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This is a very good question. One of the greatest insight from the study of sociology is that we are all social beings who are influenced by our society in great ways. Peter Berger, my favorite sociologist, gives us a nice summary of how society influences people. Let me give you his social theory in summary form.
- Externalization is the innate or congenital impulse within humanity to create order in the world. Externalization can be considered as a world-building desire.
- Objectivation is the world that people create. The world is seen to have a life of its own apart from those who created it. The irony, of course, is that the world only appears to be “objective; ” in truth, people have created it.
- Internalization is the process whereby the “objective” world, as experienced by people, is internalized. In turn, the world shapes the structures of human thought.
- Institutions are those elements in society that are so taken for granted that they become patterns – patterns of thought, behavior, and discourse. Institutions, therefore, have the sense of objectivity and are coercive in that they seek social control.
In view of these points, it is very clear that we not only create society, but society presses upon us and influences us. Let me give you some examples.
- Through media, people's opinions are shaped. For example, 24 hour news created a feeling of fear and this is one of the reasons why we went to war in Iraq.
- Again through media, people are swayed in almost every area, such as politic. This is why politicians spend so much money advertising.
- Religion is also largely dictated by society. For instance, if you life in a place like Saudi Arabia, you will be a monotheist. This will be commonsense to you. However, if you like in a place like New York, you will probably have very different ways. This shows the power of society in shaping religious opinions.
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