If you go through the study of classical history and Anthropology you would see that people used to live together very closely, eat together, and fight together during the war. More accurately primitive societies were collective in their every activity; for instances: hunting-gathering societies used to go for a hunt with the strong members of the tribe, they fight collectively when they were in conflict with another tribe. As civilization moves on people become less collective, less dependent on others especially people self-centric.
Sociology often analyzes the upper mentioned subject matter with an extensive focus on society. Some classical and modern theorists focused extensively on collective actions while studying society and social relations. For instance: Durkheim, Tonnies, and Gramsci. Starting from the analysis of Classical theorist Emile Durkheim, who first introduced the concept of “conscience collective” implies the set of shared beliefs, ideas, and morality which function as a unifying force within society. He called society as “sui generis” or unique of its kind. Society is the collection of individuals with norms, values, and culture but when society is formed individuals are forced to obey the norms and values or in others means norms and values are constraining for human action. Because of norms and values, people live together and obey the rule of society. Individuals are free from society, rather society controls human behavior.
Based on the type of society Durkheim divided “conscience collective” or solidarity (that he termed later) into two types. 1. Mechanical Solidarity, 2. Organic Solidarity. Mechanical solidarity persisted in the ancient societies, or we can say it refers to kind of solidarity usually prevails in the village. Where people do the same types of activities so they are dependent on each other. They have a strong connection, socially integrated. They usually have common values and beliefs that bind them in a close relation of kinship or like.
Another type of society which Durkheim termed as Organic Solidarity which portrays much of modern society where people are not united like they were in traditional societies rather unity based on a division of labor and as a result, people are dependent on each other. People are not collective for their close relationships with other members of society. In modern societies, people are driven by “interest”, which came from the analysis of human behavior by classical economist and Social Psychologists. Durkheim argued that in modern societies collectivity has taken another face. People are not collective like they were previously, rather a division of labor separates people from each other and created new types of solidarity. This is my main focus of analysis. Why people are becoming so much self-centric that they care less about others in society!
Before moving to Social psychology to understand human behavior, first, we would analyze the theory of Tonnies who talked much like Durkheim. He talked about the dichotomy of Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft to analyze the social ties in society. Gemeinschaft or community refers to type society which is organized with personal ties, and interactions in this type of society are personal in nature. This kind of interactions and social ties were driven by emotions and sentiments along with a sense of moral obligation to the community people. This type of society portrays the picture of rural societies or pre-modern societies.
As modernization began in the 19th century, Social ties and relationships changed drastically. Now Gemeinschaft is replaced by Gesselschaft or society. This type of society is not organized by emotions or sentiments rather by impersonal and indirect social ties. Interactions are no longer personal. This implies that the sense of belonging in a community and obligation toward that vanished and replaced by impersonal relationships.
Now move to Social psychology, why people do not care about the others, as they did earlier in Mechanical and Gemeinschaft! I’m going to discuss Exchange theory given by behavioral sociologist George Homans. Exchange theory talked much about the rationale of human behavior. Human action is motivated by satiation principle or reward. The reward associated with an action determine whether or not people or commit an action. Homans thinking mostly derived from the analysis of BF Skinner, a behaviorist. We try to be benefitted in our every action that’s before doing an action we look for the reward or material benefits. He integrated neo-classical economics in his theory, who usually assumed that people are driven by material interest.
The more benefit an action can bring, we tend to commit or continue the action despite it might hurt others. As long as our satisfaction is satiated we don’t care about others much. When reward associated with the action is stopped we stopped doing that. This implies that we are very selfish in our everyday life. We only care about our benefits, do not bother about others in society. We live collectively so that others can bring us benefit. So we don’t live collectively out of moral obligation. Morality comes second after our interests.
Let’s apply Exchange theory in modern Society. You see the young generation these days are reluctant about what is happening in the outer world. Like if you ask someone to be sad about any incident, they will reply- so what? or I will be sad for someone or something that is out of my interest! You might also notice that the norms and values among the new generation become so weak, they usually do not bother about what is moral what is immoral in society because moral values have nothing to do with his material interest. Like respecting elders, donating poor usually has no material benefits. Being immoral and reluctant to social behavior, young people become isolated from society or at least they stop caring about the community they live in.
In urban areas, you used to see that people don’t know their next-door neighbors, why? Because social ties become so impersonal, interacting with next door neighbors won’t bring any benefits. As long as we need something from others we are dependent on them. For example; for buying accessories we need to interact with shopkeepers, for being recuperated we need to see doctors, forgetting job we need to interact with experienced people, for chilling we need friends, for getting degree we need professors, etc. Except these, we care less about what happens to others, cause we don’t need to worry about them as we have no benefit there.
That is exactly why the era of “don’t care” began in the 21st century. Who care less about the world and more about themselves.
- This Article is Written by Arifur Rahman, Bangladesh University