Theories of Society

Society has been "explained" by different paradigms based in part on underlying ideas about how human beings interact with one another, what they seek in the social setting, and what they have to give up in order to be in a social setting. Three such theories of society can be found with reference to the basis of society: a society based on order and love as exemplified by Plato; a society based on social contract and rights as seen in the writings of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau; and a society based on conflict and economics as seen in Marx.

Plato expresses his views on society at greatest length in The Republic in which Socrates speaks of the relationship between the individual human soul and the society of which the individual is a part. The dialogue in this instance is designed to make a moral statement about the nature of the state and its relationship to the individual. Socrates says at the outset:

. . .we are bound to admit that the elements and traits that belong to a state must also exist in the individuals that compose it. There is nowhere else for them to come from (Lee, 1987, 209).

Socrates has already noted that the state has three natural constituents, wisdom, courage, and self-discipline, and he wants to show that these same three forces are to be found in the human soul:

. . . we shall expect to find that the individual has the same three elements in his personality and to be justified in using the same language of him because he is affected by the s



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