Definition of society:

There are several definitions of a society, and they are as follows:

  1. It is a grouping of individuals which is characterized by common interest and may have distinctive culture and institutions.. Members of the society may be from different ethnic groups. It may also refer to an organized voluntary association of people for religious benevolent, cultural, scientific, political, patriotic, or other purposes.
  2. A society refers to a particular community of people living in a country or region, and having shared customs, laws and organizations.
  3. according to Muhammed Noor ; society is a group of people who have the same interests politically and purpose, vision and gains
  4. In political science, the term is often used to mean totality of human relationships generally in contrast to the state ie the apparatus of rule or government within a territory. The state means that summation of privillages and dominating positions which are brought into being by extra economic power, while society is the totality of concepts of all purely natural relations and institutions between man and man.


Characteristics of society

A society has a definite geographical location, it persists over a long period of time, its relatively self sustaining, and independent and its people have organized social relationships. Societies are believed to have evolved over through several stages independently in different paths and this therefore means that societies have got different forms.

Basically this is because the organization and the grouping of people together are determined by various variables such as language, religion, cultural orientation, geography and status among others.

Society evolved as a form of adaptive mechanism where members operate and interact with each other for mutual benefit. This cooperation is necessary in several ways including reproduction, child rearing, food gathering and defense among others.

Modern social rules encourage individuality and separation. Social touching is increasingly forbidden as a suspected sexual advance. The right of the individuals often takes precedence over society. Capitalism has largely defeated communism. We are progressively more alone.

Individuals in society are not free agents as they are constrained by social rules. In practice, individual and society are closely intertwined and interdependent.

Individuals can be viewed as separate and independent of society. They may be viewed as being contained within it. When within it, they can be seen as having a clear boundary and interacting with similar others.

The boundaries and standards of society are defined by the rules of a society which are many. Rules can be formal (the law) and informal (moral and social norms).

According to Peter Blau, societies defer in their degree of heterogeneity (how the population is distributed among such categories as sex, race, religion and ethnicity). He also argues that societies differ in their degree of inequality (how people are ranked by wealth, income or power). Blau adds that a high degree of heterogeneity promotes inter-group relations, such as inter-marriages, because with the population spread out evenly among a variety of ethnic, racial and religious categories, it provides more opportunities for contact with people from different categories and this may develop into social relationships.


                                   EVOLUTION OF SOCIETIES

Gerhard Lenski, a sociologist, differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy and classifies them as follows;

  • hunters and gatherers
  • simple agricultural
  • advanced agricultural
  • industrial

                                                Types of societies     

According to the sociology guide, there are many types of society. The following are some of those types of society and their characteristics.

1. Hunting and gathering societies:-

These are societies which mainly rely on hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering for their food supplies.

2. Horticultural societies:-

These are societies which mainly rely on crops grown on land for their food. They mainly take part in clearing and burning of bushes to facilitate cultivation. They cultivate crops with the aid of digging sticks or hoes and they are limited in technology.

3. Pastoral societies:-

These are societies which mainly rely on domesticated animals for their livelihood.

4. Agrarian societies:-

These societies also rely on crops grown on land using the plough technique. The invention of plough marked the beginning of agrarian societies 6000 years back. According to Collins, definition of sociology agrarian society refers to any form of society especially the traditional society primarily based on agricultural and craft production rather than industrial production.

  • Wallace and Wallace described agrarian societies as employing animal drawn ploughs to cultivate the land. The mode of production of agrarian society that is cultivation distinguishes it from the hunter-gatherer society which produces none of its food.
  • It increases the productivity of land through the use of animals and bringing to the nutrients of the soil
  • Irrigation techniques with the use of plough increased the productivity and it also brought fallow land under cultivation.
  • It led to establishment of more elaborate political institutions like government bureaucracy assisted by the legal system.
  • It provides the basis for the establishment of economic institutions. It also demand s the maintenance of transactions, crop harvest, taxation, governmental rules and regulations

5. Industrial societies:-

Are societies that began to emerge during the industrial revolution. Their economy is based on industrialization for production of its goods and services.

  • Industrial mode of production began 250 years ago in Britain and from there it spread to the entire world. In the simplest sense an industrial society is a social system which focuses primarily on finished goods manufactured with the aid of machinery.
  • According to Wallace and Wallace in industrial society the largest portion of the labour force is in mechanized production of goods and services.
  • Industrial societies are in continual state of rapid change due to technological innovations. It productivity stimulates population growth where people live in cities and urban areas.
  • New medical technologies and improved living standards serve to extend life expectancy.
  • The division of labour becomes complex with the availability of specialized jobs.
  • The family and kinship as social institutions are relegated to the background. There is breakup of joint family system and nuclear family unit become prominent.
  • The influence of religion diminishes as people hold many different and competing values and beliefs. State assumes central power in the industrial societies.
  • Industrialism is associated with the widening gap between two social classes of haves (the rich/capitalism) and have nots (working class/the poor). The rich is seen as exploiting the poor.

6. Post industrial societies:-

These are societies which are characterized by use of electronics manipulation and transmission of information. They are societies that have undergone several structural changes after industrialization.

  • The concept of post industrial society was first formulated in 1962 by D. Bell and subsequently elaborated in his seminal work (Coming of Post Industrial Society (1974).
  • According to Bell in modern societies theoretical knowledge forms the ‘axial principle’ of society and is the source of innovation and policy formulation. In economy this is reflected in the decline of goods production and manufacturing as the main form of economic activity to be replaced by services.
  • Post industrial societies are also characterized by rapid increase in the size of service sector as opposed to the manufacturing sector and an increase in the amount of information technology.

7. Tribal societies:-

According to Ralph Linton, a tribe is group of bands occupying a contiguous territory, having a feeling of unity deriving from numerous similarities in culture, frequent contacts and certain community of interests. A large section of tribal population depends on agriculture for survival.

  • Tribal societies inhabit and remain within a definite and common topography. The members of a tribe possess a consciousness of mutual unity and speak a common language.
  • The members generally marry into their own group but now due to increased contact with outsiders there are instances of tribal marrying outside as well.
  • The tribes believe in ties of blood relationship between it members
  • Tribes follow their own political organization and maintain harmony.
  • Religion os of great importance in tribe. The tribal political and social organization is based on religion because they are granted religious sanctity and recognition.

Characteristics of society

Marion Levy proposed four criteria, which any group should meet in order to be considered a society;

  1. The group must be capable of existing longer than the lifespan of the individual
  2. It should be able to recruit its new members at least in part through sexual reproduction
  3. It should be united in fulfilling a common system of action, a common set of customs, values, standard way of acting
  4. The system of action should be self sufficient; be able to provide resources, knowledge and legitimate power.



1. Society supports individual fulfillment:-

The ability of the society to support the individuals self-fulfillment is the measure of society. As society overcomes its own divisions; such as war, poverty, diseases and conflict, its more likely to support the fulfillment of the individual.

2. Society develops the individual:-

The greatest capacity of society is its ability fosters the personal growth and development of its individual citizens. The empowerment and fulfillment of individual may be the greatest evolving force at work in society today.

3. Society supports the development of the individual:-

As society evolves, it comes to increasingly support the growth and potential of the individual. It moves from more recognition to empowering the individual at the economic level to supporting him at the level of culture and individuals fulfillment. The more society recognizes the individual and fully engages in supporting it, the more the individual supports the growth and development of that society, likewise from economic to cultural to psychological to spiritual

4. Society supports talents of individuals:-

The society supports talents that make individuals accomplish different things.

5. Society recognizes both the collective and the individual:-

The collectivity should recognize the complete freedom of every individual. On the other hand as the individual advances spiritually, one finds ones self more and more united with the collectivity and the all.

6. Society encourages empowerment of the individual for himself and for the collective:-

The role of the family in life is beginning to vanish, as the individual person is learning to stand on his own. On the other hand, we see the organization he works for playing a greater role in his life. That is, his work is more and more for the society, the world, the collective.

7. Society encourages individuals to develop all their skills:-

The individual in the mass should be so developed in all skills as to fully avail of all the social achievements before the society can evolve further.

8. Society encourages both individual and society achievement:-

Man can achieve anything on which he sets his mind, provided it is already an achievement of the society. It is unthinkable for us to conceive of hundreds of geniuses in the future. It will be real when the society fixes its minds on it.

9. Society supports full emergence of an individual:-

The individual in our world is left to fend for himself. If he develops the skills and has the necessary drive, he can succeed for himself in the wider world. Society in that sense offers a wider scope of possibility for each person. When we are born unto this world, we function within the values, influence and institutions of society.

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