Some of the essential elements Of Social Process are as follows:
Social interaction usually takes place in the form of cooperation, competition, conflict, accommodation and assimilation. These forms of social interaction are also designated as social processes. These social processes may, therefore, be described as the fundamental ways in which men interact and establish relationship.
They refer to the repetitive forms of behaviour which are commonly found in social life. MacIver observes, “Social process is the manner in which the relations of the members of a group, once brought together, acquire a certain distinctive character.”
He further explains that it also implies changes from one state of relationship to another, directed up and down, forward or backward, and hence leading towards integration or disintegration. According to Ginsberg, “Social processes mean the various modes of interaction between individuals or groups including cooperation and conflict, social differentiation and integration, development, arrest and decay.”
Social interaction and social process are interrelated. The one cannot be understood without the other. Interaction refers to an action done in response to another action, but when this interaction through repetition leads to a result, it is called a social process. Thus, when the husband and wife are led to help each other out of sympathy or love and this mutual help assumes the form of cooperation it becomes a social process.
According to Gillin ,”By social process we mean those ways of interacting which we can observe when individuals and groups meet and establish system of relationships or what happens when changes disturb already existing modes of life.”
The essential elements of social process are:
(i) sequence of events, (ii) repetition of events, (iii) relationship between the events (iv) continuity of events, and (v) social result.
Society is an expression of different social processes. Social processes are so fundamental to the life of a community that understanding of human society is not possible without their study. Indeed, some sociologists conceive of society as the expression of different social processes or forms of interaction and hold that sociology should concern itself almost exclusively with study of these forms.
Simmel, for instance, remarks that society exists wherever several individuals are in reciprocal relationships and that which constitutes an aggregation of individuals into a society is not their life-content, but their reciprocal influences. The said sociologists had consequently devoted most of their researches to an analysis of those relationships.
Other sociologists who analysed society mainly in terms of social processes were Ratzenhofer, Tonnies, Vikrant and Von Wiese in Germany and Park, Burgess and Ross in America. Ratzenhofer had maintained that society should be viewed as a social process i.e., in terms of totality of social relationship.
Society, in his view, exists in the form of reciprocal human relationships within a group. Similarly, Simmel viewed society as essentially a social process and Sociology as the discipline concerned with the study of that process. It is thus obvious that it is essential for a student of sociology that he should study the various forms of social processes and their nature, in order to understand social phenomena.
Sorokin and his followers are, however, of the view that social processes should not be constructed to constitute as the only subject matter of Sociology as Sociology is concerned with the study of the whole of the complex social phenomena. It is true that social processes constitute only a part of the subject-matter of Sociology but so immense is their importance that they can rightly be considered to be “the be-all and end-all of sociology.”
Forms of Social Processes:
Social processes have been classified numerously by sociologists. According to some sociologists, there are only two forms of social inter-action— conjunctive and disjunctive. Ross in 1905 formulated a list of thirty eight social processes.
Ten years later Blackman and Gillin while adopting Ross’ outline divided social processes into six categories Later, Park and Burgess reduced the list to four fundamental types of interaction viz., competition, conflict, accommodation and assimilation. L. Von Wiese and H. Buker presented a detailed and thoughtful list of social processes classifying them into 650 types.
One reason for the multiplicity of classification of social processes is the variety of view-points from which the classifications have been made. Thus some classifications classify social behaviour upon the basis of (1) their intrinsic nature; others upon the basis of (2) the inherent drives, instincts, interests, desires or purpose of the actor; and still others upon the basis of (3) the observable behaviours upon which observers can agree. We shall, however, be concerned only with the fundamental types, i.e., cooperation, competition, conflict, accommodation and assimilation.
Interaction usually occurs in the form of above mentioned social processes. It may, however be understood that interaction is a subtle, complex and dynamic thing. It can never be totally identified with one social process to the exclusion of all others.
Any concrete situation always contains more than one process. There is no co-operating group which will not contain conflict. There is no conflict which will not have some hidden basis of compromise. There is no competition which cannot claim some contribution to’ a large co-operative cause.