primitive society

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primitive society

the least internally differentiated, and earliest, form(s) of human societies. As one of a number of terms (e.g. SIMPLE SOCIETY or SAVAGERY) also used to refer to such societies, the use of’primitive society’ suggests an elementary or basic level of technological and social organizational complexity. Theorists such as Levy-Bruhl (1923) have also proposed ‘pre-logical’ forms of primitive mentality associated with such levels of technological and social organization.

Notwithstanding the sympathetic and non-judgemental way that the term ‘primitive society’ has often been employed, the pejorative connotations of it have tended to lead to the use of alternative terms such as simple society, TRIBAL SOCIETY or NONLITERATE SOCIETY. However, none of these alternatives is able to entirely escape derogatory overtones. These arise from the basic cultural assumptions of modern societies in which modern society is seen as a superior form. The only solution is to continue to work towards accounts of premodern societies which do not automatically adopt such assumptions but explore the qualities of these forms of society in an open-ended way see also EVOLUTIONARY THEORY.