Human societies

From Academic Kids

Human social statistics
Largest agglomerations Tokyo, New York City, Mexico City, Seoul, S�o Paulo, Mumbai
(2000 est.)
Mandarin Chinese 14.37 %,
Hindi 6.02 %,
English 5.61 %,
Spanish 5.59 %,
Bengali 3.4 %,
Portuguese 2.63 %,
Russian 2.75 %,
Japanese 2.06 %,
German 1.64 %,
Korean 1.28 %,
French 1.27 %,
(2002 est.)
Christian 32.71 %,
Muslim 19.67 %,
non-religious 14.84 %,
Hindu 13.28 %,
others 13.05 %,
Buddhist 5.84 %
Population (9th March 2005 est.)
 - Total 6,423,457,263
 - Density 12.6 per km² (by total area)
43.1 per km² (by land area)
Currencies US dollar, Japanese yen, Euro, UK pound, others
GDP (2003 est.)
 -PPP $51,656,251 million IND
  per capita $8,236 IND
 -Nominal $36,356,240 million USD
  per capita $5,797 USD
   edit (

A society is a group of human beings distinguishable from other groups by mutual interests, characteristic relationships, shared institutions and a common culture.



The casual meaning of society simply refers to a group of people living together in an ordered community.1

The social sciences use the term society to mean a group of people that form a semi-closed (or semi-open) social system, in which most interactions are with other individuals belonging to the group. More abstractly, a society is defined as a network of relationships between entities. A society is also sometimes defined as an interdependent community.

The origin of the word society comes from the Latin societas, a "friendly association with others." Societas is derived from socius meaning "companion" and thus the meaning of society is closely related to what is social. Implicit in the meaning of society is that its members share some mutual concern or interest in a common objective. As such, society is often used as synonymous with the collective citizenry of a country as directed through national institutions concerned with civic welfare.


Subsistence types

Human societies are often organized according to their primary means of subsistence: social scientists identify hunter-gatherer societies, nomadic pastoral societies, horticulturalist or simple farming societies, and intensive agricultural societies, also called civilizations. Some consider Industrial and Post-Industrial societies to be separate from traditional agricultural societies.

Social support

One common theme for societies in general is that societies serve to aid individuals in a time of crisis; historically, when an individual in some community requires aid, for example at birth, death, sickness, or disaster, like-minded members of that community will rally others in that society to render aid, in some form, whether the aid is symbolic, linguistic, physical, mental, emotional, financial, medical, religious, etc.

Ceremony and prestige

Many societies will also distribute largess, at the behest of some individual or some larger group of people. This type of generosity can be seen in all known cultures; typically, prestige or other cultural factor accrues to the generous individual or group.

Social obligation

Some societies will bestow a status on some individual or larger group of people, when that individual or group performs an admired or desired action; This type of recognition is bestowed by members of that society on the individual or larger group in the form of some name, or title, or dress, or monetary reward, etc. Males especially are susceptible to this type of action and subsequent reward, even at the risk of their lives. Action by some individual or larger group in behalf of some ideal of their culture is seen in all societies.

Common attributes of societies

Even subsistence-based societies exhibit the characteristics of community action, generosity, and shared risk/reward, in common with other more technology-based civilizations.

Political power at the basis for some societies

Societies can also be organized according to their political structure: in order of increasing size and complexity, there are band societies, tribes, chiefdoms, and state societies, with varying degrees of political power, depending on the what cultural geographical, historical environments that these societies have to contend with.

Thus, when a society exists at the same time as other societies at the same level of technology and culture, but is also isolated geographically, that society is more likely to survive than an equivalent society which is prey to others which can encroach on their resources. See the history article for examples.

Competition between societies

But a society which is not able to offer an effective response to other societies which may be in competition with them will ultimately be subsumed into the culture of the competing society. See the technology article for examples.

Shared belief

Peoples of many nations united by common political and cultural traditions, beliefs, or values are sometimes also said to be a society (for example: Judeo-Christian, Eastern, Western, etc). When used in this context, the term is being used as a means of contrasting two or more "societies" whose representative members represent alternative conflicting and competing worldviews.

Common interest

Also, some academic, learned and scholarly societies and associations, such as the American Society of Mathematics, describe themselves as societies. In the United Kingdom these are normally non-profit making and have charitable status. In science they range in size to include national scientific societies including the Royal Society to regional natural history societies. Academic societies may have interest in a wide range of subjects, including the arts, humanities and science.


In the United States, the title "society" is most common in commerce, in which a partnership between investors to start a business is usually called a "society". In the United Kingdom, partnerships are not called societies but cooperatives or mutuals are often known as societies (such as friendly societies and building societies).


As a related note, there is still an ongoing debate in sociological and anthropological circles if there exists an entity we could call society. Some Marxist theorists, like Louis Althusser, Ernesto Laclau and Slavoj Zizek, argued that society is nothing more than an effect of the ruling ideology of a certain class system, and shouldn't be used as a sociological notion.


Note 1: Definition of Society ( from the OED.


Academic Kids Menu

  • Art and Cultures
    • Art (
    • Architecture (
    • Cultures (
    • Music (
    • Musical Instruments (
  • Biographies (
  • Clipart (
  • Geography (
    • Countries of the World (
    • Maps (
    • Flags (
    • Continents (
  • History (
    • Ancient Civilizations (
    • Industrial Revolution (
    • Middle Ages (
    • Prehistory (
    • Renaissance (
    • Timelines (
    • United States (
    • Wars (
    • World History (
  • Human Body (
  • Mathematics (
  • Reference (
  • Science (
    • Animals (
    • Aviation (
    • Dinosaurs (
    • Earth (
    • Inventions (
    • Physical Science (
    • Plants (
    • Scientists (
  • Social Studies (
    • Anthropology (
    • Economics (
    • Government (
    • Religion (
    • Holidays (
  • Space and Astronomy
    • Solar System (
    • Planets (
  • Sports (
  • Timelines (
  • Weather (
  • US States (


  • Home Page (
  • Contact Us (

  • Clip Art (
Personal tools