Margaret Thatcher believed that there was 'no such thing as society'. It is one of her finest lines because it sounds fairly compelling in two opposite ways; that (as far as she was concerned) such a thing as 'society' had been invented by a bunch of pinkos AND that family, state, religious, and probably even amateur dramatic societies were jolly good things which didn't count as societies because they simply were. Like Ayn Rand, she revealed something monstrous in her dogmatism.
So I watch the TV and there is an old trade unionist miner from Barnsley in an empty Working Mans Club, describing the fact that families were split asunder for decades by this view of society, and I'm thinking how can a simple thing like a trade union not be as valid as an amateur dramatic society.
And as far as general usage is concerned, the only people who worry about societies are those who are already in them, or want to be. And outside of 'Building Society' the word society is class laden (especially by those interested in classless society). We understand High Society, but the fact that we don't understand Big Society is a problem. No way can we shout Egalite, equalite SOCIETY!!! We don't feel part of it because thirty years ago we were told (by our so called betters) that it didn't exist, that ours was a dead (poets) society, but that this is a new one that we have to join (or else).
Personally I'm not buying any talk of societies, but that does not make me a Thatcherite, it makes me a rationalist.