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A society is made up of people living within defined territorial boarders who share a common culture. A society is independent of outsiders; it contains many smaller social structures that are needed to meet the needs of its members. Some of the social structures include family, economy and religion. Societies meet their members’ basic needs, such as the needs for food and shelter, in different ways. Anthropologists used these differences to form the basis of a system that is they often use to classify societies. The system classifies societies as preindustrial, industrial, or postindustrial.
Preindustrial societies could be independent and self-sufficient. One common preindustrial society is the hunting and gathering society. This society survives by hunting animals and gathering edible plants such as wild fruits and vegetables. Hunting and gathering societies are usually nomadic, and this is the reason that they have few material goods. They also tend to be very small, with members scattered over a wide area. They have no social classes and no political institutions. Another is a horticultural society, which survives primarily through the growing of plants. It came into being about ten to twelve thousand years ago, when people learned that they could grow and harvest certain plants. People were then able to stay in one place; they no longer had to move as much as they used to in order to find food. The primary emphasis is on providing for household members. In pastoral societies, food is obtained primarily by raising and taking care of animals, usually herd animals like cattle, camels, goats, and sheep. All of these animals provide both milk and meat. In this society, the women remain at home while the men take the herds to different pastures. Men are responsible for providing food making the status of women in pastoral societies low. These societies are male dominated. Since horticultural and pastoral societies produce a surplus of food, they have time to come up with other social changes. People can become political or religious leaders or make goods such as pottery, spears and clothing. These nonedible goods lead to trading with others. The surplus of food also leads to the development of social inequality. An agricultural society subsists by growing food. This society, unlike an agricultural society, uses plows and animals.
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A postindustrial society is one in which the economic emphasis is on providing services and information. It has five major features, which were identified by sociologist Daniel Bell. The five major features are the following:
1) For the first time, the majority of the labor forces are employed in services rather than in agriculture or manufacturing. These industries emphasize services such as banking or entertainment rather than producing tangible goods such as oil or steel.
2) White-collar employment replaces much blue-collar work.
3) Technical knowledge is the key organization feature. Knowledge is used for the creation of innovations as well as for making government policy. As technical knowledge becomes more important, as do educational and research institutions.
4) Technological change is planned and assessed. Effects of an innovation, whether it would be good or bad, can be considered before it is introduced.
5) Reliance on computer modeling in all areas. With modern computers, it is possible to consider a large number of variables simultaneously. It allows us to manage complex organizations including government at national, state, and local levels.