The term society is generally used to refer to a group of organisms of the same species occupying a defined physical or geographical area. In most instances the term society is used to refer to human groups (who share a common culture).

Types of Human Societies

1. Hunting and Gathering Societies

2. Horticultural Societies

3. Pastoral Societies

4. Agrarian Societies

5. Industrial Societies

6. Post Industrial Societies

Hunting and gathering societies are societies in which all of the dietary intake of the members of the society is obtained by some combination of hunting, trapping, collecting shellfish, fishing and collecting edible plant materials.

Horticultural societies are those societies in which the major portion of the dietary intake of the members is obtained from crops which are grown on land which is cleared by the slash and burn technique.

Pastoral societies are societies in which the major portion of the livelihood of members is derived form the products obtained from herds of domesticated animals.

Agrarian societies are societies which are based uponcrops which are produced in conjunction with the use of the plow technique. The relatively high level of agricultural productivity in this type of society provides a situation favorable for the development of complex systems of social stratification and large permanent cities.

Industrial Societies began to emerge with the so called Industrial Revolution which is generally agreed to have its origins with the invention of the steam engine (actually serveral improvements in the already existing steam engine) by James Watt in or around 1769 in England. Industrial societies combine science and technology with the utilization of energy to run machines.

The Postindustrial societies is characterized by the use of electronic manipulation and transmission of information. The advent of radio followed by the television, along with the development and evolution of the computer, are fundamental technological developments associated with the development of the postindustrial society.


The origin of the concept of Ideal Types is credited to the German sociologist Max Weber (1864-1920).

How to use the concept of Ideal Types

Ideal Types are used in a classification system which is composed of two ideal types each of which form the opposite extremes of the classification system. The two ideal types are exaggerations of reality and are ussed only for reasons of comparisions. In reality nothing conforms perfectly to the characteristicsof the ideal types.

The continuum is an unbroken series of gradations representing different degrees between the characteristics of two ideal types. All of reality can be placed somewhere on the continuum.

Several sociologists have used the concept of ideal types to compare and constrast difference societies.

Ferdinand Tonnies (1855-1936) created two ideal types of societies called Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft. The Gemeinschaft was a traditional, rural, agrarian society, characterized by a strong sense of community with many primary relationships. The Gesellschaft was an industrial, urban, dynamic society in which secondary relationships dominate.

An American sociologist, Robert Redfield, created the ideal types of Folk and Urban Society.

The Folk Society is a small society which is physically and culturally isolated from other societies. This society is homogeneous, stable and has a simple division of labor. The Urban Society is a large, dynamic and complex society with a heterogeneous population.

Howard Becker (1899-1960) developed the concepts of the Secular Society and the Sacred Society.

The Sacred Society is an isolated society with a high degree of "supernaturalism" and strong kinship ties. The Secular Society is a society based on rationality and science, characterized by formal laws and a lack of strong kinship ties.

The French sociologist Emil Durkheim (1858-1917) looked at ideal types of societies by examining the forces which held the society together. Durkheim called the force which held society together Solidarity.

Durkheim's two ideal types of solidarity are Mechanical Solidarity and Organic Solidarity. Mechanical Solidarity was found in a society characterized by a simple division of labor and a morally homogeneous population that is held together by similar values and beliefs. Organic Solidarity was found in a modern society that has a complex division of labor and a heterogeneous population that is held together by the member's dependency on one another.