The Society Wheel
Background and purpose
A lot of activities are, as you know, carried out in society by various actors, such as producing food,, cook, provide healthcare,
manufacture healthcare products, communicate information, make laws, borrow (lend) money, create experiences (through art, music etc.), study, teach, research, maintain a defense, fight crime, put out fires, protect ecosystems, distribute energy etc. Each such activity both affects and
is affected by other activities and therefore cannot be studied in isolation. In order to understand how a society functions, you therefore don't only need to have knowledge about individual activities; you must also understand how these are
connected and affect each other. In other words, systems thinking is required, i.e. to consider society as a system or network in which the junctions (nodes) symbolize activities and the threads the connections between them.
Such a thinking is practically non-existent in today's society, which is largely due to the design of the educational system.
Here you rarely ask yourself in which larger whole a activity belongs. The question that is asked is rather this: Into which smaller parts can the activity be divided and analyzed.
This fragmentary way of looking at the world means that anyone who goes through the education system,
from elementary school to college and university, gets a very fragmented and disjointed picture of society. It is for this reason, i.e. to make the picture more coherent, that I Rolf Björnson began to develop a society model,
which I call the Society Wheel.
The model has been online - more specifically on the non-commercial website robiza.se - since 2007 but has been changed and expanded many times since then.
The purpose of the model - together with embedded links to information sources (websites) - is to provide information about a) the activities that are carried out in society by various actors and
b) the connections that exist between these activities. Regarding the former, some form of activity classification is required. A question that I asked myself early on was whether someone else had already done such a classification,
but after various investigations I was able to ascertain that this was not the case. Nor would I have expected anything else in light of the specialization of the educational system. No social science department studies society as a whole
and therefore there has been no need for a activity classification adapted accordingly. This means that I myself have spent a lot of time on this work because I had to start from scratch. However, I realized soon that there is only one
meaningful way to classify activities, namely in terms of their purposes. How the classification is made can be seen from the model description below.
When it comes to clarifying the connections between different activities, we can start by stating
that the number of relations is much greater than the number of activities. Let me take some examples. If the number
of activities is 10 and each activity is connected to each of the other activities, then the number of relations will be 45.
In practice, however, the number of actual relations is usually lower than the number of possible relations since there often are no
direct relations between some of the activities, but this still gives a hint of the complexity. The complexity naturally
grows with the number of activities. If the number is 100, the number of possible relations is 4,950, which would give a
rather messy impression if you tried to draw them on a piece of paper.. If the number of activities is 186, as in the Society Wheel,
the number of relations becomes 17,205, and the drawing now begins to resemble an image of a nervous system. How then
should one go about unraveling the network and describing the relations? I have come to the conclusion that the best way
is to use tables. In each such table, activities of a certain type are entered
along the vertical axis and activities of a different type along the horizontal axis. Information about a certain relationship
is obtained through the links that have been placed in the relevant square. Relation tables of this kind - The Society Wheel contains 38
of them - make it possible to quickly and systematically access requested information. The information provided mainly relates
to Sweden, but to some extent also other countries and international relations.
The Society Wheel is designed to mainly meet the information needs of people who, in their daily work, have to stay informed about
developments in a number of different and interdependent activities, and thereby be able to make better decisions.
The Society Wheel is a self-developed model of society - how it is constructed and interconnected. The model is based on
a classification of the diversity of activities maintained in society by various actors. Information
about these activities and their environment is obtained through links to external websites.
The model differs from virtually all other models of society in the sense that it not only provides
information about different activities separately, but also and primarily the relationships between them.
For example, if you are looking for information about transport and how transport is related to other activities in society, you can first
go to the page "Energy and transport" and find links to companies etc. within the transport industry.
From that page you then move on to the Governance sector if you are interested in political decisions or public administration
regarding transport or to the Protection sector if you want information on environmental or safety issues
concerning transport. If you are looking for information on the industry's dependence on products, capital,
competence or labour, you continue to the sector Supply. The Culture sector, finally, is chosen
if you want to be informed about, for example, travel and tourism or about history and cultural heritage related to transport.
In this way, as I said, not only the transport industry is highlighted but also
its external relations.
The Society Wheel consists of five interdependent main sectors / functions,
named governance, protection, net, supply and culture.
Every sector has a certain purpose in society, namely:
to control/regulate different types of activities (Governance sector).
to protect the individual, the environment and society as a whole against
different kinds of threats and strains (Protection sector).
to transmit information from a transmitter to a receiver or to transport physical
objects from one place to another (Net sector).
to provide different actors with demanded resources (Supply sector).
to satisfy people's needs for news, experiences and community / identity
In order to illustrate the mutual dependencies that exist between the sectors, these have been
placed in a figure picturing a wheel, hence the model name. The Net sector includes
what can be considered as the physical infrastructure, i.e. networks in the form of roads, electricity grids,
telecommunications networks, etc., on or through which physical objects or information flow to different parts of
society. Because of this central role the sector has been positioned in the middle of the image displayed on the home page.
The sector can, to use a metaphor, be considered as the hub of the society wheel.
However, it is easy to change perspectives. For example, if you want to study society from a cultural perspective, you focus
the cultural sector, etc. The focus can be changed by either clicking on the relevant main sector
in the image or menu on the left (only in Swedish).
Each of the main sectors mentioned above has been divided into
two sub-sectors, which in turn have been broken down into
smaller parts. See "Complete structure" in the menu.
Governance here means to control / regulate different types of
functions at local, regional, national or supranational / international
The sector has been divided into two sub-sectors:
The former sub-sector - at national level parliament and government - makes political decisions in the form of laws and other regulations.
The second sub-sector, which includes different kinds of public agencies, implements the decisions and provides support for new decisions.
The sector encompasses all functions aimed at protecting the individual (her health, property and rights), the environment (ecosystems) and society as a whole (its functionality and sovereignty) against various types of threats and strains.
The Protection sector has been divided into two sub-sectors named:
Security and justice
Health and environment
The former sub-sector includes fight against antagonistic threats / strains, such as war actions,
acts of terrorism, IT attacks against important functions in society; criminal acts and human rights violations.
The protection measures in the second sub-sector are directed towards non-antagonistic threats / stresses, such as disease-causing bacteria, viruses, etc.,
abuse, old age and disability, accidents, unbalanced ecosystems, stresses from nature and climate change.
As previously mentioned, the Net sector encompasses operations, which aim to
transmit information from a transmitter to a receiver - the first subsector below - or
to transport physical objects (people, animals, goods, energy, waste) from
one place to another - the other sub-sector.
The sector has been divided as follows:
Tele- /computer communication and mail
Energy och transport
The term Net or Network Services is of course related to the fact that the transfers / transports mentioned above
is carried out via built up networks.
However, it should be pointed out that I have not included all network services in this sector.
An important exception is water distribution, which has been organized in the Supply sector below due to
its close connection to agriculture and food supply.
With regard to energy, I would also like to point out that the current sector not only includes the actual distribution of energy, but also
extraction and conversion / production (e.g. of oil products and bioenergy).
Finally, it should be mentioned that the tourism industry - which includes travel and accommodation - is located in this sector due to the connection with transport.
The Supply sector here includes all activities, except energy supply and transport (see Net above), with the purpose to
supply various actors - such as companies, public agencies, associations, educational institutions and households - with demanded
The sector has been divided into the following sub-sectors:
Product and capital supply
Competence and labour supply
The first sub-sector covers the development, production and distribution of physical products and IT systems, as well as associated services,
e.g. service, maintenance and repairs.
The sector also includes capital supply - via stock and credit markets - and related services, such as
insurance business. In this sub-sector are also included specialist/consulting services regarding e.g. management, technology, law, accounting and marketing.
The second sub-sector includes education and research, excl. the product and system development carried out in commercial companies, see above.
This section also includes reference services - i.e. production, storage, lending and sale of encyclopedias, books, etc. - and services related to the labour market, such as recruitment,
employment services, labor law and work environment issues.
The Cultural sector includes all activities aimed at meeting people's needs for news, experiences and community / identity - social and cultural.
The sector has been divided into the following sub-sectors:
Media, entertainment, art and cultural heritage
Personal life, associations and religion
The first mentioned sub-sector includes activities such as news reporting etc., conducted by both traditional media (radio, TV, newspapers) and social media. This sub-sector also includes production of various types of entertainment (music, theater, film, computer games, sports etc.)
and art (visual arts, literature, food art). Note that activities that aim to satisfy other experiences than entertainment and art, e.g. nature experiences and amusement park attractions, has been classified as a part of tourism (see Net above).
This sub-sector also includes operations at museums etc. with the purpose to preserve and exhibit the country's cultural heritage.
The second sub-sector includes activities, which can be related to family, home, private finances / consumption and leisure. This sector also includes activities in associations, i.e. to work for other purposes than primarily financial. The sub-sector finally includes
religious practice and related activities (eg weddings, baptisms and funerals).