Essay on Main Differences between Pre-Industrial and Industrial Society

1. Simple versus Complex Social Structures:

In the pre-industrial societies, social structure is comparatively simple. There is less scope for division of labour, which is mostly based on age and sex. Men normally go out of family for hunting or fishing or for cultivating the land while women confine themselves to home to raise children and sometimes go out to gather food or work in the field.

There are, in general, fewer statuses and roles. Social institutions other than family and kinship, are either non-existent, or in a rudimentary stage, or very ineffective.

In the industrial societies, the social structure is more complex. There is vast scope for division of labour and specialization and it is more based on personal talents, abilities, efficiency, experience and preferences than age and sex.

Vast number of statuses and roles emerges. The importance of family and kinship in the social structure tends to get reduced. A series of new institutions and organisations catering to the diverse needs of the people emerges.

2. Life in the Context of Primary Groups versus Secondary Groups:

In the pre-industrial societies, we find the domination of primary groups such as family, kinship groups, small communities, etc. Life in the context of these groups is under the grip of social relationships which are conducted on an intimate and personal basis.

In these simple societies, social relationships generally involve those who have known one another for their lifetime. Relations are personal, and individual emotions and needs are considered.

In the modern industrial societies, on the contrary, social life occurs in the context of secondary groups and large anonymous urban communities. Here, social contact is often between relative strangers who have little or emotional involvement with each other.

Social relationships take place mostly on an impersonal basis where there is no real emotional attachment, Workers in service positions do not particularly care who their clients are personally, for there is no personal and emotional involvement in this kind of relationship.

Modern people may be treated as living material to be processed; in much the same way that raw material is treated in factories. This attitude which characterises the modern form of social bond is formal rather than informal, and non-intimate rather than intimate.

3. ‘Ascribed’ Versus ‘Achieved’ Statuses:

Statuses in the case of the pre-industrial societies are normally ‘ascribed’, a person’s “station in life”, so to say, are usually determined by the unchanging element of birth. Institutions such as family, kinship, race and religion rather fix the status of an individual on the basis of the birth of the individual. There is hardly any scope to change or improve it. Personal talents, capacities, efficiencies do not help much an individual to improve his status.

In industrial or modern societies, many statuses can be ‘achieved’. There is scope for the individuals to achieve social mobility, that is, to move up and down the status scale. Availability of wide socio-economic, occupational and political opportunities helps individuals to take a chance to improve their statuses.

4. Homogeneous Versus Heterogeneous Cultures:

Pre-industrial societies are characterised by a homogeneous culture in which striking resemblances are found in the ways of thinking, behaving, dressing, conversing, believing and so on. Unity and uniformity in social life are largely visible.

Life is simple and smooth going with less tension and friction. There is general agreement among people on social values, opinions, morals, religious beliefs, community practices, and so on.

Industrial societies are mostly dominated by urban way of life and hence they are characterised by heterogeneous culture. Diversification of life – styles is very conspicuous.

Life is complex and many-sided. Differentiation is potent in modern societies. The wide range of different groups leads to a pluralism of values, outlooks, opinions and beliefs. Wide range of sub-cultures also makes their appearance.

5. Social Control Through Informal Versus Formal Means:

In pre-industrial societies, behaviour of the people is regulated by informal means such as social customs, traditions, folkways, mores and the like which are rarely questioned. People have a strong sense of belonging or identity with their group and hence they tend to think of themselves as members of their group first and as individuals next.

In simple societies, violators of group norms are often taken to task first by the very witnesses to the offence, and only afterwards, they call the police, if needed.

The industrial societies attempt to control behaviour through more institutionalised means like laws, legislations, written contracts with specific penalties and procedures for dealing with offenders. In the event of any violation of the rules or norms, witnesses themselves would not pursue the offenders but would call the police.

In these societies, custom and tradition lose much of their force, and people act primarily as individuals, often taking more account of their personal interests than the needs of the group.

6. Slow Versus Rapid Rates of Social Change:

In the pre-industrial societies, the rate of social change is usually very slow. People are normally not ready for sudden changes. They are for status quo, and hence change is regarded with suspicion. Their social life is routinised to such an extent that a small deviation from it is regarded as an unusual feature of social life.

In the industrial societies, rapid social change becomes a normal state of attires. People have a positive attitude towards social change. They expect change and sometimes even welcome it, for change is often identified with “progress” towards a better life.

Rapid improvements in the fields of transport and communication, progress in the fields of science and technology, introduction of uniform legal and educational system and such other developments taking place in the industrial societies have added new dimensions to social change.

Conclusion:

The changes mentioned above, are entirely new in the history of the human species, and industrial societies are still in the difficult process of adjusting themselves to them.

The terms such as pre-industrial and industrial, or pre-modern and modern, have been used to facilitate discussion. It is important to note, however, “that societies actually exist on a continuum from pre-modern to modern rather than as purely one or the other.

Furthermore, no modern society is modern throughout its territory. Social relations in some areas are more Gemeinschaft than Gesellschaft, more folk than urban and more characterised by mechanical than organic solidarity.

Generally, however, as societies move towards the modern end of the spectrum they experience increasing division of labour, fewer primary relations, greater reliance on non-family institutions and less reliance on custom to regulate behaviour”