Lecture: Society Classification: Narrator: Listen to part of a lecture in an anthropology class. Professor: Ok, welcome to anthropology 101. Now, anthropologists have traditionally classified human societies into groups, according to certain features or characteristics. So before we even open our textbooks, what might be some ways of classifying society? Male Student: Well, maybe their form of government, you know, whether it's a democracy or ... or something else, like, um, a society where all members have equal standing ... and egalitarian society. Professor: Good. Anybody else? Female Student: Um, maybe whether its nomadic or not, whether the group moves around or just stays put all year. Professor: Sure, those are good suggestions. Anthropologists do categories societies along those lines. But there's another system of categorization I want to mention that traditionally been very popular, that's looking at the society's mode of subsistence. How does it survive? Particularly, how did it acquire food? Female Student: Oh, like hunter-gatherer, right? Professor: Precisely. There are actually four separate categories, hunting and gathering, pastoralism, horticulture, and intensive agriculture. Male Student: Okay, I understand hunting and gathering, but what's the difference between the others? Professor: Good question. Pastoralism generally refers to domesticating animals, say raising chickens or goats, where the culturallists plant seed and harvest the resulting crops. And the last classification, intensive agriculture, that's like pastoralism or horticulture on a large scale. But I say that's a good question for a reason. Because on closer examination, the difference between say hunting and pastoralism, it really isn't that clear. But then if we added new category, well, we need too many for it to be practical. Uh, what I mean is this, according to the definition, hunters and gatherers subsist by hunting wild animals – gathering wild plants. But how exactly do we define wild? If people capture and raise the young of an animal they hunted, when couldn't call them domesticated, but are they still wild? And merely by gathering certain plants on a regular basis, you affect their growth, which eventually leads to domestication. So the question you're left with is when does gathering become horticulture? Ok, so another question is, do we pay attention to how people get their food or to what food they actually eat? Female Student: But what do people eat he food they get? Professor: Not necessarily. Imagine a group that hunts, but then prayed the meat with domesticated crop. Do we classify them as hunter gatherers because they hunt wild animals or as horticulturalist because they eat intentionally cultivated food? And it's not just what people eat. It's a matter of how much. Let me explain. What if the group gets its food partly through hunting and gathering, and partly through raising animals and growing crop? Does the society have to depend exclusively on one motive assistance in order to be classified that way? Female Student: Um, well, I don't know. Professor: And neither do I. I'm not really asking the question. I'm suggesting that the traditional system doesn't have an answer to that question. I mean, the classification system isn't completely useless. It's just a bit too, uh, broad to give us much useful information about the society. And there's another concern, though, on a dfferent level, which involved certain assumptions that anthropologists have traditionally made about societies, base on other motives and systems is classified. Basically, It's been taken for granted that the category correlate with societal complexity. That is, hunter-gatherer societies tend to be organized along the simplest lines, small settlements, nomadic lifestyles, a relatively egalitarian political structure. And as you move from hunting and gathering to intensive agriculture, societies get more complex in their organization. But a recent study in new Guinea suggest that this doesn't really hold true. It's not so much whether a group's sort of food is wild or cultivated, but rather what kind of stability they're able to achieve. So maybe a hunter gathering society that's nomadic will tend to be more simply organized. But then let's consider one that relies on, say, fishing or an only use of aquatic resources, which are available year round. They can stay in one place, expand in size, spend less time searching for food. So even though they're also hunter-gathers, because they hunt the wild fish, they're able to develop organizational structures that are just as complex, socially and culturally, as many were cultural or intensive agricultural societies.