(Latin: socitus, a companion)
A stable union of men cooperating for the attainment of some end beneficial to all.
It is distinguished from any grouping of animals (herds, flocks, swarms) in that it presupposes intelligent and free activities; from temporary groups of men (mobs, crowds) in that it presupposes some permanence and organization of membership; and from other human groupings in which the members remain entirely individualistic in their acts and purposes.
A necessary factor in every society is the presence of authority, whereby the acts of the individuals are properly directed and subordinated to the purposes of the society.
Authority requires the distinction of ruler and subject, the former regulating and the latter being regulated in the exercise of authority.
The first and basic society is the family, in which husband, wife, and children find the fulness of life which their complementary natures require.
Historically and logically this gives rise to the second primary society, the state in which temporal interests are secured which the unassociated individual would not normally be able to attain.
The Church is a perfect society, promoting the welfare of the individual soul, and fulfilling the social duty of worship.
Within and beyond these universal and basic societies are other secondary organizations, as numerous as man's needs and the various ways he has found to satisfy these needs.
They are distinguished by their purposes, e.g., education, recreation, business, or politics, etc.; their method of organization, e.g., oligarchies, democracies, etc.; their territorial limitations, as Utah or Ohio; or by any other distinctive features.
The origin and development of societies have been much studied in connection with the theory of evolution.
Various factors have been invoked to explain social forms, geographical, economic, racial, legalistic, etc.
It is beyond question that all forms of society, including family, church, and state, have been profoundly modified by geographic locale, economic interests, racial and social inheritance.
No one factor will explain all changes, nor is it true that change has always been progress.
A complete theory must include all factors, from the innate instinct for companionship to the rational appreciation of the nature and benefits of organization.
In face of all modern attacks, the classic theory of the nature and workings of societies remains secure.
New Catholic Dictionary