Man is a social being. It is difficult for man to live in isolation. Men always live in various groups and associations. As members of these groups they Act and behave in a certain manner. The behavior of each individual is affected by the behavior of the other. This interaction is the essence of social life. In other words, it is the key factor in all social lives.
Thus, social interaction is the dynamic interplay of men within social structures. It is the basic process through which human nature and social structure develop and are changed.
Social processes have been classified numerously by the sociologists. The fundamental social processes are – interaction, socialization, cooperation, conflict and competition, accommodation and assimilation, etc.
However, the major forms of social interaction are -
These are discussed in details as follows:
Cooperation is one of the fundamental processes of social life. At the same time, cooperation is the most pervasive and continuous of the social processes. It is an integrating activity. It means working together in the pursuit of common interests or common goal.
Green defined cooperation as ” the continuous and common endeavor of two or more persons to perform a task or to realize a goal that is commonly cherished. “
Cooperation is a universal phenomenon. It is so important in the life of an individual that it is difficult to survive without it. Cooperation for human beings is both a psychological and a social necessity.
There are 2 modes of cooperation in a social life –
- Direct cooperation – includes “those activities in which men do like things together ” – play together , worship together , etc.
- Indirect cooperation – is found wherever people perform unlike tasks towards a single end – like where there is a division of labor or mass production.
All the progress that mankind has made in various fields is to be attributed to the cooperating spirit of the people. Collective goals in our social life cannot be achieved without cooperation .
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Competition is the most fundamental form of opposition or social struggle. It is a struggle of two or more persons for the same object which is so limited that all cannot share it.
According to Anderson and Parker, “competition is that form of social action in which we strive against each other for the possession of or use of some limited material and non-material good.”
In our society, for instance, there is competition for jobs, for goods, power , social position, fame and all other things one cannot get by mere asking. Thus competition goes on an impersonal manner. The eye is on the goal or reward rather than the competitors.
Competition therefore, exists everywhere, but appears in many ways. It varies as to scope, intensity and type from one system to another. It performs many useful functions in our society.
Competition tends to stimulate economy, efficiency, and inventiveness. It tends to increase one’s ego and to give one satisfaction. Since competition rests upon a set of rules, it creates respect for the ruling of the game.
Conflict is as ever-present process in human relations. Conflict is universal and occurs in all places and at all time. There has never been a time or a society in which some individuals or groups did not come into conflict .
Conflict therefore, expresses itself in thousands of ways and degrees and over every range of human contact.
A.W. Green defines conflict as ” the deliberate attempt to oppose, resist or coerce the will of another or others .
Darwin states that – “the principles of struggle for existence and survival of the fittest are the main causes of conflict .”
Mac Iver and Page defined conflict as – that form of struggle in which “men contend against one other for any object . “
Conflict generally occurs due to individual differences, cultural differences, clash of interests and social changes. Conflict serves as constructive and positive ends. In corporate conflicts – that is, between groups and societies, solidarity and fellow-feelings are increased. But conflict in its extreme form brings war and destruction of lives and property.
If conflict goes on for an indefinite period, our social life becomes unbearable. Hence, attempts are always made for the resolution of conflicts. Accommodation means resolution of conflict by adjusting oneself to the new environment.
According to Mac Iver and Page, ” The term accommodation refers particularly to the process on which man attains a sense of harmony with his environment. “
Accommodation is the term used by the sociologists to describe the process by those once in conflict who an work together in common enterprises. It brings arrangements which permit groups to work together.
A structure of interdependent roles arises and organizes people in ways which permit them to live and Act in spite of differences in latent hostility. Thus, the social order arises through the process of accommodation.
Accommodation is thus, the basis of all social organizations.
Assimilation is the process whereby persons and groups acquire the culture of the other persons and groups in which they come to live – by adopting its attitudes and values and its way of life.
Assimilation is therefore, another form of interaction which cannot be neglected in the social process. But the same time , the extreme differences in cultural background, prejudice and physical differences usually Act as barriers to assimilation.