Twentieth century transformed the lives of the people and enabled them to look at themselves more closely in context to their relationship with the society and to themselves. Collaborative efforts of the individuals and the systematic approach of the society raised the waves of new hope, and aspirations producing new knowledge, new markets and new technologies, which in turn contributed towards shaping the human behavior.
Humans are the products of millions of years of evolution and they have embroiled themselves in the complex social structure, which kept on changing with the change in time. The technological and scientific development in the twentieth century shaped the sensibilities of the people displacing the old conventions towards the more positive and empiricist view of their lives towards the conscious area of unexplained motivation leading them towards the path of prosperity and development. Though there is no doubt of the fact that there is lot of influence of the structure of Society on the human thought and behavior but this issue is also not devoid of debates. The topic is a central issue of sociology, which discusses whether the structure of society determines the behavior of individual or is it vice versa. There is three theoretical reasoning to this and some theorists pose the view that as the social existence is determined by the structure of society, the professed agencies of individuals can be explained only when this social structure makes its movement. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2007).
These theoretical systems joined to form structuralism, functionalism and Marxism, other theorists say that this is the ardent capacity of the individual agents that help to reconstruct and reshape the world. Some theorists adopt middle approach. They look at structure and agency as complimentary to each other-social structure influences humans and human’s influences social structures. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2007).
In the twentieth century, technological, medical, social, ideological and political innovation changed the living style of the people altogether. The words like ideology, genocide, nuclear war and world war got inscribed in the hearts of the people (Bernal, Alarid 2002). At one point of time, the humans depended on the larger scale on the nature and the goods provided by nature, but now with the inventions, the necesities of the humans have increased and their goal and pursuit itself took them towards the world of mechanizations. Labor performing manual tasks changed to highly sophisticated scientific mind, inventing and turning the machines to work for them.
Every aspect of human life and personality changed in the twentieth century, and it was for the first time that any individual exerted its influence to change the course of history. The views of the Sceintists from across the world changed, when the discoveries were made on the theory of relativity and quantum physics. With this discovery they realized that, Universe is much more complex than what was believed previously. (Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, 2007). The every day enemies of traditional order and security –the decay of religious faith and moral values, the predominance of purely naturalistic view of the life and man, and last but not the least the change from common stability to the urban atomizing of soceity changed the whole perception and outlook of the human personality. Even the literature exerted a considerable influence on the Society. The whole literature spoke volumes of the predicament, the man was facing when he came face to face with complete change in the social order. Novelistis through their inherent qualities of the whole genre shaped the individual through the complex, pragmatic and fluctuating mileu of the modern world. Writers through the modes and techniques, currents and cross currents of criticism highlighted the delimma faced by the man who were thrust numerous changes on its sole life style and societal prejudices and preceptions. The most important one was social or sociological criticism which took its inspiration from Marxism. Marxists critics not only study these relations between the literature and society, but also have clearly defined conceptions of what these relations should be, both in the present society and also in the future classless society. They tell us not only what were and are the social relations and implications of an author’s work but what they should have been or ought to be. They are not only the students of literature and society but prophets of the future, monitors and propagandists and they have difficulty in keeping these two functions separate.
The changes in the society also brought with it numerous changes in the social values which resulted from the social problems. The world saw the gradual disappearance of the ancient prejudice against theater going, a welcome relaxation of the censorship, a steady rise in the standard of judgement due to the spread of education, increasing margin of leisure in the life of ordinary men and women, a deepening conviction that a certain amount of recreation is the natural right of every human being. All these factors led to the popularity of theatre business which in turn delve upon the society and its behavorial patterns in exerting influence on Individualism.(Theater Museaum, Drama guided tour).
In the twentieth century, Capitalism had the hey day which is a product of upheavals in the society as contradictory to feudal ages when lords owned the means of production and the serfs worked for them. In capitalism, workers produced things which were sold in the market.
In the beginning of this century itself, Paris emerged as the artistic capital of the world, where the French and Foreign writers, composers and visual artists gathered. Media, music and movies, also the products of the combined efforts of the society, changed the trends in fashion of all and sundry which spread like wild fire all over the world. Women too gained political rights in the United States and Europe and due to the invention of the birth control tehniques, women gained more independence. The 1990’ also saw the world that entered into the rooms through televisions and Internet, cutting across all the barriers and thus widenning scope of the youngsters to grow in their career path, and gave us the world in which we are living now. Man is born in the society and lives in the society and it is the society which empowers the human beings and shapes its destiny. Therefore in the recent past, Social Structure has shaped to the considerable degree the behavior of humans towards wider outllook of life and scope and brought the whole world together in one umbrella opening the scope for more and more of inter cultural interactions and of the individuals to change their destiny. This led to the individuals have more freedom, and Independence of thought and movements. Man is now not a slave of society’s perjudices, and has a free will to choose his career path and live the way he wants.
Before twentieth century, the wave was moving towards the society’s predominance tendencies on Individual’s behaviour. Individual had to adopt towards the soceity’s mannerism, thoughts and ideologies. For eg. the Victorian era between 1837 and 1901 was an age of rapid flux and baffling complexity. On one hand, it saw unprecedented growth and development whereas on the other hand, the moral values were forced upon the individuals. As regards sex, the Victorians were extremely prudish. Even a trivial impropriety of dress would send the Victorian Martinets into paroxysms of rage. They were very touchy about sex which they treated with a hush incommodiousness. Even now a days, when a teenager finds her father not very forward in letting her have her own way with her dates, she can be heard complaining, “Oh! I have a Victorian sort of people”.( Watson, 2002). Even too much drinking was also held culpabale in the Victorian era. In this age, the Darwin’s evolutionary doctrine,which traced the descent of human beings from apes, gave a serious blow to Genesis and shook the Christian belief in the immortality of the human soul. ( Southgate, Negas 1999). Needless to say all this caused an Earthquack in the realm of contemporary thinking and brought many an adamant-build edifice tumbling on the ground. Some of the Victorians clung to the old faith and aspersed what they called new fangled opinions, others went to the side of science and turned agnostic.
The greatest effect of Victorian era is on Women. Society demanded women to place themselves in the domestic affairs. The goal of women was marriage, and like a racehorse she was groomed to attract suitable partner for courtship and marriage. She ought to be virtuous and intelligent and must know Italian and French, and should be innocent and dutiful. They were supposed to be weak and helpless, as a delicate flower who is not capable of taking right decisions. In high society, men kept both wives and mistresses, who were expected to be faithful. If women had lovers, they were not to be made public. Men though had independence but they were also not free from society’s prejudices, their behavior, mannerism was all dictated by the Society. (Thomas, Woman’s Place in C19th Victorian History). This year was marked by prudishness, repressive ness, narrow-mindedness and bourgeois materialism.
The Society in Victorian age was divided into three classes: the Church and aristocracy, the middle class, and the working poorer class and each person had to remain in the confines of each class. In the top was aristocracy class, which included the Church and nobility and just had two percent of population and had royal family, lords spiritual and temporal, the clergy, and great officers of state. They were getting lot of privileges and avoided taxes. The middle class constituted factory owners, bankers, shopkeepers, merchants, lawyers, engineers, businessmen, traders, and other professionals. The remaining belonged to the working and labor class. There was division between the upper and lower class of the society. Only the people belonged to the royal class had the right to rule.
As said by Gerturde (1995) in his book, “The De-moralization Of Society: From Victorian Virtues to Modern Values”, the working class the less privileged and very poor class adopted the same moral standards as the middle and even the upper classes observed and this had result in more opportunities for the people in terms of their education, incomes and their rights. Crime rates also fell and urbanization and industrialization made England a more civil, appeasing, humane society.
It is obvious that it is the humans that make a society and when the human notions and ideologies combine, they form society and then the society dictates. This had happened in our historical past, this has happened now and this will be happening in the near future. Individuals need security and the society provides security, therefore Individuals follow the cultural norms of their community. Every culture has their own standards, their own system of working, own cultural, social and political traits, which individual follows and in these traits, any Individuals’ growth depends. If in any society, there is one culture that dominates, then its values are considered as correct. This is what was happening in the Victorian age. (Thomas, 2007)
Even Marx, Engels and their camp followers were of the opinion that whenever there have been major changes in the forms and means of production, the institutions and ideas, values and patterns of thought undergo radical changes. What is good of one age becomes repelling and immoral in another. The ideas are class ideas and those at the helm of affairs impose their ideas upon others. The ideas do not grow in the vacuum. The Marxists fully believe that man can control the material world by producing the necessities of life, the methods of production change, which bring about changes in the social organization as well as ideas.
I fully agree with this statement that in the recent past, the social structures largely shaped human behavior but now individuals have great opportunities to shape their own lives, individual of today can remarry, can perform inter-caste marriage, can work according to their own sweet will but here too it is only the society that has created the situation for the individuals to breathe in free air. It is the society, which is not confined to the enclosed boundaries of their own particular sect but it has reached global.
We, human beings, are becoming conscious as free, inclusive, and egalitarian, but we still exist within the organization, that controls us and moulds us. These organizations are in the form of schools, religious, or other social institutions. The way we are living now and the way we used to live in the past have lot of differences and these differences have been generated from the society only.