society and individuals

“ ‘Society’ and ‘individuals’ do not denote separable phenomena, but are simply collective and distributive aspects of the same thing.” In this aspect of his theory Charles Horton Cooley states that the individual or person is actually a part of a larger individual called society. With that statement I will discuss Cooley’s theory and explain my reaction to the theory.

Cooley states that “ a person’s self grows out of a person’s commerce with others.” Well doesn’t that create a society? A person’s individual self put together with millions of others selves equals a society. So where does an image that society want, come from? One person? In my opinion most individuals are afraid to express their own opinion. Thus creating a “free market” on the opinion. One person comes up with the opinion and the rest of society, if they feel it is not harmful to themselves, goes along with the opinion. This creates separate subculture in society such as the “punk” subculture or the “thug” subculture. Because one person was willing to put spikes in his hair for an outrageous reaction, others followed to express them selves with out being an individual but being an individual “society”. In the “thug” subculture does in make you hard to wear clothes to big? If it does, than how do today’s youth in middle class suburbia sport that style, they have never lived in the ghetto and experienced things like true thugs have. In this manner people’s individual self’s have come from whom they interact with. Supporting Cooley’s theory.

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The only problem with this idea is that it leaves the idea of originality to be an outcast on society. Being different from every one is a call for prejudice, harassment, and being left out of society’s in crowd. We should be able to see a person for their accomplishments and their abilities. Not if the are accepted by society. The theory it self is an outline for and how to make someone an outcast.

If an individual comes a long and is living in society and doesn’t worry about his appearance or materialistic things, is he/she an outcast. By Cooleys theory he/she is an out cast because in his theory he states “ The imagination of our appearance to the other person, the imagination of his judgement of that appearance, and some sort of self-feeling, such as pride or mortification. If this individual doesn’t have or want to acknowledge those principals that means he has to be an outcast for not believing in what the rest of society believes in when in actuality society is the outcast for trying to be like every one else.

Cooley also states that “ If…we say that society is an organism, we mean…that it is a complex of forms of processes each of which is living and growing by interaction with the others, the whole being so unified that what takes place in one part affects all the rest. It is a vast tissue of reciprocal activity.” In this part of his theory he is trying to say that if we deny the chance for your individual to grow we deny our society to grow and vice versa. With this part of the theory I agree. A society is based on individuals. An example of this is teen pregnancy. If you got pregnant in the 1950’s you were considered dirty and an outcast, but as it got more common in society people began to accept it more. Now if you get pregnant it is like oh well. In that aspect changing people and their values has changed society and their values. You can’t change one with out changing the other.

Now with that into consideration, to change society you would just have to change the individuals idea’s, but they get their ideas from society. So how do you change society? Well Cooley said “ Our life is one human whole, and if we are to have any real knowledge of it we must see it as such. If we cut it up it dies in the process.” In this part of the theory I think he is trying to say that dissecting to far into the relationship of an individual and society is just impossible. That while you are looking for the connection you will lose your connection with society, causing you to lose contact with yourself. Life is full of mystery and surprise, to find all the answers would just ruin life. There would be nothing else for you to look for while you live. Life itself is a mystery and wasn’t made for us to understand until the moment when our life flashes before our eyes.

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society and individuals. (2018, Jun 09). Retrieved from