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GRE Issue Topic: Understanding a society by studying the major cities

oargaruna 1 / -  
Jun 13, 2014   #1
Issue topic: To understand the most important characteristics of a society, one must study its major cities.

Major Cities Through Societies

If a society is viewed as a living organism, it can have said to evolve over thousands of years from the era of the cave dwellers. From humble beginnings in villages, societies have evolved into a one of the most complex structures on the planet. Major cities are home to most of the population of the planet and though it is a good resource available for one who is keen to understand any society, it is not the only source. For a society to be well understood one must study its origins. Considering all the facts presented below, I disagree with the statement that a society can be understood only by studying major cities, though they do provide valuable insights.

Major cities of the world, such as, New York, New Delhi, Paris, London, contain a large number of people and consequently a large number of societies. To study a society in isolation a city is a good place to begin. It is often seen that societies tend to cluster together. This might be because they feel safer around familiar faces, listening to words spoken in a familiar tongue. Interactions between its members contains a wealth of information to understand a society. The structure of a household is one example. By studying several households, we can determine whether the head of the family is a matriarch or a patriarch. Korean families, for instance, are ruled by a matriarch while the opposite is true Indian families.

Interactions between societies can also be well studied in cities. To give a rather negative example, communal clashes shed light on the simmering anger brought to boil when societies fight each other. But why they fight is another story and cannot be studied in cities alone and requires an understanding of their origins and histories and traditions.

A society's origin and history contains answers to many questions. For instance, what is the major profession in a society? To give an example, the Marwaris of Gujarat, India, are known to be business-savvy tradesmen and entrepreneurs. Though there are outliers, majority of the society is in the business of running businesses. The answer to this question can be found in the caste system followed in ancient Vedic India. The entire Indian society was divided into four castes, one of them were the Vaishyas, or tradesmen and skill-workers (such as blacksmiths and goldsmiths). The Marwaris of modern India have descended from the Vaishyas and continue the tradition of their ancestors.

Societies are a mosaic and their traditions another colourful segment in it. Traditions and festivals serve to act as a reminder of their origins and a reinforcement of their beliefs. The annual festival of Pongal in Southern India not only celebrates the arrival of Spring and a bountiful harvest, but also the profession of all the farmers, reminding societies of their inter-dependence.

In conclusion, it would be an incomplete study if one only observed societies in major cities. It needs to be supplemented by understanding the society's history and traditions it follows. One cannot get the complete picture only by studying the leaves of a tree without its roots.

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