What forms account for the organization of societies? How have people organized their societies across the ages? The answer may be reduced to four basic forms of organization:
- the kinship-based tribe, as denoted by the structure of extended families, clans, and other lineage systems;
- the hierarchical institution, as exemplified by the army, the (Catholic) church, and ultimately the bureaucratic state;
- the competitive-exchange market, as symbolized by merchants and traders responding to forces of supply and demand;
- and the collaborative network, as found today in the web-like ties among some NGOs devoted to social advocacy.
Civil society appears to be the realm most affected and strengthened by the rise of the network form, auguring a vast rebalancing of relations among state, market, and civil-society actors around the world. As will be restated later, the ability of a society to combine these forms into a whole system is what proves crucial to its evolution. To do well in the twenty-first century, an information-age society must embrace all four forms.