The word “society” refers to a group of people who occupy a certain territory and possess a distinct culture, characteristics, and institutions. Oftentimes, societies are also held together by a system of shared beliefs or common goals.
There are four types of human societies based on means of subsistence. These are the hunter-gatherer societies, nomadic pastoral societies, horticulturalist or simple farming societies, and intensive agricultural societies (civilizations). Some classifications also list industrial and post-industrial societies, although this may fall under agricultural societies.
Hunter-gatherers main means of subsistence is through foraging edible plants or hunting animals from the wild. They are not significantly concerned with domestication. Unlike hunter-gatherers, the nomadic pastoral society is wholly concerned with domestication and farming, agriculture, and horticulture. They are concerned with tending cattle, camels, sheep, goats, and yaks. Their other defining feature is that they are mobile and tend to move the herd from place to place in search of water and fresh pasture.
Horticulturist societies are primarily concerned with growing plants and crop production. They focus on the storage, processing, and transport of vegetables and fruits, berries, nuts, and the like. On the other hand, agriculturists subsist through the care and breeding of both plants and animals. Specifically, they raise and process all types of livestock and are concerned with crop planting and harvesting.
Industrial societies are engaged in profit-generating businesses involving the manufacturing and marketing of goods and services and involving large amounts of capital investment. In terms of earnings, the financial services industry ranked as the largest industry in the world in 2005.
Finally, post-industrial societies, as the name indicates, are industrial societies that have evolved or undergone a series of structural changes as a result of industrialization. For example, the recent explosion in the area of information technology has led to an information age, which is a post-industrial society. Its raw materials are information, creativity, skills, and knowledge. Some post-industrial societies are characterized by the rapid rise of service-providers to the extent that they surpass manufacturers.
Post-industrial societies are the most advanced, but they have also been the subject of some criticism, particularly in communities where shopping and recreational developments or new housing and residential facilities have displaced old factories.