Types of Societies

Contributor: Sarah Lerdal. Lesson ID: 11461

Is your life too fast, too slow, too busy, too boring, too hard, too easy? Would you rather live in a different society? Research and write about the types of societies, then post your ideas online!


Social Studies

Social Studies
learning style
personality style
Grade Level
High School (9-12)
Lesson Type
Dig Deeper

Lesson Plan - Get It!

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  • Would you prefer to live during a different time period? If so, which one and why?
  • Do you think your society is "better off" than it was 100 years ago? Why or why not?

Societies are groups of interdependent people that share a common culture.

Throughout the world, societies continue to change. The United States is one example of a society that has undergone immense changes.

This lesson will address how sociologists classify societies. Sociologists are scientists who study human social behavior.

Think about how people differentiate various societies of the world.

  • In what ways are societies grouped?
  • Did you consider location, religion, or think about terms like "first world" and "third world"?

Sociologists classify societies based on how the majority of the population uses technology to meet its members' needs.

There are three broad categories of societies: preindustrial, industrial, and postindustrial. Historically, the United States followed the natural progression and began as a preindustrial society, moved to an industrial society, and now is considered a postindustrial society.

Preindustrial societies participate in food production as the main economic activity. They use human and animal labor to obtain food. Hunter-gatherer, pastoral, horticultural, and agricultural are all types of societies that are considered to be preindustrial.

The home is generally the place where most economic activity, as well as schooling, takes place. These societies typically have fewer numbers of people than industrial and postindustrial societies, because the people within the society are often mobile, and there is rarely a surplus of food.

The Global Oneness Project has documented one preindustrial society. To learn more about this Mongolian group, look at the images and read the photograph captions at Mongolia's Nomads, courtesy of Global Oneness Project.

  • Did anything surprise you about the photos?

If a society undergoes an industrial revolution, as the United States did during the 1800s, it then moves to a new category.

Members of industrial societies focus their energies on using machines to produce goods. There are more goods, because the technology is faster than what humans can do. Production moves away from the home and into factories. The building of factories leads to urbanization, which is the growth of cities.

Watch this Turning Points in History- Industrial Revolution video by All Histories to learn more about the industrial revolution in England and the United States.

  • What types of problems are caused by rapid urbanization?

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The United States, as well as many other Western countries, is now considered a postindustrial society.

In these types of societies, the majority of people are employed in jobs that provide information and services. Keep in mind that although postindustrial societies have agriculturalists and manufacturers, a society is classified based on the economic activity of the largest percentage of its people.

Postindustrial societies value education, efficiency, and new technologies.

Although technology's role in sustaining a society is the main way sociologists categorize societies, preindustrial, industrial, and postindustrial societies also have other defining features. Some of them include:

Birth rate compares the average annual number of births during a year per 1,000 persons in the population at midyear.

Death rate compares the average annual number of deaths during a year per 1,000 persons in the population at midyear.

Life expectancy compares the average number of years to be lived by a group of people born in the same year.

Infant mortality rate compares the number of deaths of infants under one year old in a given year per 1,000 live births in the same year.

Literacy is the percentage of people over age 15 who can read and write.

(All of these definitions were taken from The World Factbook from The Central Intelligence Agency.)

Although all types of societies exist in the world, which types of societies do you hear about the most?

Most likely you said postindustrial, because that is what is most often displayed in the media. It is important to remember that a large percentage of societies are still considered preindustrial and industrial.

Now, in the Got It? section, you will investigate how social factors like birth and death rates vary amongst preindustrial, industrial, and postindustrial societies.

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