The adjective preindustrial is used to qualify what is precedent to the development of an economy based on industry. Industry is understood, meanwhile, as the set of actions and procedures that make it possible to obtain and / or transform natural raw materials.
The pre-industrial societies are those that existed before the Industrial Revolution, which occurred in England from the middle of century XVIII and then expanded through the rest of Europe and by USA. The Industrial Revolution was a process that generated great technological and economic changes, but also social and cultural ones, also contributing to the implantation of capitalism at a global level.
A pre-industrial society thus presents the characteristics that predominated before the modernization that drove the Industrial Revolution. It can be stated that the feudalism and the slavery They belong to the pre-industrial era.
Among the traits that characterized preindustrial societies, appear the economy supported by farming, limited and artisanal production and a limited division of labor. They also had personalistic authorities and little capacity to promote class mobility and social change.
It is important to note that there are several concepts that are often used as synonyms for pre-industrial society: agrarian society, precapitalist society, traditional society and others. Many sociologists and historians still differentiate between these ideas, which also in some cases carry a very marked ideological component.
Pre-industrial societies were not all the same, but they had certain characteristics in their foundations that we can generalize to define them with a certain degree of clarity and understand why they were so different from their successors. One of the concepts that stands out in them is the traditional authority, a type of leadership in which authority of a government or organization is largely linked to custom or tradition.
In the context of a traditional authority, any claim can be answered that “the situation has always been like this” to justify its most negative characteristics. Of course, today we find this kind of precarious foundation many times when we study violent and unjust traditions, which an extraterrestrial would consider typical of the barbarism.
Therefore, in pre-industrial societies the manifestation of power did not occur through a bureaucracy or an impersonal state, but rather personalistic authorities. Although there were already examples of these two concepts in societies prior to the Industrial Revolution, we cannot speak of the modern state as we know it thanks to the development it has undergone since then.
Social change was not normal in pre-industrial societies, where moral and religious codes reigned, instead of science and systems of laws constantly revised to adapt to the needs of each moment. The mentality and behavior of the village they were much more restricted than today, although we still have a lot of work to do to reach an ideal situation.
Given that these societies were located before the Industrial Revolution, one of the biggest differences can be found in the rhythm of economic production, much less before the birth of mass production. Besides, the division of labour it was very limited: the low complexity of industrial production did not require a level of specialization comparable to the current one. The economy, in short, was based on agriculture and artisan production.
On the other hand, beyond the expression pre-industrial society, we can find this adjective associated with other nouns: pre-industrial city, pre-industrial design, pre-industrial climate, etc. In all cases, mention is made of a historical period prior to the Industrial Revolution.