How We Got Here

Summary of Video #12 of Crash Course Sociology.

What is a society? A society is a group of people who share a culture and a territory. Gerhard Lenski focused on technology as the main source of societal change (sociocultural evolution). He broke up human history into 5 types of societies defined by the technology they used and the social organisations that the technology helped create and sustain: huntering and gathering; horticultural and pastoral; agrarian; industrial, and; post industrial. These different types of society are not isolated from each other.

Karl Marx might seem pretty similar to Lenski, but for Marx, you only get large-scale social change through class struggle, which culminates in a revolution. Max Weber seems further away from Lenski, focusing on instead on ideas. Durkheim, on the other hand, approached the transitions from the perspective of a society’s underlying social structure. He saw Lenski’s social cultural evolution as the story of a long transition from mechanical to organic solidarity.


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