Social vs Societal
Social is a very commonly used word in English language. The word is derived from Latin socii, which means allies. We all know that it basically refers to the world around us and our interactions and coexistence with other human beings. Man is referred to as a social animal, and he cannot live in isolation. Whether we are aware of our interactions or they are involuntary, the fact remains that, though the word is an adjective, it has given way to so many studies and concepts that it is better treat it as a process or a bundle of processes that go on unabated wherever there is a human population living in an area. There is another word societal that sounds and means similar to social. This is confusing for many, as social is much more common and societal is used mainly by writers and sociologists. There are similarities in the two words, but the two are not synonymous as will be clear after reading this article.
We keep on harping on social issues, social justice, social equality, and so on without pausing for a moment, to ask ourselves the definition of the word social. It seems too simple a task but often we find that we stop after describing the need of a society and the intrinsic nature of the human beings to live in the company of others. The great philosopher and sociologist Karl Marx described human beings as social beings who thrived on interaction and cooperation and could not survive alone. The subject matter of the field of study called sociology is mostly about society made up of human beings but tries to find out the effects of interactions and relationships of both the society as well as individual members of the society.
More recently, the word social has come to imply matters concerning common people and thus we have concepts like social values, social policies and the social fabric of society. Social is often contrasted with private life or affairs of the individuals though there is another word antisocial to describe to people and activities that are disruptive in nature and have the potential to harm the society on the whole.
Societal is an English word that is quite old but was not being used much till a few decades ago. In fact, if one looks at searches conducted on Google, he finds that the word social is miles ahead of the word societal that is more used by authors and philosophers. The word societal implies anything relating or pertaining to society. Thus, we talk about societal values, societal changes, societal threats, and so on. However, the word societal has rather restrictive meaning which is of society or about society. Perhaps this is one reason why societal remains in the background only while social is the world that is being used overwhelmingly by all people around the world.
What is the difference between Social and Societal?
• Social has many different meanings, and one of its meanings where it is used for ‘of or about society’ is what the word societal stands for.
• Societal and social have both derived from the Latin socii, which means allies.
• Social has many connotations as it relates to socialism whereas societal is a neutral word.
• Societal has limited use whereas social has myriad uses such as in social values, social justice, social inequality, and so on.
• Societal has been used lately by authors and sociologists to refer to things pertaining to society.
• A man can be social or not social, but he can never be societal.