What is an Agrarian Society?

An agrarian society is one built on farming.
An agrarian society is one built on farming.

An agrarian (or farming) society is dependent on the production of food using plows and domestic animals. The society may recognize different methods for business or livelihood, but they share in common the focus on the significance of agriculture and cultivating. Agrarian communities have existed in various parts of the world as far back as 10,000 years ago and keep on surviving today. They have been the most widely recognized type of socio-economic setup for the more significant part of recorded history.

How Do Agrarian Societies Supplement Their Livelihood?

Agrarians often supplement their financial means through the creation and selling of high-quality items, merchandise, and services. Even though agrarian societies had sufficient means to steady their monetary incomes through training and skill development, the focus was on farming alone.

The Rise of Agrarian Societies

Agrarian societies rose from the traditional human societies of hunter-forager communities. This distinctive transformation was prompted by various social and environmental factors that necessitated permanent settling and intensive use of the available natural resources. Today, agrarian societies are on the brink due to modernization and urban settlements.

The Neolithic revolution, which is the transition from hunter-gatherer to agrarian societies, represents the period which human civilization opted for a more settled lifestyle. The Neolithic revolution happened in many places around the world at various time intervals, with the earliest recorded between 10,000 and 8,000 BC in the region of the Fertile Crescent. The reasons for this transition are yet unclear though many theories suggest that climate change and social pressures to be the primary catalysts for the change.

What is the Primary Mode of Production in Agrarian Societies?

The creation of the plow, about 6,000 years ago, was an occasion so noteworthy that it is often referred to as the "farming revolution.” The plow significantly enhances the fertility of the land - it unearths to the surface supplements that have sunk far from the roots of plants, and it returns weeds to the soil to become manures. The land is cleared of all vegetation and developed with the utilization of a plow and animals used to pull the plow. Fields are intensively applied with manure. The same land can be tilled consistently, thereby making a permanent settlement possible. The utilization of animal energy to pull the plow makes one agriculturist significantly more gainful than a few horticulturists.

Subsequently, broad fields replace the small-sized gardens, food production increases and a generous surplus can be stored for the future. The farmers work substantially harder than the individuals from past societies, hence explaining why food security is enhanced.

The Main Characteristics of Agrarian Societies

One trademark that distinguishes agrarian societies from rummaging and hunting societies is sedentism. Sedentism refers to permanent settlement in a place. Early human civilizations were foragers, hunters, and pastoralists who wandered huge tracts of land looking for sustenance from forests and grazing lands. On the contrary, agrarian societies settled in a permanent place. They opted to settle down and cultivate land to grow their crops.

This type of farming allows for the development of more complex social structures since most members of the community have enough food and time, unlike hunter-gatherers who spend a great deal of their time seeking food alone. With enough time on their hands, individuals can specialize in different skills while a small population focuses on food production. The agrarian society led to the concept of land ownership where landowners viewed land as the basis of wealth and prestige in the community. As a result, social structures became more rigid and sophisticated at the same time. Social classes arose from land ownership. Those who owned land were a higher class than those who did not.

Agrarian societies led to the establishment of the very first political institutions with formalized political administrations that had elaborate legal framework systems and economic institutions. This inevitably led to the acquiring of wealth as trade between members of the society became elaborate. Money became the medium of exchange, and as a result, accounting, taxation, record keeping, and regulations were also introduced. The effect of surplus food production afforded members of the society time to explore more, beyond the basic need of sustenance. The emergence of art and recreational activities was fueled by this. Ultimately, there was a surge in population which made agrarian societies focus on urban settlement. Urbanization led to the expansion of trade and infusion of culture into the myriad of agricultural cities.

Challenges Faced by Agrarian societies

An Agrarian society is wholly dependent on a few types of crops as opposed to the countless amount of plants that previous hunter-gatherer civilizations could have chosen from. Due to limited options for plants, they could be adversely affected by severe weather or a natural catastrophe that affects the plants. A climate that is not hospitable for certain crop types could lead to low yields. The prospect of floods or drought is a significant threat to the output from the planted crops. Previously, many agrarian societies have starved due to unpredictable weather patterns which lead to loss of crops.

An agrarian society does not have access to food all year-round. The few harvest times in a year should supply enough for the whole year or until the next harvest arrives. Additionally, unfavorable weather conditions could hamper the harvest and an entire crop for the season could be lost.

Crop farming requires high labor input to have a bumper harvest. This leads to high physical strain for both humans and animals who must cultivate and maintain the land regularly from sowing, plowing, and harvesting. Despite the high input, crops can be attacked by pests and insects which can significantly reduce the harvest or completely lose the crop after months of hard labor.

The Present-Day Agrarian Society

Even though industrialization has significantly spread over the last two centuries, many people around the world live in an agricultural setup. Agricultural communities are prominent in Latin America, Africa, southern and eastern Asia, the Middle East as well as parts of south and eastern Europe. However, this society is not exclusively agrarian and contains elements of industrial practices. With the help of modern technology, agriculture is becoming more industrialized having fewer farmers and more agricultural output.


More in Environment