, societies are shared values.

Rejecting the premises

[Rejecting P4] If an underlying force shapes those values, then this would be the defining factor of societies.


This page was last edited on Friday, 12 Jun 2020 at 15:27 UTC

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