Types of Societies in Sociology

An error occurred trying to load this video.

Try refreshing the page, or contact customer support.

Coming up next: What Is Social Cohesion? - Definition & Theory

You're on a roll. Keep up the good work!

Take Quiz Watch Next Lesson
Your next lesson will play in 10 seconds
  • 0:02 The Six Types of Societies
  • 0:40 Earliest Societies
  • 2:19 Developing Societies
  • 3:46 Advanced Societies
  • 5:27 Lesson Summary
Save Save Save

Want to watch this again later?

Log in or sign up to add this lesson to a Custom Course.

Log in or Sign up

Speed Speed

Recommended Lessons and Courses for You

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Yolanda Williams

Yolanda has taught college Psychology and Ethics, and has a doctorate of philosophy in counselor education and supervision.

Did you know that there have been six types of societies throughout our history? Learn more about the different types of societies and the characteristics that are associated with each.

The Six Types of Societies

Have you ever wondered what society was like before your lifetime? Maybe you wonder in what ways has society transformed in the past few centuries? Human beings have created and lived in several types of societies throughout history. Sociologists have classified the different types of societies into six categories, each of which possesses their own unique characteristics:

  • Hunting and gathering societies
  • Pastoral societies
  • Horticultural societies
  • Agricultural societies
  • Industrial societies
  • Post-industrial societies

Earliest Societies

Hunting and gathering societies are the earliest form of society. The members survive primarily by hunting, trapping, fishing, and gathering edible plants. The majority of the members' time is spent looking for and gathering food. A hunting and gathering society has five characteristics:

  1. Family is the society's primary institution. Family determines the distribution of food and how to socialize children.
  2. These societies are small compared to the others. They generally have less than 50 members.
  3. Hunting and gathering societies are nomadic, which means that they move constantly in order to find food and water.
  4. Members of hunting and gathering societies are mutually dependent upon each other.
  5. Although there is an equal division of labor among the members of hunting and gathering societies, there is a division of labor based on sex. Men are typically responsible for hunting, and women are typically gatherers.

Pastoral societies began around 12,000 years ago. These societies rely on products obtained through the domestication and breeding of animals for transportation and food. Pastoral societies are common in areas where crops cannot be supported, for example in North Africa. Unlike hunting and gathering societies, pastoral societies only have to move when the land in which the animals graze is no longer usable. Pastoral societies also allow for job specialization, since not everyone is needed to gather or hunt for food. For example, while some people breed animals, others are able to produce tools or clothing, which allows for specialization in these areas.

Developing Societies

Horticultural societies emerged between 10,000 and 12,000 years ago in Latin America, Asia, and parts of the Middle East. These societies rely on the cultivation of fruits, vegetables, and plants in order to survive. Horticultural societies are often forced to relocate when the resources of the land are depleted or when the water supplies decrease.

Also referred to as agrarian societies, agricultural societies rely on the use of technology in order to cultivate crops in large areas, including wheat, rice, and corn. The technological advances led to an increase in food supplies, an increase in population, and the development of trade centers. This period of technological changes is referred to as the Agricultural Revolution and began around 8,500 years ago. Agricultural societies developed roughly in this order:

  • Animals are used to pull plows.
  • Plowing allows for the cultivation of larger areas of land.
  • Soil aeration caused by plowing leads to higher crop yields over longer periods of time.
  • High volumes of food production allow people to build permanent homes in a single location.
  • Towns develop, which eventually grow into cities.
  • Job specialization increases as high-yield crops allow people to focus on skills and crafts other than farming.
  • Fewer people are involved with food production, and economies diversify as a result.

Advanced Societies

Industrial societies were developed with the Industrial Revolution that started around 1769. The Industrial Revolution began with England's improvement and use of the steam engine as a way to power machines. Industrial societies rely on advanced energy sources in order to run machinery. Changes that occurred in industrialized societies include:

To unlock this lesson you must be a Member.
Create your account

Register to view this lesson

Are you a student or a teacher?

Unlock Your Education

See for yourself why 30 million people use

Become a member and start learning now.
Become a Member  Back
What teachers are saying about
Try it risk-free for 30 days

Earning College Credit

Did you know… We have over 200 college courses that prepare you to earn credit by exam that is accepted by over 1,500 colleges and universities. You can test out of the first two years of college and save thousands off your degree. Anyone can earn credit-by-exam regardless of age or education level.

To learn more, visit our Earning Credit Page

Transferring credit to the school of your choice

Not sure what college you want to attend yet? has thousands of articles about every imaginable degree, area of study and career path that can help you find the school that's right for you.

Create an account to start this course today
Try it risk-free for 30 days!
Create an account