Learn English – Difference between “society” and “the society”


I am not very clear on the difference between "society" and "the society". As far as I know, "society" (without "the") refers to a society that is more general. But I don't have a clear distinction between them.

Could anybody explain to me? For example, if I want to say "socialization is the process of learning to live in (the) society", should I use "the"?

Edit: I am still a little confused here: it seems that "society" can still refer to a subset of people. After seeing your answer, my understanding is that without the article, "society" doesn't emphasize a specific society: it doesn't matter which society it refers to (although through context, which one is referred can be inferred). With "the", however, the speaker emphasizes a specific society.
Then the sentences should be different:

Soldiers protect society.

Soldiers protect the society.

Am I right? Could someone further explain it to me?

Best Answer

From Wikipedia

Human societies are characterized by patterns of relationships between individuals sharing a distinctive culture and institutions. Without an article, the term refers either to the entirety of humanity or a contextually specific subset of people.

I would restate one part of the original question as
'"society" (without "the") refers to human society in general'

and, the example should read
"socialization is the process of learning to live in society"

The phrase "the society" is used in areas of study such as anthropology, political science and sociology when referring to specific groups.

Again from the Wikipedia article, discussing a particular group

This nobility organized warriors to protect the society from invasion.

In this case, "the society" is used to limit the scope to the group under discussion, and not all of humanity.

Edited to respond to OP's edit of original question

In "Soldiers protect society" the lack of an article preceding "society" makes it a statement about human society in general. As such it can stand alone without other context.

"Soldiers protect the society" seems taken out of context. It begs the question which society?

(Note: The following example statements are not meant to be historically accurate.)

In general, soldiers protect (human) society.
In ancient Rome, soldiers called centurions protected the (Roman) society.
In ancient Japan, soldiers called samurai protected the (Japanese) society.