What is a Society? 7 Types of Societies: Explained with Examples

Society can be defined as a collection of people living in a particular region or territory that are under a common political structure or political authority, and are cognizant of their unique identity as opposed to groups around them. Society is also differentiated by a division of labour among its members, who execute various responsibilities in order to accomplish a common aim. A society may be conceived of as a group of people that interact with one another focused on their personal needs as well as the requirements of the group or community as a whole. The society offers a framework within which individuals may live together in harmony. In certain circumstances, this may imply that all members agree on many aspects of how society should be administered and its objectives. In other circumstances, there may be more debate on these concerns. Depending on factors such as population and location, societies can be vast or tiny. Society teaches us how we fit into the world around us and provides assistance when things are tough. Any society is dynamic; it is never static. It is also continually going through a transformation. There are several examples of this throughout history. People used to establish civilizations that were different from their forefathers’ age when they could roam around more freely and there were fewer rules or regulations that confined them. Because civilization is made up of its people and their culture, it is crucial to analyse both. People in society engage with one another on a regular basis. They frequently share a certain group’s values, norms, beliefs, views, customs, and traditions. A society may also be described as an association or community of people who share shared ideals and operate within a social framework. The term “society” is derived from the Latin Societas, which means “a coming together” or “joining” for mutual benefit.

What are the 7 types of societies? What are their features and examples?

1. Hunter-Gatherer Society

Prior to the Industrial Revolution and the extensive use of machinery, civilizations were tiny, agrarian, and heavily reliant on local resources. Aptly, the societies that existed in this period are referred to as ‘Pre Industrial Societies’. The amount of work an individual could provide limited the economic productivity, and there were few specialised vocations. Hunter-gatherers were the earliest occupations. Hunting-and-gathering cultures are the oldest we know of, dating back roughly 250,000 years; few of them survive now, partially because modern civilizations have infringed on their survival. People in these communities hunt for food as well as harvest plants and other vegetation, as the name indicates. They have almost no belongings except for some basic hunting and gathering tools. Everyone is required to assist in hunting for food and share what they discover in order to secure their collective survival. Hunting and gathering peoples frequently migrate from place to place in search of resources. Because they are nomadic, their civilizations are frequently relatively tiny, with only a few hundred members.

Features:

  • They are nomadic and depend on easily accessible natural food and fibre. Primarily reliant on animal hunting and plant gathering (Hunting conducted by men, gathering by women).
  • Food availability limits population size. These are groups of 25 to 50 women, men, and children who work together to provide for their families. Hunters and gatherers do not appear to labour hard or for lengthy periods of time. They labour less than those in more technologically sophisticated nations.
  • Egalitarian – equal access to resources
  • No social stratification
  • No individual ownership of resources

Example:

Although hunting and gathering traditions have remained in many civilizations, including the Okiek of Kenya, certain Australian Aborigines and Torres Strait Islanders, and several North American Arctic Inuit tribes, hunting and gathering as a mode of life had mostly vanished by the early twenty-first century.

2. Pastoral Society

Pastoral societies first appeared 12,000 years ago, nurturing animals for food and transport. Pastoral civilizations still exist today, particularly in North African deserts where horticulture and industrialization are impossible.

Domesticating animals makes food more manageable than hunting and collecting. As a result, pastoral communities can create a surplus of products, allowing them to store food for future use. With storage comes the urge to build communities that allow civilization to stay in one location for extended periods of time. With stability comes the exchange of excess commodities between pastoral communities.

Features

  • Subsistence Strategy: Rely on animal domestication and breeding for food.
  • Population Size: These cultures have hundreds or even thousands of people.
  • Geographic Mobility: Nomads live in moveable tents or temporary constructions that move only when the grazing land is no longer useful
  • Property: Some people can amass greater power than others. Others are judged based on their money. Warfare is more common here than in Hunter-Gatherer Societies.
  • The majority of conflicts involve the distribution of grazing grounds
  • Simple social structures aside from the family, religious, economic, and political institutions began to emerge.
  • The Family is the most important institution. Males control the food supply, hence they are extremely male-dominated.
  • Religion is defined by Gods who are perceived as actively intervening in human events. Religions emerging in pastoral areas include Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. It is worth noting that God is frequently compared as a shepherd in various religions, and humanity is like tamed animals (e.g., sheep).
  • The quantity of one’s herd determines stratification and social standing.

Example:

The Bedouin, contemporary nomads, dwell across Northern Africa and the Arabian Peninsula. While there are several Bedouin communities, they all share some characteristics. Members travel from one location to another, generally in tandem with the seasons, living near an oasis during the hot summer months. They look after livestock and yield dates in the fall.

3. Horticultural Society

Horticultural communities, as opposed to pastoral societies, rely on producing their non-meat food items. These civilizations originally developed in various regions of the world about the same time that pastoral societies did. Horticultural communities, like hunting and gathering groups, had to be nomadic. People were compelled to depart due to depletion of the land’s resources or depleting water supplies, for example. Horticultural communities occasionally created a surplus, which allowed for storage and the creation of new professions unrelated to the society’s survival.

Features

  • Subsistence Strategy: They relied on the cultivation of tamed plants and raised crops using hand tools. Slash and burn technique was also employed.
  • Population Size: Several thousand individuals are usually present.
  • Geographic Mobility: Grow crops for two to three years before moving when the soil is depleted.
  • Social Structure: New specialised roles and statuses emerge.
  • Political and economic institutions grow in strength.
  • Property ownership: Because of the possibility of excess, some individuals become more dominant than others, owing to their superior wealth.

Example:

Horticulturists spread from these locations to many other regions of the world during the Neolithic era. The Yanomamo and traditional Hmong are two key representations of recent horticultural communities, as they were in Laos up to and shortly after WWII.

4. Agricultural Society

The late agricultural advancements around the 9th century were responsible for the extinction of horticultural communities. Food supplies surged as a result of the new technologies, and people began to cluster. The population expanded swiftly, settlements sprung up, and farmers, landowners, and warriors who defended farmland in return for food against attackers emerged first. The social disparity was clearly seen in these communities. Slavery and ownership became too disparate notions in those lives, resulting in the formation of a severe caste structure. The caste system created a distinction between the aristocracy and agricultural labourers, including slaves. The concept of social classes grew throughout Europe, and not only landowners, but even religious leaders, did not have to struggle to exist since workers were required to give them everything they had. This was also the era when individuals had the leisure and comfort to pursue more quiet and serious pursuits like music, poetry, and philosophy. Because of the advancements in leisure and the humanities, some have dubbed this time the “birth of civilization.” Craftspeople might sustain themselves by creating inventive, decorative, or thought-provoking aesthetic products and texts.

As resources grew more abundant, social classes became increasingly polarised. Those with more wealth could afford a better way of life and rose to the status of nobility. The social standing gap between men and women widened. As cities grew in size, resource ownership and protection became an urgent matter.

Features

  • Subsistence Strategy: depending on agricultural production using ploughs and draught animals.
  • Population Size: Several million individuals are usually present.
  • Geographical Mobility: Due to permanent habitation, there is extremely little geographical mobility.
  • Social Structure: New specialised roles and statuses emerge. Because food yields were large, it was no longer required for every member of society to be involved in some type of farming, therefore some individuals begin to pursue other vocations. Job specialisation grew
  • Political institutions grow far more complex, and power is increasingly concentrated in the hands of individuals.
  • Property ownership: Social classes emerge. The money is virtually inequitably distributed.

Example:

            Large agricultural communities developed in the Americas. The first occurred about 3200 BCE in Norte-Chico in modern-day Peru, and the second was around 1500 BCE among the Olmec in modern-day Mexico. Of course, food production remained important, but the menu had changed significantly. Central Americans discovered how to cultivate maize (corn), peppers, tomatoes, pumpkins, beans, peanuts, and cotton.

5. Feudal Society

Feudal societies emerged in the ninth century. These communities had a tight hierarchical power structure centred on land ownership and protection. The nobles, known as lords, delegated land ownership to vassals. In exchange for the riches offered by the land, vassals swore to battle for their masters.

The working class cultivated these private plots of land known as fiefdoms. Peasants were given a place to reside and security from outside threats in exchange for preserving the land. Peasant families served lords for centuries and generations, and power was passed down through family lines. Feudalism’s social and economic structure eventually collapsed, and capitalism and the technical breakthroughs of the industrial age took their place.

Features:

  • Subsistence Strategy: Own land or work on fiefdoms for food and protection.
  • Population Size: Millions of people often formed one society
  • Geographical Mobility: No mobility as civilization was settled at this point.
  • Social Structure: Strong slave-master behaviour and this continues down the bloodlines.
  • Political Institutions: Feudal lords or nobles held immense amounts of power, just below the monarch.
  • Property Ownership: Serfs or peasants could not afford land. Lords took care of the lands but the ultimate “owner” was the monarch.

Example:

Many local farmers do not possess the land on which they operate. Landowners possess the land, and farmers serve them. The Philippines acquired the hacienda lifestyle from the Spanish.

6. Industrial Society

Europe had a remarkable increase in technical innovation in the eighteenth century, bringing in a period known as the Industrial Revolution. The creation of additional innovations that touched people’s daily lives was what made this time notable. Tasks that took months to do before become possible in a couple of days inside a generation. Prior to the Industrial Revolution, most work was done by people or animals, with humans or horses powering mills and driving pumps. In 1782, James Watt and Matthew Boulton invented a steam engine capable of doing the labour of twelve horses. Steam power started to appear everywhere and fueled the Industrial Revolution. The industrial revolution abolished slavery, and there was just the working class. Learning from earlier failures, monarchs provided greater possibilities for social mobility as well as more rights than slaves. People began to demand their rights and freedom as citizens when socioeconomic inequities changed, and monarchies and theocracies lost influence over citizens. With the French and American Revolutions, democracy became more useful and desirable; nationality became more significant, people gained their rights; and classes persisted as just economic disparities. Politically, everyone appeared to be equal, but inequities between money owners and sellers of their own labours to exist grew unabated. Villages lost their importance, and towns became areas where job possibilities were available.

Features:

  • Citizens and goods travel substantially greater distances thanks to transportation technologies such as the railway and the steamship.
  • Rural regions lost population as more individuals were employed in factories and had to relocate to cities.
  • Agriculture required fewer people, and society grew urbanised, with the bulk of the population living within commuting distance of a large city.

Example

The United States, in the 19th and 20th century, is a prominent example of an industrialised society. A substantial section of its economy is centred on mechanised labour employment, such as car assembly factories, which use both machines and human labour to manufacture consumer products.

7. Post-Industrial Society

As wireless technology competes with machines and factories as the foundation of our economy, we are progressively living in what has been dubbed the information technology age (or simply the information age). We now have increasing service occupations, ranging from household chores to administrative work to tech support, when compared to industrialised economies. Societies undergoing this transition are transitioning from an industrial to a post-industrial era of development. Thus, in post-industrial countries, information technology and service occupations have supplanted machinery and manufacturing jobs as the dominant economic dimensions. Although manufacturing industries will always remain, the capacity to produce, store, manipulate, and sell knowledge appears to be the key to riches and power. Sociologists predict the features of future post-industrial societies. They anticipate greater levels of education and training, consumption, product availability, and social mobility. While sociologists expect that inequality will decrease as technical skills and “know-how” come to define class rather than property ownership, they are also worried about future societal divides based on those who have comprehensive education and those who do not.

Features:

  • Post-industrialism refers to the generation of information via the use of digital technology. In industrial civilizations, factories and equipment produce tangible things; in postindustrial societies, computers and other electronic devices generate, analyze, collect, and apply new information.
  • Concentration on ideas: Tangible things no longer power the economy.
  • Higher education is required since factory job does not require advanced training, and the growing emphasis on information and technology necessitates more education.
  • Workplace shift from cities to homes: New communications technology enables work to be done from a number of venues.

Example:

The United States in the 21st Century is one of the most notable examples of post-industrial civilizations, having been the first economy to have more than half of the employees employed in the service industry rather than the manufacturing industry.

Conclusion
Societies are categorised based on their technological progress and use. For much of human history, humans lived in pre industrial communities with little technology and minimal production. Many civilizations anchored their economies after the Industrial Revolution on mechanical labour, resulting in higher profits and a tendency toward increased social mobility. A new sort of civilization arose at the millennium’s turn. The foundation of this postindustrial, or information, civilization is a digital technology and intangible goods.

REFERENCES:
Dowdall, H. C. (1924). What Is a Society? Proceedings of the Aristotelian Society, 25, 19–40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/4544070

Eriksen, T. H. (2011). What is a society? Ethnicities, 11(1), 18–22. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23890667

Little, W. (2014). Introduction to Sociology – 1st Canadian Edition. BCCampus. https://www.coursehero.com/study-guides/sociology/types-of-societies/