As a growing individual there is a constant tension between individuation, the need to feel unique, and belonging, the need to be an integral part of a larger structure.

Being a member of a society comes at a very heavy cost. It requires to :

  • adhere to misunderstood rules that often seem arbitrary (e.g. an outdated legal system with rules invented generations ago)
  • feel like a replaceable part of a larger structure (e.g. having to fit within well defined case during tax declaration)
  • feel detached from the overall decision process (e.g. taking part to elections but nearly always as a voter, not as somebody who can be elected)
  • feel a heavy normalization process where one behavior is deemed valued and another wasteful or worst, detrimental (e.g. illegal same sex marriage until the XXIst century)
  • feel like the overall structure is not that strong (e.g. unavailability to handle systemic problems like climatic instability)

Because of such pressure most individuals have will at least at some point in their life feel a desire to reject society overall or at least become more independent, self sustainable, self reliable. Examples in art and literature are numerous, from Hobbes to Rousseau, from the Unabomber Manifesto to Kafka's The Trial or Thoreau's Walden.

And yet... it is still worth it.

It is still worth it because among the benefits are :

  • having a support system across most dimensions required to survive (e.g. agriculture, medicine, education, research, infrastructure including logistic and communication)
  • the simple beauty of art (e.g. sacred music or sculpture, cf Pieces of Culture)
  • a sense of belonging with psychological validation and check (e.g. plenty of research experiments showcasing the difficulty of maintaining sanity with isolation)

Overall the feeling that one can survive without society stems from both difficulties to interact, everybody who had to respond to a large institution did feel powerless at some point, and also a gross misunderstanding of the complexity required for products and services used in every day life, see for example Thomas Thwaites' How I built a toaster from scratch and before is Leonard Read's I, Pencil.

So the question is not anymore if society in abstract is worth simply because without it nobody is practical able to survive. The question becomes instead within its identified cost and benefits but also yet unidentified ones, where should the boundary lie to be mutually beneficial for the individual and society?

See also