The following points highlight the three important types of societies. The types are: 1. Tribal Society 2. Agrarian Society 3. Industrial Society 4. Post-Industrial Society.
Type # 1. Tribal Society:
The leaders of Indian tribes met at a conference in Shillong in 1962 and defined a tribe as “an indigenous homogeneous unit speaking a common language, claiming a common descent, living in a particular geographical area, backward in technology, pre-literate, loyally observing social and political customs based on kinship”. This definition brings out broadly the features of a tribe.
The economic and social structure of a tribal society may be briefly described thus:
Hunting and food-gathering constitute the main occupation of a typical tribal community. There exists a simple division of labour based on age and sex. Private ownership of property is virtually non-existent, so also is exchange and credit. The patterns of economic activity are, thus, simple and undifferentiated which bear no comparison to the complex economic structure of the present-day industrial society.
The social structure is highly integrated and unified; class division of an industrial society is practically unknown. The interaction among the members of a tribal society follows the pattern of interaction among the members of a primary group.
Secondary ties are non-existent. As such social control is exercised through folkways and similar other informal ways. Religion of the tribal people is expressed in terms of totemism, magic and fetishism.
Type # 2. Agrarian Society:
As the name suggests, the dominant occupation of the people in such a society is agriculture. Naturally, the domestication of plants and animals constitutes an important economic activity. There also exists, alongside agriculture, varied economic occupations, such as those of artisans, weavers, potters, blacksmiths, etc.
A simple division of labour characterizes such a society. There is practically no scope for complex division of labour which we find in an industrial society.
There are varying patterns of land ownership. There are, in the first place, absentee landowners. They do not cultivate the land in their possession and let it out for sharecropping. These share-croppers cultivate the land on a crop-sharing basis.
There are, secondly, supervisory farmers who own land but get their land cultivated by hired labourers who do not generally own any land themselves. Thirdly, there are small cultivator-owners who own and cultivate their small holdings.
The domestication of animals and the discovery of agriculture brought about a revolutionary change in the patterns of living in man’s distant past. His food supply became more abundant, more predictable. Men no longer had to live in small and wandering groups, hunting, fishing, and gathering wild fruit in order to survive. Agriculture enabled them to settle in larger and more stable communities.
There emerged, as a result, what is called village community. The social life of an agrarian society is, therefore, village-oriented. Physical mobility being virtually non-existent because of inadequate development of the means of transportation, primary group relationships prevail in an agrarian society.
Social control is naturally exercised through informal means, such as folkways and mores. Family is a very important institution in an agrarian society, catering to the myriad needs of its members. The family serves practically as a miniature community.
The patterns of living being, more or less, unchanging and the production- relations also being virtually stabilized, the social divisions into classes in such a society exhibit the features of a closed social structure.
Agriculture is, to a large extent, affected by the elements of nature—flood and drought, for instance— which are beyond the control of farmers. The people, therefore, become fatalistic and superstitious and observe rituals and practices designed to influence the elements of nature.
They turn to God either to persuade Him with their prayers or to compel Him to listen. These two elements are inextricably mixed in religions of agrarian society.
Type # 3. Industrial Society:
Pre-industrial society is dependent on raw labour power and the extraction of primary resources from nature.
Industrial society, on the other hand, “is organised around the axis of production and machinery for the fabrication of goods. In its rhythm of life and organisation of work, industrial society is the defining feature of the social structure—i.e. the economy, the occupational system, and the stratification system—of modern Western society”.
The industrial society, which emerged in the wake of industrial revolution, is distinguished by a new economic order. The entire production is shifted away from the family and the household to the factory. Family is no longer a production unit, as in an agrarian setting. Moreover, machine technology, which is the basis of the new economic order, is the cause as well as the effect of a complex division of labour.
Another significant change in the economic field is the separation of ownership and control in industrial enterprises. At present, the large companies which dominate the major branches of industry are managed and directed by individuals who do not own them.
The owners (i.e., those who purchased the equity shares are the thousands of small and medium share-holders who are primarily concerned with the profitability of the enterprise. An industrial society is marked by disappearance of the neighborhood and predominance of secondary relationships.
Both in size and spatial distribution, population records an increase. Social mobility becomes easier and possible because of improved means of transportation. Social control is possible only through formal means, such as law and order machinery of the political authority.
Numerous associations grow in order to take care of varied needs of the people—health care, education, recreation, etc. As a result, the family is divested of many of its functions and is no longer a miniature community catering to the myriad needs of its, members.
Moreover, physical mobility facilitates social mobility. No one seems destined as in an agrarian society, to be tied down to the class to which one is born. Merit norm, rather than ascription, becomes the dominant value.
One can, therefore, improve one’s social status by fulfilling the merit norms prescribed by society. In other words, open class structure replaces the closed class structure of an agrarian society. In addition, women are no longer tied down to their domestic chores from sunrise till sunset.
Mechanical devices of various kinds free them from domestic drudgery and they can afford enough time to qualify and compete for jobs which were previously considered to be the exclusive domain of men.
In an industrial society men and women compete on an equal footing in all spheres of life. Further, a far- reaching change in outlook is discernible. Fatalism and superstition of old days are replaced by a pragmatic and rational outlook. Attitude towards religion also undergoes a radical change.
People are increasingly becoming aware of the fact that science may be able to explain eventually most human behaviour but can never tell them how they should behave. Science also does not tell them what goals they should try to achieve. Science is concerned with facts, not with the meaning of life.
People in an industrial society are, however, deeply concerned with the meaning of life. Industrial society disturbs people economically, socially and even emotionally.
Like the primitive people, they also need, in no small measure, a re-assurance in a world of neck to-neck competition and the co-existence of success and failure, of frustration and fulfillment. They, therefore, turn to religion as an emotional support in a disturbing environment, as an end in itself.
Type # 4. Post-Industrial society:
Daniel Bell coined the phrase post-industrial society some years ago to describe the new social structures evolving in modern industrially advanced societies, particularly in the U.S.A. since the second half of the twentieth century.
The singular feature of the post- industrial society, according to Professor Bell, is an important new principle, the codification of theoretical knowledge, which now shapes innovation in science, technology and social policy.
Post-industrial society is actually a “new knowledge society which is emerging out of the older corporate capitalism”. Professor Bell says that the concept of the post-industrial society is a large generalization.