By the end of the topic learners should be able to:
  1. State and explain the relationship between individual and society.
  2. Explain the social in human nature.
  3. Identify and describe types of socialization.
  4. Explain career identity.
  5. Describe peer groups.
  6. Analyse cultural experience of reality.

A. The relationship between individual and society

i. Individual and society

  • Man is a social being thus a person cannot live alone. For man to be complete he needs a society around.
  • Man is biologically and psychologically equipped to live in groups that are called societies.
  • Man depends on the society. A human baby is totally dependent on the parents, other members of the family and the society at large for his or her survival and total growth.
  • The society is there to promote good and happy life for individuals and create conditions and opportunities for the development of personalities.
The relationship between the individual and the society
  • There are two main theories regarding the relationship of individual and society, namely Organic theory and Social contract theory.
pic.png (16 KB)

Functionalist theory

  • The organic theory is a functionalist view point.
  • Just like the human body that cannot operate or function well in the absence of other body parts, so is the society cannot operate or exist without individuals and individuals cannot be complete without the society. This denotes that individuals are part and parcel of society and the two are inseparable.
  • This theory indicates the social nature of people or individuals; human beings are social animals who share and enjoy each other’s company. The sharing nature overcomes the selfish side of individuals.
  • Individuals are interdependent on each other as a result they want to live in mutual contact.
2. Functionalism.jpg (174 KB)

Social contract theory

  • A social contract is an implicit agreement among the members of a society to cooperate for social benefits, for example by sacrificing some individual freedom for state protection.
  • According to this theory, society is an artificial structure.
  • Individuals lived independently of one another in a free state with no government and without laws to govern their actions.
  • There were hardships and oppression among individuals hence entered into an agreement so as to overcome the hardships. They agreed on protecting their lives, property and they agreed to obey an authority. The authority would provide protection thus they agreed on the formation of a society.
Social contract theory.jpg (181 KB)
Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and Jean Jacques Rousseau wrote on the theory:

Thomas Hobbes notes that man is selfish, quarrelsome, aggressive and egoistic in nature and as a result there is conflict.
Society came into existence as a method of protecting individuals against consequences of his own nature. Due to this individuals entered into a contract to ensure security and certainty of property and life. The individuals decided to surrender natural rights into the hands of the authority so as to be protected and live in peace.

John Locke is of the view that individuals were enjoying an ideal liberty without any form of rules and regulations. The state of nature was a state of peace, goodwill, mutual assistance and preservation but there was no system of law and justice. Men’s lives were often upset by the corruption and viciousness of individuals. Individuals lived in fear and dangers, so to escape this they made a contract to enter into a civil society or a state where men’s powers and rights will be surrounded and the remaining rights will be protected.

Jean Jacques Rousseau says that man was a noble savage who lived primitive idyllic happiness. He was independent, contented, self-sufficient, healthy, fearless and good. He knew neither right or wrong. Primitive instinct and sympathy united him with others. Population increased and human equality came to an end, individuals started to think in terms of mine and yours. War, murder, conflicts started when equality and happiness of the early state was lost. As a result individuals became a collective unity thus a society. The individual surrounded himself completely and unconditionally to the will of the society in which they became members.

Socially structured action

Social Structure is:

  • A social organization based on established patterns of social interaction between different relationships (such as those between parents and children, teachers and students, employers and employees), regulated through accepted norms and shared values.
  • As patterned social relations- those regular and repetitive aspects of the interactions between the members of a given society.
  • The relationship of definite entities or groups to each other.
  • Enduring patterns of behaviour by participants in a social system in relation to each other.
  • Norms and cognitive frame works that structure the action of actors in a social system.

The creative individual action:

  • Creative individuals are able to adapt to most situations. They can use available resources to obtain desired goals.
  • Creativity enables the individual to fulfil their desired goals easily. This creativity in individuals become the centre stage for human life.
Individual creativity traits:
  • They are highly energetic and they are often quiet and at rest. They can work for longer hours with maximum concentration.
  • Creative people tend to be smart and are highly intelligent and make creative contributions in a group.
  • Creative people have a great deal of energy but they rest as a way of controlling their energy.
  • Creative people are humble and proud at the same time.
  • Creative people escape gender role stereotyping. They are more likely to have not only the strengths of their own gender but those of the other one, too.
  • Most creative people are passionate about their work but they are objective.
  • Research has shown that creativity refers to something that is original and valuable.
  • Creativity is a subjective judgment made by members of the field about the origin and value of a product; it is not an inherent quality that can be measured independent of social-construction processes within a field.
  • Creativity assessments are not fixed but may change over time as a domain evolves by retaining creative actions.
  • Following these insights, creativity is a domain-specific, subjective judgment of the original and value of an outcome of a particular action.

ii. The social in human nature

  • Aristotle the legendary Greek philosopher noted that, “Man is by nature a social animal; an individual who is unsocial naturally and not accidentally is either beneath our notice or more than human. Society is something that precedes the individual.”
  • Man cannot live alone. And have to fulfil certain basic needs for survival. He has to enter into relationships with fellowmen for a living. No one can break the need for dependence. This begins between the embryo and the mother and continues till death.
The pre-social infant
  • Early childhood is a stage in human development which includes toddlerhood and sometime afterwards.
  • Age related development periods such: as new born (0-5 weeks); infant (5weeks - 1 year); toddler (1 year - 3 years); pre-scholar (3-5years); school going (5-12 years) and adolescent (13-19 years).
Pre-social stage
  • The baby cannot do anything on its own and relies on the mother mainly and other family members.
  • This part of pre-social stage does not last long.
  • At this stage the infant starts to identify objects and develops a strong relationship with the mother.
  • This shows that a human baby cannot do without any help of the mother or the family members. This connection allows learning of different behaviour for the new being.

iii. Primary Socialization as a process

Socialization is:
  • The process through which people are taught to be proficient or skilled members of a society.
  • A continuous process of inheriting and disseminating norms, customs and ideologies; providing an individual with the skills and habits necessary for participating within his or her own society.
  • A learning process that involves development of an individual to become members of an existing group and to think, feel and act in any way appropriate by a group or society.
  • Socialization result from interaction with family, friends and people around use. These influential people are referred to as agents of socialization.

Agents of socialization

  1. Family – the family is the first agent of socialisation that every born child interacts with. It teaches language acquisition, establishing relationships, setting of standards and rules. It facilitates the initial social interactions, teaching of morals and behaviour.
  2. School – this offers a formal social setting where children learn rules, values and professions.
  3. Peers – a peer group is a group of people at the same level. Peers influence how a child thinks and behaves.
  4. Religion – this is where children are taught the meaning of life and impacted with guidelines on how to live. They are taught on values and love for others.
  5. The government – the government influences people in many different ways and among these is the political way of viewing things.
  6. Media – the media include newspapers, TV, radio and the internet. These allow people to interact with many other people indirectly and virtually. The media influences the way people think, view issues of life politically, socially as well as culturally.
  7. Work – the workplace indoctrinates certain values upon the employees. A workplace also creates a platform for people to meet and interact with other people.

  • Primary socialization in sociology is the learning of a set of norms and values recognized through the process of socialization. Usually this is introduced by the family.
  • Primary socialization occurs during childhood and is when a child learns most attitudes, values and actions appropriate to individuals as members of a particular culture. For example the child learns the language and gender roles from the family.
  • As children are learning to become competent members of their society, they also become competent speakers of a society’s language.
  • In order to understand, interact and negotiate the child’s socio-cultural context successfully, the child must learn a language that is used by the society.
  • Socialization is a process in which language is learnt by an individual.
  • Parents and care givers play a pivotal role in introducing a child to a language.
  • Language socialization is the process by which children become socialized into the interpretive frameworks of their culture.
  • Language competence includes not only knowledge of grammatical principles and sentence construction but also knowledge of the norms that link language to social and cognitive context.

iv. Secondary socialization as a process

Secondary socialization occurs from late childhood and continues throughout life; it teaches individuals how to behave as humans by helping in the learning of values, norms, roles and ideologies.

  • Secondary socialization takes place outside the home. The agents of secondary socialization include religion, mass media, peers and education.

Social Interactions (Symbolic Interactionism)

  • Social interaction is the way in which people relate to one another.
  • Children begin to establish a sense of “self” and to learn what others expect of them through the social interactions.
  • Social interactions for very young children primarily occur within the family, as children grow they become more and more interested in playing and interacting with other children and learn appropriate social behaviours, such as sharing, cooperating, and respecting the property of others.
  • In addition, while interacting with their peers, young children learn communication, cognitive, and motor skills.
  • Encouraging children with disabilities and non-disabled children to play together is extremely important since it promotes creation of friendships that help the non-disabled child form positive, accepting attitudes toward persons who are disabled.
  • In addition, the child who is disabled will have the opportunity to learn age-appropriate social skills.

Behaviourist account of learning

  • Communicative interaction is a process that exists amongst individuals and in this process, identity or personality is reinforced, shaped and in some ways transformed.
  • A social role defines a set of expected behaviour of someone who holds a particular status for example a mother becomes a mother the moment she gives birth and is supposed to play the motherly role by providing love and care to the child. Social roles include being a friend, being a family member and being a leader.
  • Role expectations can change over time and can also differ from culture to culture for example women were expected to stay at home and care for the family while the father had to work and provide a livelihood for the family, but these days both parents can now work and care for the family.
  • Role taking is social interaction in which people adopt and act out a particular role.
  • Role making characterizes how a person lives or plays a specific role.

The concept of the self

  • The self is a distinctive identity that sets an individual apart from others. The self is created and modified over the course of a life time. Sociologists and psychologists alike have expressed interest in how the individual develops and modifies the sense of self as a result of social interaction.
  • The self is an experience of a distinct personal identity that is separate and different from all other people in the society.
  • Charles Cooley believed that one’s sense of the self depends on seeing one’s self-reflection in interactions with others. Looking glass self refers to the notion that the self is developed through the perception of others' praises and evaluations.

6 The looking glass self_1.jpg (210 KB)

  • George Herbert Mead believed that the self was created through social interaction and identified three stages in which the self is created: play, game and generalized other.
  • Play – Small children act and think similar to people that they repeatedly see. An example is a little boy who puts on his father’s safety googles and acts as if he is fixing a car.
  • Game - In the game stage, organization begins and certain personalities start to develop. Individuals start to function in organized groups and determine what they will do within a specific group.
  • Generalized other can be thought of as understanding the given activity and the actor's place within the activity from the perspective of all the others engaged in an activity. Through understanding "the generalized other" the individual understands what kind of behaviour is expected and appropriate in different social situations.
  • Erving Goffman’s dramaturgy. Social interaction represents the theatre where individuals take on roles and act to present a satisfactory impression to the audience. Goffman sees social life as a sort of game where we work to control the impressions others have on us, a process he called impression management.

  • Career identity
  • It is a construction of meanings in which the individual links motivation, interests and experiences with acceptable career role.

v. Peer groups

  • A peer group is a social group whose members are of common interests, social positions and age for example work mates, pupils in the same class and friends in a neighbourhood.
  • When individuals grow older they engage in peer groups more and these groups are more active during the adolescent period.
  • Peer influence on behaviour becomes more dominant and can have a stronger influence than that of parents and the perspectives of others can affect how one feels about their family.
  • Peer groups can serve as an avenue for learning social norms, ideologies and gender roles.
  • Peer groups are good arenas where children can negotiate skills and learn how to deal with hostility and how to solve problems in social contexts.
  • Peer groups provides social support for example loaning clothes and money to a friend, intellectual support for example discussing homework, emotional support for example providing empathy to a friend who is having misunderstandings with a brother and social support for example provision of acceptance and a sense of belonging.
  • However peer groups can demand blind obedience to a group norm which can result in socially alienated gangs with uncontrolled outlooks.
7 An example of a peer group.jpg (176 KB)


  • They are smaller groups within a society that have unique beliefs, symbols, values, traditions and behaviours. Culture is the common beliefs, values, symbols and traditions that a group of people in a society share. Thus a sub-culture is developed from a main culture.
  • Members of a sub-culture have a distinct way of dressing, or a distinct taste of music but these originate from what the whole society shares.
  • Youths mainly associate themselves with a sub-culture for example.
  • However a sub-culture is not completely different from other members of a society.
8 example of sub-cultures.jpg (164 KB)

B. Cultural Experience and Conceptions of Reality

i. Language

  • Language development is a process developed throughout life. It is through language that individuals use to express their knowledge and feelings revealing who they are.


  • It is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to any other cultural group. Everyone learns ethnocentrism while growing up.
  • It is the thinking that your ethnic group is the best for example Pakistanis say they are brave, faithful and hardworking as compared to any other ethnic group.
9 Ethnocentrism within societies.jpg (206 KB)

The problem of ethnocentrism
  • It produces tight boundaries among different social groups; this means that inter-group relations are vulnerable due to prejudice against other groups hence slowing social relations.
  • The prejudice created results in conflict and tension among cultural or ethnic groups.
  • It limits an individual in a small social group to remain in the limits of the group and is not influenced by the general social changes happening around him in the society at large hence remains backward. Thus discourage cultural change.
  • National development is slowed down due to tension and divided thinking.

ii. Comparative studies

  • Cultural differences in concepts of childhood and adolescence. Culture plays an important role in influencing childhood and adolescence development and what is considered normal. It varies from culture to culture. Age at which one can start going to school differs across nations and cultures. The age at which an individual becomes independent from parental guidance differs from culture to culture.
  • Cultural differences in concepts of normal sex-roles and gender differences. A gender role is a set of societal norms dictating what types of behaviours are generally considered acceptable, appropriate, or desirable for a person based on their actual or perceived sex or sexuality. Acceptable behaviours differ from culture to culture. Sex roles are culturally constructed hence change from culture to culture since cultures are dynamic.
  • Cultural differences in concepts of beauty and ugliness. Beauty is socially constructed according to time and space meaning its definition differs from culture to culture. Beauty has been traditionally counted among the ultimate values, goodness, truth and justice among the Greek people. Beauty pageants define beauty in terms of facial and physical feature. In Zimbabwe there is Mr Ugly pageant that is there to identify and crown the ugliest man. Beauty is said to be in the eyes of the beholder meaning that is if one does not see beauty there is ugliness.

iii. Ethnocentric thinking

  • The word ethno is derived from Greek and refers to a nation, or cultural grouping, and centric comes from Latin and refers the centre.
  • The term ethnocentrism therefore refers to the practice of comparing cultures and automatically finding other cultural practices to be second-rate.
  • Ethnocentrism is universally practiced in all known societies, in all groups and in all individuals.
  • History for example, is often imparted to glorify the achievements of one's own nation, religious and the civic ridicule their opponents openly.
Examples of ethnocentrism include:

Hitler thought that Jews, as well as people belonging to some other communities were all inferior to his ethnicity, and did not deserve to live and had many people killed in concentration camps. Ethnocentrism is always portrayed in movies and other sources of entertainment but usually portrayed in a comical manner.

1. Stereotyping

  • Stereotyping is an over generalized or overstated belief that all members of a certain group act and think in the same manner.
  • Stereotyping forms the basis for prejudice and discrimination and most people use it in justifying discrimination and racism.
  • Noting the above explanations, one can note that stereotyping is an example of ethnocentrism where one sees other social or cultural groups.
  • Examples of stereotypes include, Jews are stingy, African Americans are good at sports and Muslims are terrorists.
  • Stereotyped groups are often looked down upon and hostility is often in play.
10 Stereotyping.jpg (172 KB)

2. The existence of differences in power

Types of power
  • Economic power: refers to the measurement of the ability to control events by virtue of material advantage. In other words it is the power to produce and trade what one has produced.
  • Social power: is based upon informal community opinion, family position, righteousness, prestige and patterns of ingesting and lifestyles. Max Weber placed special emphasis on the importance of social power, which often takes priority over economic interests.
  • Political power: is based upon the relationships to the legal structure, party affiliation and extensive bureaucracy. Political power is institutionalized in the form of large-scale government bureaucracies. One of the persistent ideas has been that they are controlled by elites, that is, small, select, privileged groups.
Differences brought by power
  • The different types of power bring in social differences to the people who process it. Those with political power have the ability to influence decisions in society above the other members of society. Political power is usually viewed as sweet and prone to abuse. Those in authority can use it to their own advantage.
  • Those with economic power can control many events due to the power they have economically.
  • Those people who have social power can be very powerful since they are liked by the society and these people can end up elected for leadership positions.