Organized Societies

Throughout history in every part of the world, people have organized themselves into groups with common rules of living.  The name society is given to an organization or a group of people that stay together and who are involved in persistent social interaction.  Societies can roughly be classified into four groups, being either a Band, or a Tribe, or a Chiefdom, or an Early state, although some sociologists and anthropologists (experts who study early and tribal cultures) may refer to six basic types of societies, where each different type is defined by its level of technology.  Here again we have the Band of Mobile hunter-gatherers, the Tribes which is broken down into being a Pastoral society, or a Horticultural society, or an Agricultural society and the two other distinctions are the Feudal society and the Industrial society.  I will not discuss the Feudal society and the Industrial society.

The Band consists of Mobile hunter-gatherers and this group contains fewer than 100 people and they lack formal leaders.  They all live in the same type of huts and everyone is considered to be equal.  The members of hunting and gathering societies primarily survive by hunting animals, fishing, and gathering plants.  The vast majority of these societies existed in the past, with only a few (perhaps a million people total) living today and they are on the verge of extinction.  Early humans began to organize into societies, so they could survive the daily hazards of their environment.  If the animals that they hunted left the area, or if the plants died, or even when the rivers dried up, the society needed to relocate to an area where resources were more plentiful.  Most hunting and gathering societies were nomadic being quite mobile, moving constantly in search of food and water.  The labor involved in hunting and gathering of food was divided equally among members, and these societies stored little in the form of surplus goods.  Anyone who could hunt, fish, or gather fruits and vegetables did so.  They sacrificed their individuality for the sake of their group.

Tribes or Segmentary societies rarely number more than a few thousand individuals and they are made up of settled farmers who typically don’t move around that much.  Here everyone is related in some way or another and everyone is equal, and there is no money and no jails.  If someone rises to an exalted position, this is done by deeds, not by birth right.  Pastoral societies domesticate animals and this allows for a more manageable food supply than just hunting and gathering.  The pastoral societies are able to produce a surplus of goods, which makes storing food for future use a possibility.  Here you will find traders, healers, craftspeople, spiritual leaders, and others with special skills.

Horticultural societies differ from pastoral societies, as they mostly rely on cultivating fruits, vegetables, and plants.  These horticultural societies also had to be mobile, because land resources or water supplies could eventually become depleted or dwindle down over time, and then they would be forced to leave. Horticultural societies occasionally produced a surplus, which permitted storage as well as the emergence of other professions not related to the survival of the society.

Agricultural societies used technological advances to cultivate crops (especially grains like wheat, rice, corn, and barley) over a large area.  Increases in food supplies led to larger populations than in earlier communities.  This allowed for a greater surplus, which resulted in towns that became centers of trade supporting various educators, merchants, craftspeople, rulers, and religious leaders who did not have to worry about locating nourishment.  Women became more subordinate to men in these Agricultural societies, they lost social status because they shared labor more equally with men.  As villages and towns expanded into neighboring areas, conflicts with other communities inevitably occurred.  Farmers provided warriors with food in exchange for protection against invasion by enemies.  A system of rulers with high social status also developed.

Chiefdoms are a form of hierarchical political organization in non-industrial societies usually based on kinship, where formal leadership is monopolized by the legitimate senior members of select families.  As populations grew in size, and everybody no longer knew everybody else, arguments started to develop, so these towns developed chiefs to settle disputes.  It was natural for some big man to arise and decide that they should be in power as the chief.  The chief would organize things and be responsible for making all the decisions.  Chiefs began to inherit their power from their fathers, and they started to think of themselves as being special people, more important and closer to the gods than the ordinary people.  They married the daughters of other chiefs, and soon people felt that only people born into this special group of people should be chiefs.

Early States have rulers who have the authority to establish and enforce laws.  They feature craft specialization, an army, jail and enforcers and taxes.  Farming is more intense and the ruler or King is born into their position.  Early states were characterized by highly stratified societies, with a privileged and wealthy ruling class that was subordinate to a monarch.  The ruling classes began to differentiate themselves through forms of architecture and other cultural practices that were different from those of the subordinate laboring classes.  The early state is regarded as a special political organization of a society (a system of political and administrative institutions) that emerged in certain societies which have already reached a necessary level of development and a certain level of socio-cultural and political complexity, so they were able to produce necessary amounts of surplus, and have necessary territory size and population.

A primitive society is different from a modern post-industrial technology society, just as a warring society is also different from a peaceful society.  By studding the buildings and the road systems of a society, you can gain valuable information about them.  Literate societies leave behind a wealth of written data that can answer many social questions posed by archaeologists.  An examination of personal objects in a society also can give you a good insight about them.

Cleanliness has always been a step towards progress and man’s survival has depended upon it becoming institutionalized in society.  Cleanliness has a deep meaning in relation to the way we organize ourselves in society, especially in regards to our appearance and the way we handle dirt and bodily waste.  Early man learned to remove dirt and clean their homes and wash their clothes.  Eventually man developed sewerage systems to carry away bodily waste.  Cleanliness became a distinction of who people were and how they behaved.  Our ancestors perceived the act of relieving oneself as a natural thing to do, as before society frowned upon this everybody just did it whenever they had to and wherever they were.

2 thoughts on “Organized Societies

  1. I thought in all of the ancient world the truly literate society was China.. In others education was more or less confined to the upper strata of the social hierarchy..

    Liked by 1 person

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