Chapter 4: Society
Society: People who interact in a defined territory and share a culture.
Approach of Gerhard and Jean Lenski: Society and Technology
• Socio-cultural evolution: a term that the Lenskis used to
mean changes that occur as a society gains new technology.
- Societies with simple technology have little control over naure
because they can only support a small number of people.
- Societies with complex technology (ex. Cars, cell phones) can
support hundreds of millions of people and are therefore more
- The more technology a particular society has, the faster it
Five types of societies defined by technology
• Hunter/Gatherer Societies
- The use of simple tools to hunt animals and gather
- Today not many exist but when our species appeared 3 million
years ago, all humans were hunters and gatherers
- They have little ability to control their environment, spend most
of their time looking for game and collecting plants to eat. Very little
- Depend on their families; get and distribute food, protect
members and teach children
- Have a shaman or spiritual leader who also has to work to find
- Socially Equal society
- Use simple tools
- Storms and droughts can kill off food supply; accident and illness
is a problem
• Horticultural and Pastoral Societies
- Horticulture is the use of hand tools to raise crops
- Allowed people to give up gathering and start growing their own
- Some hunters and gatherers did not want to change their ways
so they adopted pastoralism the domestication of animals.
- Populations expanded to hundreds of people in one location
because growing plants and raising animals greatly increased food
- Once a society produces material surplus – more resources than
are needed to support the population – not everyone is needed to work to provide food.
- Results in Greater specialization
- Compared to hunter/gatherer societies, they are more socially
- Greater inequality because of elites using government power,
military force etc.
- Leaders can only control a small number of people because they
do not have the ability to communicate or to travel over large
- Religion: Hunters and gatherers believe many spirits inhabit the
world. Horticulturists are more likely to think of one God as Creator
and Pastoral societies believe God is directly involved in the well-
being of the entire world.
• Agrarian Societies
- Agriculture: large-scale cultivation using plows harnessed to
animals or more powerful energy sources.
- Often called “the dawn of civilization” – when the wheel, animal-
drawn plow, irrigation, writing, numbers and use of various metals
were all invented.
- Farmers now able to work the same land for generations,
encouraging the development of permanent settlements.
- Agrarian societies expanded in size and population
- With greater production came even more specialization
- Barter system abandoned and now currency was used
- Extreme social inequality – peasants or slaves do most of the
- In hunter/gatherers and horticulturists, women provide most of
the food, which gives them socio-economic importance. But
agriculture raises men to a position of dominance.
- Agrarian technology gives people a greater range of life choices.
• Industrial Societies
- Industrialism: The production of goods using advanced sources
of energy to drive large machinery.
- This technology gave people such power over their environment
that change took place faster than ever before.
- Automobiles, electricity, electronic communication (telegraph,
telephone), radio, television – gave people the ability to reach others
instantly all over the world.
- Industrialization drew people away from home to factories
situated near energy sources that power their machinery
- Result: workers lose close working relationships, strong family
ties and many of the traditional values, beliefs and customs that
guided agrarian life.
- Occupational specialization became greater than ever. - Rapid change and tendency to move for employment make
social life more anonymous, increase cultural diversity, and promote
subcultures and countercultures.
- Technology changes family, as family no longer serves as the
main setting for work, learning and religious worship.
- Greatest effect: to raise living standards which increased fivefold
in North America.
- Much more productive, incomes in general rise over time and
people throughout this society have longer and more comfortable
- Social inequality decreases slightly because industrial societies
provide extended schooling and greater political rights.
• Post- Industrial Societies
- Post-industrialism: a term sociologist Daniel Bell coined
referring to technology that supports an information-based
- Production relies on computers and other electronic devices that
create, process, store and apply information.
- Uses less and less of its labour force but more jobs become
available for those who process information ex. Teachers, writers,
clerical workers, sales managers.
- Information Revolution most evident in rich nations, yet new
information technology affects whole world.
- At the heart of globalization.
Karl Marx: Society and Conflict
-Karl Marx is an early giant in the field of sociology who was a keen
observer of how the Industrial Revolution changed Europe and his
influence continues today.
- Social Conflict: The struggle between segments of society over
Society and Production
-Capitalists: people who own and operate factories and other
businesses in pursuit of profits.
- Proletarians: people who sell their labour for wages. Capitalism
turns most of the population into industrial workers.
- Production always ends up creating conflict between capitalists and
workers according to Marx.
- Social Institutions: The major spheres of social life, or societal
subsystems, organized to meet human needs. Ex. Economy, political
system, family, religion, education. -Marx argued that the economy dominates all other institutions and
defines the true nature of society.
-Materialism: states that the means by which humans produce material
goods shape their experiences
-Marx saw the economic system as society’s infrastructure where all
other social institutions are built on this foundation to form society’s
superstructure and support the economy.
-False Consciousness: explanations of social problems as the
shortcomings of individuals rather than as the flaws of