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The Merriam-Webster dictionary give the definition of a society as:

An enduring and cooperating social group whose members have developed organized patterns of relationships through interaction with one another.
A community, nation, or broad grouping of people having common traditions, institutions, and collective activities and interests.[1]

The general use of the term 'society', in common culture, tends towards the second definition above. Society is often differentiated along geographical/wordview, with terms such as Western society being popular. Society is also differentiated against government, which are two entirely different concepts.

The most irreducible, or bio-historically original, meaning of the term 'society' is to that unit of multiple-human relationship without which there could be no other kinds of multiple-human relationship: male and female, one man and one woman, compatible as mates and as companions. The civil institution of marriage is for the preservation of that unit, within a world in which there exists ontological disharmonies between individuals.

Society vs government

Society and government are not the same thing. One of the clearest authors to make this point is Thomas Paine, who wrote about this common sense idea in his pamphlet Common Sense:

SOME writers have so confounded society with government, as to leave little or no distinction between them; whereas they are not only different, but have different origins. Society is produced by our wants, and government by our wickedness; the former promotes our happiness positively by uniting our affections, the latter negatively by restraining our vices.[2]


  2. Common Sense, page 15.