Types of Societies

This photo is a police officer looking down at his phone and texting while on duty
How does technology influence a society's daily occupations? (Photo courtesy of Mo Riza/flickr)

Hunting and gathering tribes, industrialized Japan, Americans—each is a society. But what does this mean? Exactly what is a society? In sociological terms, society refers to a group of people who live in a definable community and share the same culture. On a broader scale, society consists of the people and institutions around us, our shared beliefs, and our cultural ideas. Typically, more-advanced societies also share a political authority.

Sociologist Gerhard Lenski (1924–) defined societies in terms of their technological sophistication. As a society advances, so does its use of technology. Societies with rudimentary technology depend on the fluctuations of their environments, while industrialized societies have more control over the impact of their surroundings and thus develop different cultural features. This distinction is so important that sociologists generally classify societies along a spectrum of their level of industrialization—from preindustrial to industrial to postindustrial.