Society and Culture

Sociology
Summary

Types of Societies

Summary Types of Societies
  • Animals are used to pull plows.
  • Larger areas of land can then be cultivated.
  • As the soil is aerated during plowing, it yields more crops for longer periods of time.
  • Productivity increases, and as long as there is plenty of food, people do not have to move.
  • Towns form, and then cities.
  • As crop yields are high, it is no longer necessary for every member of the society to engage in some form of farming, so some people begin developing other skills. Job specialization increases.
  • Fewer people are directly involved with the production of food, and the economy becomes more complex.

Around this same time, the wheel was invented, along with writing, numbers, and what we would today call the arts. However, the invention of the steam engine—the third social revolution—was what took humans from agricultural to industrial society.

Industrial Societies

An industrial society uses advanced sources of energy, rather than humans and animals, to run large machinery. Industrialization began in the mid-1700s, when the steam engine was first used in Great Britain as a means of running other machines. By the twentieth century, industrialized societies had changed dramatically:

  • People and goods traversed much longer distances because of innovations in transportation, such as the train and the steamship.
  • Rural areas lost population because more and more people were engaged in factory work and had to move to the cities.
  • Fewer people were needed in agriculture, and societies became urbanized, which means that the majority of the population lived within commuting distance of a major city.
  • Suburbs grew up around cities to provide city-dwellers with alternative places to live.

The twentieth century also saw the invention of the automobile and the harnessing of electricity, leading to faster and easier transportation, better food storage, mass communication, and much more. Occupational specialization became even more pronounced, and a person’s vocation became more of an identifier than his or her family ties, as was common in nonindustrial societies.

Postindustrial Societies

The Industrial Revolution transformed Western societies in many unexpected ways. All the machines and inventions for producing and transporting goods reduced the need for human labor so much that the economy transformed again, from an industrial to a postindustrial economy.

A postindustrial society, the type of society that has developed over the past few decades, features an economy based on services and technology, not production. There are three major characteristics of a postindustrial economy:

  1. Focus on ideas: Tangible goods no longer drive the economy.
  2. Need for higher education: Factory work does not require advanced training, and the new focus on information and technology means that people must pursue greater education.
  3. Shift in workplace from cities to homes: New communications technology allows work to be performed from a variety of locations.

Mass Society

As industrialized societies grow and develop, they become increasingly different from their less industrialized counterparts. As they become larger, they evolve into large, impersonal mass societies. In a mass society, individual achievement is valued over kinship ties, and people often feel isolated from one another. Personal incomes are generally high, and there is great diversity among people.

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