The society refers to a group of people living together. There are elements that are crucial for interaction and creation of a society. These are the actor, mind, symbols, significant others, reference groups, past experiences, perspectives, interests and goals. This essay will define and describe these elements.
An actor is the “self” or “individual” who does something in the society. This individual member uses his mind to understand the symbols in the society. Besides, the actor uses his mind to relate with significant others. As a result, he forms opinions of the society. The perspectives of the actor arise from experiences and the reference groups the he cherishes. These lead the actor to come up with individual interests and goals that he pursues to the end. Let us take the case of Martin Luther King, Jr. to explain the description of an actor. King grew up in Atlanta, Georgia. His interactions with members of the society made him think of the racial disparities that existed at that time. King had personal experiences of racial discrimination. For instance, he had to attend a different school from that of his childhood white friend (Frady 15). This informed King’s future actions against racial discrimination.
The mind is the element of the self that enables one to become aware of the environment and experiences around him (Jenkins 15). The mind enables one to think and feel. Using King’s example, the mind made him acknowledge the racial disparity in the United States of America. King wanted to make meaning out of the segregation of the society according to race. He used his mind to try to comprehend the basis of separation, and, in the end, opined that something was not right. This means that the mind is a particularly crucial part of the actor in defining his relations within the society.
Symbols refer to the things in the society that represent or stand for something else. They are marks or characters that are conventional representation of other objects (Lenski 5). The actor uses the symbols to attach meaning to different phenomena in the society. In King's case, the prominent symbol in the society was the color of one’s skin. The society posited that people with white skin were superior to people with black skin. The American society widely accepted the symbolism that segregation of the two races was acceptable. However, the actor, King, used his mind to question the symbolism. King established that there was the need to redefine the societal symbols.
“Significant others” refer to the people who are crucial to one’s life. These may be family, spouses, friends, and/or people who influence one’s opinion. As a result, teachers, scholars, leaders, and politicians, among others, may form part of the “significant others”. These people play a crucial role in shaping the actor as they act as a reference point in all endeavors. In King's case, an example of a “significant other” was Mahatma Gandhi. Gandhi was a proponent of the use of non-violent methods in solving crises. At first, King knew about Gandhi’s work from the media. He then decided to read extensively about Gandhi. As a result, King became an ardent follower of Gandhi’s philosophy. Just like Gandhi, King used active non-violence in all his pursuits against racism. This means that the “significant others” play a crucial part in the decisions of the actor.
Let us now look at the reference groups. These refer to the attitudes, behavior, opinions, preferences, values, as well as belief systems of a group of people that the actor uses as a basis for his judgment. For instance, the actor may have a group that he thinks is ideal. This will lead him to strive to change his society to reflect the characteristics of the reference group. In fact, the actor does not have to be a member of the reference group in order to like its characteristics. What is principal is that the actor uses the reference group as a measuring rod of success or failure. Let us elaborate this using King’s example. As we have already said, an example of King’s significant other was Mahatma Gandhi. We can also say that King’s reference group was the independent India. Gandhi had used active non-violence to achieve the independence of India. In effect, India is the only country in the world that gained independence without using war. The success of the non-violent movement in India convinced King that he could use the same techniques to solve the race problem in America. As a result, King saw the Indian society as his reference group.
Besides, experiences of the past are crucial in shaping the way the actor interacts with the society. “Past experiences” refer to the accumulation of knowledge because of participating in events or activities (Lenski 6). This means that an experienced actor is the one that has taken part in the activities of the society and, as a result, knows a lot about it. This knowledge then guides the future activities of the actor. For instance, the actor may decide not to pursue an activity because experience tells him that he will fail. Let us take the case of Martin Luther King, Jr. and his choice of active non-violence. King grew up at a period when the Ku Klux Klan was active (Frady 15). The Klan used violence on black people in order to coerce them into submitting into racial dictates. In fact, King admits knowing several black people executed by the Klan (Frady 16). In addition, during this time, some American blacks reacted to the activities of the Klan by attacking white people and killing them. Thus, King knew from experience that the outcome of violence was violence. This led him to seek other alternatives of solving the racial problem than the use of violence. King realized that the best option to disarm violent aggressors was to react by not using violence. King argued that a violent attack looses meaning if the victims do not violently revenge (Frady 5). This led King to use non-violent activities (like the Montgomery Bus Boycott and the March on Washington) instead of picking guns to fight the violent Ku Klux Klan.
Let us now move on to perspectives. Simply put, a perspective is a mental view. Perspectives refer to ways of looking at situations, facts, opinions, beliefs, and so on, with the aim of judging their relative importance (Jenkins 10). Often, an actor’s perspectives arise from experiences of the past, the influence of significant others, the influence of reference groups, and individual preferences. Adopting a perspective leads the actor to define a situation using his own terms. This personal definition may defer from what the majority in the society think. The process of adopting a perspective entails a comprehensive analysis of the societal phenomenon. The analysis will make the actor move own with his chosen action without fear of reproach whatsoever. Using King’s example, we realize that King adopted the perspective of active non-violence in dealing with the race problem in America. King established that the use of violence only served to propagate the racial animosity. He arrived at this conclusion after he consulted significant others, reference groups, past experiences, his Christian faith, and his “self”. This enabled King to view the racial question from a different perspective from that of the majority members of the society.
Let us now focus on interests. An interest refers to a state of curiosity about something. An actor who is interested is one who attends to something. We should notice that interests arise from the processes described above. This means that an actor’s interactions in the society will define the interests that the actor will have. For instance, experiences of racial disparity in America led Martin Luther King, Jr. to be interested in activism. The symbols in the society (white and black race), significant others (Mahatma Gandhi), reference group (the Indian society), and experiences (violence) led King to take an interest in the active-non violence philosophy. These interests informed the goals of King’s activism. Let us look at these goals.
A goal is an aim. It is the broad objective of an action. Lenski defines a goal as the result of an effort (20). The goal will inform the direction of the stream of action. Once the actor has gone through all the processes described above, he settles on a target (the goal). This target may involve changing the way people live in the society. Taking the example of King, his aim was to end racial prejudice in the society. Another aim was to end interracial violence by using non-violent means. This would bring about the broad goal of harmonious co-existence between whites and blacks in the American society. King achieved these goals, and, as a result, created a society that is free from racial prejudice.
This essay has defined and described the various elements that contribute to social interaction and create the society. The elements are the actor, mind, symbols, significant others, reference groups, past experiences, perspectives, interests and goals. The essay has used Martin Luther King, Jr. to describe the various elements. The last point to note is that the actor is crucial in changing and creating the society.