In “Society” (1934), George Herbert Mead describes his vision towards an ideal society. He feels that through the “universal society” an individual is able to access his full potential while helping the advancement of the community at large. Mead describes the role of each society in creating a universal whole as a macrocosm to how an individual must relate to the society in which he lives. Just like the individual must use significant symbols and self conscious control of action to communicate and create meaning, each society must use this self conscious control of action to create a cooperative social unity. In order for there to be a universal democracy, each society must put the thoughts and ideas of other societies before their own. There must be recognition of the effects of one’s actions and future consequences on other people or societies.
Mead felt this idea, although necessary for creating a universal democracy, could not impede on the individuals need for expression. The problem is how could one balance the two? How can a democratic society which requires one to silence himself and put the needs of others before himself coexist with an environment that promotes individual expression? Mead answers this dilemma by describing “functional superiority.” In functional superiority the individual or group is able to “develop a superior sense of self while recognizing that one’s unique contribution is made possible only through willing relation with others.” Individual potential and expression is achieved in a democratic setting only when the intention is to help and benefit the group, with no agenda to dominate over it.
An example of a Universal Community given in our book is the United Nations. This assembly is the perfect portrayal of a universal community because it involves countries coming together for the sole purpose of unifying and working towards the betterment of the world at large. “Each community recognizes every other community in the very process of asserting itself.” Each society is represented and unifies to create policies for a functional universal society.
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