Social Typology

Levels of Sociocultural Integration

Social typology is the process of placing individual societies into broader categories based on a salient characteristic.  This form of classification is of central importance for the presentation of social and ethnographic data and for developing comparisons among societies. Several typologies are current and each is usually based on theoretical perspective, since the criteria for grouping societies together are normally assigned causal importance and linked to associated traits which they supposedly influence.  

Typologies which we will investigate in this course of instruction include:

  1. Simple vs Complex Society (Structural Functionalist Theoretical Base)
  2. Modes of Production (Marxist Orientation)
  3. Levels of Sociocultural Integration (Cultural Evolution)
Levels of Sociocultural Integration

One of the most prominent and widely used topology of social forms is based on Julian Steward's formulation of levels of social integration.  This framework is based on the view that the scale and order of a society are based on the prevaling sources and patterns of subsistence.  The degree of control over the environment and the level of resources exploited from it, influences a number of important social variables including:

  1. demographic factors- population size, stability, and concentration,
  2. divisions of labour - craft and occupation specialization, and
  3. social stratification - the presence or absence of a non-laboring elite
  4. political centralization - the presence or absence of the state
The standard formulation of Steward's typology includes four levels of integration: band, tribe, state, and industrial society.
Subsistence Base
Population Density
Settlement form
Band Foraging/Pastoralism 1/sq mile Nomadic
Tribe Horticulture/ 
Extensive Cultivation
100/sq mile Sedentary Village
State/Peasant Society Agriculture/ 
Intensive Cultivation
1,000/sq mile 10% Urban
Industrial Society Industrialism > 50% Urban

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