But while associated, behavior is, as we have already noted, a universal Law, the fact of association does not of itself make a society. This demands, as we have also seen, perception of the consequences of a joint activity and of the distinctive share of each element in producing it. Such perception creates a common interest; that is concern on the part of each in the joint action and in the contribution of each of its members to it. Then there exists something truly social and not merely associative.
But it is absurd to suppose that a society does away with the traits of its own constituents so that it can be set over against them. It can only be set over against the traits which they and their like present in some other combination. A molecule of oxygen in water may act in certain respects differently than it would in some other chemical union. But as a constituent of water it acts as water does as long as water is water. The only intelligible distinction which can be drawn is between the behaviors of oxygen in its different relations, and between those of water in its relations to various conditions, not between that of water and the oxygen which is conjoined with hydrogen in water.The Public and its Problems, John Dewey (pg 188)
We are each part of at least a few, and sometimes many, associational relationships. Each one is distinct from the others. There may be competition for labor and resources between the associational obligations, even though, within the group, each agent’s actions are associational in nature.