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Sociology Notes and Topics on Sociology

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Old Sunday, August 19, 2007
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Lightbulb Evolution of Societies

According to anthropologist Maurice Godelier, a critical novelty in human society, compared humans closest biological relatives (chimpanzees and bonobos), is the parental role assumed by the males, which were unaware of their "father" connection.

Gerhard Lenski, a sociologist, differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy:
(1) hunters and gatherers
(2) simple agricultural
(3) advanced agricultural
(4) industrial.
This is somewhat similar to the system earlier developed by anthropologists Morton H. Fried, a conflict theorist, and Elman Service, an integration theorist, who have produced a system of classification for societies in all human cultures based on the evolution of social inequality and the role of the state. This system of classification contains four categories:

* Hunter-gatherer bands, which are generally egalitarian.
* Tribal societies in which there are some limited instances of social rank and prestige.
* Stratified structures led by chieftains.
* Civilizations, with complex social hierarchies and organized, institutional governments.
* Humanity, mankind, that upon which rest all the elements of society, including society's beliefs.

Over time, some cultures have progressed toward more-complex forms of organization and control. This cultural evolution has a profound effect on patterns of community. Hunter-gatherer tribes settled around seasonal foodstocks to become agrarian villages. Villages grew to become towns and cities. Cities turned into city-states and nation-states.

Today, anthropologists and many social scientists vigorously oppose the notion of cultural evolution and rigid "stages" such as these. In fact, much anthropological data has suggested that complexity (civilization, population growth and density, specialization, etc.) does not always take the form of hierarchical social organization or stratification.

Also, cultural relativism as a widespread approach/ethic has largely replaced notions of "primitive," better/worse, or "progress" in relation to cultures (including their material culture/technology and social organization).
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What is society?
The term society is derived from a Latin word “societas”. The literal meaning of societas is friend —ally or comrade. The term was used to define the bond between parties who were civil and friendly with one another. However, in sociology the term society refers to the group of people who live together in a defined geographical territory and share same culture. Society is sum of its total relationships among individuals. Individuals within a given society are continuously involved in social interaction. Pattern of such interactions and relationship describe the characteristics of a particular society. Each society has distinct characteristics for that reason, one society differ from another. Moreover, traditional societies are divided in to clans, tribes and subcultures therefore they have different political authorities. On the other hand, modern societies are subjected to similar political authority. Additionally, Societies which are progressive in technology have more control over their environment. Whereas, societies with rudimentary technology depend on the variability of environment.

Types of societies;
Social institutions are different parts of a given society. Societies are shaped and characterized on the basis of these institutions. Dominant institution in a given society influence societal culture. In some societies religion might be dominant institution whereas, in other it could be economic or political. However, it is important to analyze the framework of institutions in order to understand societies.

Traditional societies comprise of few social institutions whereas, modern societies have more compare to traditional societies. We can only find basic institution in traditional societies which include, family or kinship and religion. Modern or complex societies however, have dozen of them. The triggering factor of institutional expansion is economic change. Before industrialization or extensive use of heavy machinery; societies were very small and depended upon natural resources. In preindustrial societies division of labor was almost non-existent; the first job of men was to hunt and gather. Due to the advent of industrialization and technology division of labor amplified within societies. Therefore, sociologists have classified types of societies in accordance with their level of industrialization; preindustrial to industrial — industrial to postindustrial these include; hunter gatherer, pastoral, horticultural, agricultural, feudal, industrial and technological society.

Hunter-gatherer societies;
Hunter-gatherer societies are about ten to twelve thousand years old social structure as well as, such societies indicates the basic structure of human societies. Hunter-gatherer societies are those societies which are based on kinship and tribes. Societies such as these have subsistence economy therefore, Individuals depend upon nature for their basic survival. They hunt wild animals and look for the uncultivated plants or fruits since, they had no other means to satisfy their hunger need. Because of limited natural resources individual were not able to produce and store surplus. These societies are nomadic or semi-nomadic in nature as well as comprises of 50 to 60 members. Individuals have few belonging when the resources for survival became scares for survival they collect their belongings and move to another place.

Hunter-gatherer societies are simple societies. These societies have no institutions except family or kinship therefore, division of labor is merely based on age and sex. All individuals are supposed to take part in hunting and gathering except elders and children who are weak. The common pattern for male is to participate in deep sea diving and hunting whereas, female are supposed to take part in shore fishing and preserving. Every human society initiated as Hunter-gatherer society other evolved however, few societies such as these still remain. “Aborigines” the indigenous tribe of Australia and “Bambuti” the tribe of Congo are the contemporary examples of hunter-gatherer society.

Pastoral societies;
About seven thousand year ago, people learned how to tame and breed animals and cultivate plants. Pastoral society’s survival depend on the domestication of animals and cultivation of plant. Hunter-gatherers relied upon the existing resources, however, individuals within pastoral societies obtain the ability to bread animals and use them for different purposes such as, food, transportation and clothing. They are nomads as well, because they need fresh feeding ground to breed animals. Unlike hunter gatherer societies pastoral societies have specialized occupation. Because individuals have the ability to produce and store surplus. They cultivate small farms, breed animals as well as trade the surplus with other local groups. Which means labor within pastoral societies are divided in to three specialized occupations, peasants, breeders and traders.

Horticultural societies;
Pastoral and hunter gatherer were nomadic and semi nomadic societies. Members of these societies moved from one place to another due to depletion of resources. Whereas, Individuals within Horticultural societies had obtained the ability to cultivate and grow plants without moving from one place to another. Horticulture societies were established on the geographical location where environment allowed individuals to cultivate land constantly due to which they were able to produce more goods and surplus. Moreover, new social class emerged within horticultural society. Members of this class were more privileged than peasants. They were living of on the surplus produced by peasants which allowed them to take time off from production and turn to other pursuit such as, religion and warfare.

Moreover, structure of horticulture societies were complex compare to previous discussed societies. These societies consisted of more institutions other than family and kinship including, government, religion and revenue department. Societies such as these were governed by the leaders with hereditary authority (kings). Moreover, bureaucrats were authorized by king collect tax from peasants as well as, manage revenue department. On the other hand, religious institutions were managed by permanent priests.

Agriculture societies;
Former societies used inferior tools such as hoes and sticks for cultivating plants because of which lands were not fully utilized. However, individuals within agriculture societies obtained the ability to develop metal tools, wheels and better irrigation systems. This latest technology was accompanied by new techniques to cultivation. Peasants learned how to cultivate land in different seasons and save the byproduct such as fertilizers led to the production bigger surplus. Due to these developments small towns grew into big cities as well as less human resource was required for production. Those Individual who were not involved in production, moved to urban centers and started to find work in growing number of trades.

This was the epoch when people have leisure time on their hands, they utilized their time by engaging in thoughtful, innovative and creative activities, such as music, writing philosophy, poetry and crafting. Craftsman supported themselves by creating aesthetic objects and writing. This era was referred to as “dawn of civilization”.

Industrial societies;
In the history of societies the third major revolution in production was industrialization. Before the advent of industrialization production entirely depended on human, cattle and horse energy. Industrial revolution is considered special due to the invention of energy generation techniques. These new means of energy had positive influence on individuals’ daily lives within industrial societies. In 1972, James watt and Matthew Bolton invented steam engine which marked the beginning of industrial revolution. In former societies the work which was completed with the help of 12 horses could be performed through energy generated by steam engine. The task which was performed in months could be done in days.

Economy of Industrial societies is based on the production of non-agricultural goods. These Industrial good are produced through electrical, mechanical, fossil fuel and steam energy. Modern mass production methods gave rise to cities and transformed social institutions. Basic institution such as education expanded and new fields emerged as a result including, science, law and medicine.

Postindustrial society;
Postindustrial society is also known as information society or digital society. Industrial society focus was on the efficient production of material goods including, cloths cars and computers. However, information society focused on production of information and services. Steve jobs and Bill gates are the James watt and Matthew Bolton of digital society. Postindustrial societies has higher division of labor compare to industrial societies. New statuses emerged in digital societies such as, programmers, software developers, store clerks, Walmart greeters etc… Social class of individuals are based on education. Those individual who obtain four years professional degrees have good pay and life style compare to others within information society. Moreover, information technology have changed the social structures of societies. The ways of communication, participation in religion and obtaining knowledge have drastically changed within digital societies.
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