Man lives in particular geographical space and that he has for his society a definite pattern of economic activities; yet social man is as much the product of his social environment as he is of physical surroundings and economic conditions. The social environment has been equated with his culture and writers like Graham Wallas have termed it as his ‘social heritage’.
According to McIver, man lives under a ‘total environment’, a concept of his ecology that comprehends his total existence. As he lives in the plains or in the hills, and as he engages in agricultural or industrial activities, he lives a life that has been shaped by his social heritage. He is born under it and, in his family; he learns first to get conditioned to customs and practices, beliefs and norms that are of his community.
According to McIver, environment has both its physical and social aspects. A section of the physical environment remains uncontrolled by him, while another part he modifies to his advantages. He improves the soil that he cultivates, domesticates the animal that he uses, and makes tools and equipments suiting his knowledge and technical skill. Urban Space is interesting phenomenon in this regard as it is created as well as constantly altered my Man. Urbanisation is Economic as well as Social Process. A distinction is evident between highly populated space (urban) and less populated space (rural).
The social aspects cover the shape of the community of which we become members, and the norms and standards that we accept as our folkways, mores and customs. Graham Wallas states that, after socialising himself, man takes to his social heritage so closely and intently that, if he were to be removed from it, he would perhaps perish.
The social environment presents to every inividual the problem of adjustment. Primitive man did not find a variety of conditions before him to which he was required to adjust himself; but modern man has a complex social set-up before him which makes greater demands for adjustment.
Features of Social Environment:
The process of adjustment has certain distinct features and they are as follows:
(1) Modern complex society presents problems for the individual that he reacts to the conditions with attitudes of ‘conflict’, to some extent, and of ‘accommodation’. As a result, he is able only partially to adjust himself to the surroundings. Every individual selects for himself only that part of his culture which suits his aptitudes and carefully rejects the rest. Thus, he has the right to choose his own occupation and, to adopt educational, recreational and living conditions that associate themselves with such occupation.
(2) Society is never static; it is always changing from one set condition to another. This factor alone requires man to be ‘dynamic’ in his attitude of ‘adjustment ‘. In the span of one single life, man may have to change from certain conditions to others; and in any developing country, the impact of industrialization is so intense that the individual undergoing the experience has to adjust himself with utmost rapidity.
(3) The efforts required by an individual accustomed to a given environment to adjust himself to a new and unknown environment would raise the question of ‘readjustment’. There may be conditions of political upheaval in a state which would throw out the old establishment and introduce new ideas.
In these conditions, environmental habituation would experience a rude shock, and a consequent readjustment of the individual to the new set-up would become necessary. In India, we have not had the experience of drastic changes in our social conditions and, besides the demands of industrialization no other phenomenon of revolutionary nature has ever affected our society.
But there have been different types of experiences for us which, from time to time, have required a re-adjustment to the new environment. The question of re-adjustment is important when foreigners came to our country’ and with their continued stay here, whether by way of adoption of the country itself or purely for purposes of governance of it, they imported a new culture into the soil.
A generally admitted fact is that whenever a culture enters a country as the ruler’s culture it tends to master over the local one; and this has been true with India and the change in the society would have been complete, but for the fact that the indigenous population here has an innate quality and a capability of negatively resisting anything that is unacceptable. ‘Satyagraha’ is characteristic of this quality of the average Indian.
There are other situations in which the problems of re-adjustment arise. When the rural population changes over to the urban, a revolution takes place in his ways of life and his attitudes. In a city, no person expects that degree of familiarity for him as he would express in favour of his rural fellowman. Next, the general tempo of life in a city is much faster than in a village, the ways of which are noticeably leisurely.
Similarly, when an immigrant enters a country he has to face the problem of readjustment and he must endeavour to feel at home in the country of his adoption.
Some immigrants initially formed themselves into ‘colonies’ either on their own or, as in the case of Negroes, being compelled to do so. Adjustment by the immigrant can take the shape of mere accommodation or it can be complete assimilation with the parent culture, depending upon individual or social aptitudes as well as the standard of reception accorded to him by the host country. In the United States, for instance, the Chinese immigrants faced hostile legislation that adequately discriminated against them and prevented them from becoming one with American Society.
Asia and Africa are troubled by this problem and, in India, there is already some official concern expressed over the ‘brain-drain’ from the country. According to the report, 1.2 million Uruguayans, about 44% of the total population of the country, left their home country because of poverty or repression; and this percentage has been regarded as the world’s highest figure for immigration from one single source.
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