The whole is the sum total of its parts. Individuals and groups are the basic building blocks of any society. The nature of wider society thus reflects the attributes of its constituent parts.
ut it is also the other way around. Features of a particular society, impact on its constituent parts, namely, individuals and groups. In other words, what we observe here is a symbiotic relationship between the individual and the wider society.
Today, many people talk about a global society. This is because human societies across the world have become increasingly integrated due to globalisation and associated phenomena.
Consequently, many people do not remain confined to their national territorial boundaries but travel to far-away lands for diverse purposes like education and employment and even to settle down permanently.
As a consequence, many countries in all parts of the world have become socially and culturally diverse. While in some countries, such diversity is increasingly appreciated by both host communities as well as migrants, in others, the results are not as positive as rising tensions, differences and even conflicts tend to undermine peace, stability and order.
Increasing global integration has also brought global cultural diversity into sharp focus, often resulting in great controversy as is clearly evident in the area of Human Rights.
Today, some traditional ideas of social, cultural and political order are increasing in conflict with modern liberal ideas of individual rights, social entitlements and political organisation. Much of the political violence we witness today in different parts of the world is the result of the above incongruence. Persistent conflicts usually lead to social disorganisation. Families and communities are displaced, at times permanently, destroying long established livelihoods, property relations, human bonds and social relationships.
Broken families hinder physical and intellectual development of children, while often depriving them of other entitlements like education.
Conflicts also lead to disorganisation at a societal level, when vital institutions become dysfunctional.
In conflict situations, security establishments come to forefront, often relegating other institutions to a secondary position. Once established, a massive security apparatus consuming a significant part of public finances cannot be easily scaled back to create more space for other vital social sectors to flourish. As a result, quality of other services continues to decline, making life more difficult for almost everybody. Economy stagnates, leading to a whole range of adverse consequences such as unemployment, poverty, inflation and poor social infrastructure. Many people find their way out, and those who are left behind naturally have to endure all sorts of hardships.
Today, climate change related adverse environmental conditions are pervasive and can affect any country or territory across the world at any time. Yet, people living in some parts of the world also have a double burden due to poor economic, social and political conditions prevailing there.
So, when a massive natural disaster strikes, affected people often become totally helpless and miserable. Their houses and livelihoods destroyed, the displaced become totally dependent on handouts for long periods of time.
"Their savings are continually wiped out by episodes of illness, natural disasters, and acquisition of transport equipment like motor cycles."
As is well known, the world has become not only more integrated over time but also more unequal. Though some of the less developed countries have become economically more prosperous in recent years, most of the developing countries still remain economically and socially underdeveloped.
It is this visible inequality that persuades many people to migrate overseas looking for greener pastures. Though some of the migrants from developing to the developed countries are highly skilled and find well paid jobs, others have neither a good education nor marketable skills.
The latter end up doing precarious work. This is true not just in the Middle East but also in many developed countries in Europe and elsewhere.
Migrant workers, who provide domestic and other personal services overseas, often leave their families behind for extended periods of time. In most cases, their own lives and those of their family members become highly disorganised, resulting in many adverse consequences. This often means that these workers help their hosts to lead orderly and stable lives while their own lives and those of their family members are disorganised, precarious and unstable.
Stable, prosperous and peaceful societies in the world are the products of both historical circumstances and relatively more recent developments. For instance, political and social reforms in Europe inspired by progressive ideas emanating from philosophical and social analyses as well as social and political movements led to the formation of social and political systems broadly capable of meeting both societal and individual needs.
In some of these countries, the State extracted the social surplus and managed it through a plethora of institutions to meet the demands of citizens, be it public transport, education, health, social protection, common public space, child welfare and women’s rights.
The development of similar social and political systems in the rest of the world has been uneven and, people in most countries around the world have not been able to find effective collective solutions to their existential problems. While the State has no control over much of the national wealth, even the small part of the surplus extracted by the State is not efficiently used to meet societal and individual needs due to corruption, wastage and poorly managed institutions. The result is that the people are left to their own devices. While the rich use their wealth to engage in conspicuous consumption, living in massive villas and driving around obscenely expensive cars, the poor and the low income groups have a hard time in meeting their basic needs.
Some poor people work as servants in rich households for a pittance.
Many developing countries are trapped in a vicious circle of underdevelopment, lower social surplus, poor governance, social and political instability and the exodus of people, including the highly skilled.
These countries often do not have effective States and efficient public institutions. The result is increasing social disorganisation. While ordinary people continue to struggle to find their own way to organised life, their efforts often produce the opposite. This is clearly evident from the lives of migrant workers, informal sector workers, domestic servants and squatters in large cities.
Children in these families often do not have access to good educational opportunities and end up in the same situation as their parents. Many of the lower and lower middle class people belonging to the above categories often have no opportunities to better their socio-economic status due to the prevailing structure of the economy.
Their savings are continually wiped out by episodes of illness, natural disasters, and acquisition of transport equipment like motor cycles. In many cases, men are addicted to alcohol. What is disturbing is that these people constitute a very large segment of the population in Sri Lanka.