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The term social refers to a characteristic of living organisms (humans in particular, though biologists also apply the term to populations of other animals). It always refers to the interaction of organisms with other organisms and to their collective co-existence, irrespective of whether they are aware of it or not, and irrespective of whether the interaction is voluntary or involuntary
Volition (psychology)
Volition or will is the cognitive process by which an individual decides on and commits to a particular course of action. It is defined as purposive striving, and is one of the primary human psychological functions...

.

Definition


In the absence of agreement about its meaning, the term "social" is used in many different senses and regarded as a fuzzy concept
Fuzzy concept
A fuzzy concept is a concept of which the content, value, or boundaries of application can vary according to context or conditions, instead of being fixed once and for all....

, referring among other things to:

Attitudes
Attitude (psychology)
An attitude is a hypothetical construct that represents an individual's degree of like or dislike for something. Attitudes are generally positive or negative views of a person, place, thing, or event— this is often referred to as the attitude object...

, orientations, or behaviors which take the interests, intentions, or needs of other people into account (in contrast to anti-social
Anti-social behaviour
Anti-social behaviour is behaviour that lacks consideration for others and that may cause damage to society, whether intentionally or through negligence, as opposed to pro-social behaviour, behaviour that helps or benefits society...

 behaviour) has played some role in defining the idea or the principle. For instance terms like social realism, social justice, social constructivism
Social constructivism
Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructionism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings...

, social psychology and social capital imply that there is some social process involved or considered, a process that is not there in regular, "non-social" realism, justice, constructivism, psychology, or capital.

The adjective "social" is also used often in political
Politics
Politics is a process by which groups of people make collective decisions. The term is generally applied to the art or science of running governmental or state affairs, including behavior within civil governments, but also applies to institutions, fields, and special interest groups such as the...

 discourse, although its meaning in a context depends heavily on who is using it. In left-wing circles
Left-wing politics
In politics, Left, left-wing and leftist generally refer to support for social change to create a more egalitarian society...

 it is often used to imply a positive characteristic, while in right-wing circles
Right-wing politics
In politics, Right, right-wing and rightist generally refer to support for a hierarchical society justified on the basis of an appeal to natural law or tradition. To varying degrees, the Right rejects the egalitarian objectives of left-wing politics, claiming that the imposition of equality is...

 it is generally used to imply a negative characteristic. It should also be noted that, overall, this adjective is used much more often by those on the political left than by those on the political right. For these reasons, those seeking to avoid association with the left-right political debates often seek to label their work with phrases that do not include the word "social". An example is quasi-empiricism in mathematics
Quasi-empiricism in mathematics
Quasi-empiricism in mathematics is the attempt in the philosophy of mathematics to direct philosophers' attention to mathematical practice, in particular, relations with physics, social sciences, and computational mathematics, rather than solely to issues in the foundations of mathematics...

 which is sometimes labelled social constructivism
Social constructivism
Social constructivism is a sociological theory of knowledge that applies the general philosophical constructionism into social settings, wherein groups construct knowledge for one another, collaboratively creating a small culture of shared artifacts with shared meanings...

 by those who see it as an unwarranted intrusion of social considerations in mathematical practice,

Modern uses


In contemporary society, "social" often refers to the redistributive
Redistribution (economics)
Redistribution of wealth is the transfer of income, wealth or property from some individuals to others caused by a social mechanism such as taxation, monetary policies, welfare, nationalization, charity, divorce or tort law. Most often it refers to progressive redistribution, from the rich to the...

 policies of the government which aim to apply resources in the public interest
Public interest
The public interest refers to the "common well-being" or "general welfare." The public interest is central to policy debates, politics, democracy and the nature of government itself...

, for example, social security
Social security
Social security is primarily a social insurance program providing social protection or protection against socially recognized conditions, including poverty, old age, disability, unemployment and others. Social security may refer to:...

. Policy concerns then include the problems of social exclusion
Social exclusion
Social exclusion is a concept used in many parts of the world to characterise contemporary forms of social disadvantage. Dr. Lynn Todman, director of the Institute on Social Exclusion at the Adler School of Professional Psychology, suggests that social exclusion refers to processes in which...

 and social cohesion
Social cohesion
Social cohesion is a term used in social policy, sociology and political science to describe the bonds or "glue" that bring people together in society, particularly in the context of cultural diversity. Social cohesion is a multi-faceted notion covering many different kinds of social phenomena...

. Here, "social" contrasts with "private
Privacy
Privacy is the ability of an individual or group to seclude themselves or information about themselves and thereby reveal themselves selectively...

" and to the distinction between the public and the private (or privatised) spheres, where ownership relations define access to resources and attention.

The social domain is often also contrasted with that of physical nature, but in sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 analogies are drawn between humans and other living species in order to explain social behavior
Social behavior
In physics, physiology and sociology, social behavior is behavior directed towards society, or taking place between, members of the same species. Behavior such as predation which involves members of different species is not social...

 in terms of biological
Biology
Biology is a natural science concerned with the study of life and living organisms, including their structure, function, growth, origin, evolution, distribution, and taxonomy. Biology is a vast subject containing many subdivisions, topics, and disciplines...

 factors. The term "social" is also added in various other academic sub-disciplines such as social geography
Social geography
Social geography is the branch of human geography that is most closely related to social theory in general and sociology in particular, dealing with the relation of social phenomena and its spatial components. Though the term itself has a tradition of more than 100 years, there is no consensus on...

, social psychology
Social psychology
Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

, social anthropology
Social anthropology
Social Anthropology is one of the four or five branches of anthropology that studies how contemporary human beings behave in social groups. Practitioners of social anthropology investigate, often through long-term, intensive field studies , the social organization of a particular person: customs,...

, social philosophy
Social philosophy
Social philosophy is the philosophical study of questions about social behavior . Social philosophy addresses a wide range of subjects, from individual meanings to legitimacy of laws, from the social contract to criteria for revolution, from the functions of everyday actions to the effects of...

, social ontology, social statistics
Social statistics
Social statistics is the use of statistical measurement systems to study human behavior in a social environment. This can be accomplished through polling a particular group of people, evaluating a particular subset of data obtained about a group of people, or by observation and statistical...

 and social choice theory
Social choice theory
Social choice theory is a theoretical framework for measuring individual interests, values, or welfares as an aggregate towards collective decision. A non-theoretical example of a collective decision is passing a set of laws under a constitution. Social choice theory dates from Condorcet's...

 in mathematics.

See also

  • Phronetic social science
    Phronetic social science
    Phronetic social science is an approach to the study of social – including political and economic – phenomena based on a contemporary interpretation of the Aristotelian concept phronesis, variously translated as practical judgment, common sense, or prudence. Phronesis is the intellectual virtue...

  • Sociology
    Sociology
    Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

  • Social neuroscience
    Social neuroscience
    Social neuroscience is an interdisciplinary field devoted to understanding how biological systems implement social processes and behavior, and to using biological concepts and methods to inform and refine theories of social processes and behavior. Humans are fundamentally a social species, rather...

  • Social psychology
    Social psychology
    Social psychology is the scientific study of how people's thoughts, feelings, and behaviors are influenced by the actual, imagined, or implied presence of others. By this definition, scientific refers to the empirical method of investigation. The terms thoughts, feelings, and behaviors include all...

  • Social support
    Social support
    Social support can be defined and measured in many ways. It can loosely be defined as feeling that one is cared for by and has assistance available from other people and that one is part of a supportive social network...

  • Social undermining
    Social undermining
    Social undermining is the opposite of social support. For example, in the context of the workplace, it refers to intentional offenses aimed at destroying another's favorable reputation, their ability to accomplish their work, or their ability to build and maintain positive relationships.-See also:...


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