What Is Complex Society?

The term “complex society” is used to describe a social order that is organized around a number of different principles.

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Complex societies are organized around a number of core institutions, including the state, social stratification, a large division of labor, and cities (see Figure 1). They are also often characterized by recognizable cultures with common values, norms, and beliefs that provide a sense of group identity.

What is a complex society?

A complex society is a social order that is organized into formal and informal social institutions. These institutions interact with one another to produce a stable, ordered system. The term was first coined in the 1930s by German sociologist Max Weber.

Complex societies are different from simpler ones, such as tribes or chiefdoms, in several important ways. They have large populations, diverse occupational and economic specializations, high levels of technological and organizational sophistication, and centralized political authority. They also have a division of labor that is organized around social status and an extensive division of powers between different levels of government.

In recent years, the term complex society has been used to describe the modern world. The idea is that our world is so large, interconnected, and fast-paced that it has become too complicated for any one person to understand completely. This understanding of complex society has led to the development of new fields of study, such as complexity science and systems thinking.

The features of a complex society

There are a few key features that distinguish complex societies from simpler ones. Firstly, complex societies are large and have dense populations. They also have centralized governments and extensive systems of trade and transportation. Additionally, complex societies tend to be stratified, with different social groups occupying different levels of the social hierarchy. Finally, complex societies have a wide range of specialized occupations, which results in a high degree of social complexity.

The benefits of a complex society

There are many benefits to living in a complex society. For one, you have access to a greater variety of goods and services. You can also expect to live in a more stable environment, with less crime and violence. In addition, you will likely enjoy greater social mobility and opportunities for personal advancement.

The drawbacks of a complex society

A complex society is one that is organized into various social units (e.g. families, offices, factories, schools) and has a division of labor. This type of society is often seen as being more advanced than simpler societies, such as hunter-gatherer groups, because it allows for greater efficiency and a wider range of specialized skills.

However, complex societies also have a number of drawbacks. One is that they are often very unequal, with a small elite class enjoying most of the wealth and power while the majority of people are relatively poor and powerless. This can lead to social unrest and even revolutions. Another downside of complex societies is that they tend to be bureaucratic and inflexible, meaning that it can be difficult to make changes even when they are desperately needed.

The future of complex societies

The future of complex societies is something that scholars have been debating for years. There are many different theories out there about what will happen to these types of societies, but no one can really know for sure. Complex societies are ones that are large and have a lot of different social classes and hierarchy. They also have a lot of different institutions, such as government and religion. These societies usually have a lot of economic activity and trade.


While there is no one definition of complex society, it is generally agreed that it is a society marked by a high degree of social stratification, a large number of distinct social groups, and a high degree of social interaction. Complex societies are often characterized by their division of labor, which leads to the development of specialized occupations and trade. They also tend to have developed systems of writing and education, as well as economic systems that are more advanced than those of simpler societies.


Complex society, also sometimes called a “civilization” or a “complex polity”, is a society that is characterized by urbanization, social stratification, symbolic communication, and a centralized state. This type of society emerged in various parts of the world during the second and third millennia BCE, and continued to develop until the early modern period.

There is no agreed-upon definition of “complex society”, though most scholars agree that it includes some or all of the following features:

-- An urban environment;
-- Social stratification, including a distinct nobility and commoners;
-- Symbolic communication, including writing and monumental architecture;
-- A centralized state with an organized bureaucracy.

While there is no single definition of complex society, most scholars believe that it likely arose independently in several different parts of the world. The earliest known complex societies include the Mesopotamian city-states of Sumer and Akkad (which arose in the fourth millennium BCE), the Egyptian state (which arose in the third millennium BCE), and the Indus Valley civilization (which arisen in the second millennium BCE).

Further reading

For more information on complex society, see the following resources:

-The Rise of Complex Society, by Michael Mann
-The Development of Civilization, by Bruce G. Trigger
-A History of Complex Societies, by Robert McElvaine

External links
-Burkert, Walter (1992). Ancient Greek Religion. Harvard University Press.
-Pomerance, Marvin; Legnaro, Lorenzo (eds.) (2006). Demography in the Age of the Postmodern. Lexington Books.
-Bang, Peter F.; Blume, Lawrence (1994). “Complexity and Anarchy: Complexity Science and the Problem of International Order”. International Organization. 48 (4): 633–55. doi:10.1017/S0020818300028104.

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