About live to six thousand years ago. agrarian (or agricultural) societies emerged. first in Mesopotamia and Egypt and slightly later in China. Agar URL societies use the terminology of large-scale funding including animal-drawn or energy-powered plows and equipment. to produce their food supply. Farming made it possible for people to spend their entire lives in the same location, and food surpluses made it possible for people to live in cities, where they were not directly involved in food production. Unlike the digging sticks and hoes that had previously been used in farming: the use of animals to pull plows made it possible for people to generate a large surplus of food. In agrarian societies, land is cleared of all vegetation and cultivated with the use of the plow, a process that not only controls the weeds that might kill crops but also helps maintain the fertility of the soil. The land can be used more or less continuously because the plow turns the 'topsoil, thus brimming more nutrients to the soil. In some cases, farmers reap several harvests each year from the same plot of land. In agrarian societies, social inequality is the highest of all' preindustrial societies in terms of both class and gender. The two major classes are the landlords and the peasants. The landlords own the fields and the harvests produced by the peasants. Inheritance becomes important as families of wealthy landlords own the same land for generations. By contrast, the landless -peasants enter into an agreement with the landowners to live on and cultivate a parcel uf land in exchange for part of the harvest or other economic incentives.
Over time. tbe landlords grow increasingly wealthy and powerful as they extract labor, rent, and taxation from the landless workers. Politics is based on a feudal system controlled by a political-economic elite made up of the ruler, his royal family, and members of the landowning class. Peasants have no political power and may be suppressed through the use of force or military power. Gender-based inequality grows dramatically in agrarian societies. Men gai control o er both the disposition of the food subtexts and the kinship system (Lorber, 1994). Because agrarian tasks require more labor and greater physical strength than horticultural ones, men become more involved in food production. Women may be excluded from these tasks because they are seen as too weak for the work or because it is believed that their child-care responsibilities are incompatible with the full-time labor that the tasks require (Nielsen, 1990). As more people own land or businesses, the rules pertaining to marriage become stronger, and women's lives become more restricted. Men demand that women practice premarital virginity and marital fidelity so that "legitimate" heirs can be produced to inherit the land and other possessions (Nielsen, 1990). Th is belief is supported by religion, which is a powerful force in agrarian societies, In simple agrarian societies, the gods are seen as being concerned about the individual's moral conduct. In advanced agrarian societies, monotheism (belief-in one god) replaces a belief in multiple gods. Today, gender inequality continues in agrarian societies; the division of labor between women and men is very distinct ill areas such as parts of the Middle East. Here, women's work. takes place in the private sphere (inside the home), and men's work occurs in the public sphere, providing men with more recognition and greater formal stat us.