Exploiting natural resources helps to meet vital needs – eating, above all, then creating clothing and shelters to protect from inclement weather and animals. When the exploitation process is rudimentary, the wealth produced is also rudimentary, and only the strict minimum in vital needs is met.
But as the exploitation process becomes more sophisticated, it will produce a surplus, generating luxuries and services. Food becomes more diversified, decoration is added to clothing, and dwellings become more gentrified. In this way, royal courts everywhere developed cookery, finery and palaces.
For primitive tribes, gathering food and creating shelters and clothing took only a few hours a day. Any surplus consisted of time.
When nomadic populations settle, the exploitation of natural resources grows more complex. Production increases, and the surplus produced serves to support a part of the population whose social role becomes service providing. This becomes the tertiary (or service) sector.
No social organization can include the notion of service unless a surplus is produced from the exploitation of natural resources. A tertiary sector can exist only if the primary and secondary sectors produce a surplus. This might seem simple, but apparently there are a lot of people who have trouble accepting it. And yet, farmers have to produce much more than what their families eat in order to feed everyone in the service industry. The same is true for all activities.
This consists of any activity that is not connected to the exploitation of natural resources.
In a primitive society, this will be health (provided by the shaman or witch doctor), then safety (provided by the tribal chief), justice (provided by the wise old man), education (provided by the group of adults), and the arts, which are practiced by everyone. When it comes to social issues, primitive tribes take care of everyone.
In our society, the primary and secondary sectors are so efficient that it requires only a small part of the population to produce enough food and consumer goods for most of the tertiary sector. The tertiary sector is the same as for primitive societies, but more sophisticated, with many specialists in each field – including the arts, where the rest of the population are no more than spectators. The tertiary sector can be broken down into two groups: 1) all that is necessary for community life (mainly urban), including health, education, justice and safety, and 2) all that is surplus, including the arts, sports and tourism. A specific feature of the tertiary sector is that once the service has been provided, nothing really tangible is left of it other than, for example, being in better health than before the service, or winning a legal dispute with a neighbour.
The main difference between primitive and industrial societies can be found in the pyramid for the economic sectors, where you have the primary sector at the bottom, the secondary sector in the middle, and the tertiary sector at the top.
For a primitive society, the primary sector consisting of the majority of the population occupies the broad base of the pyramid. Above it is the secondary sector consisting of a smaller part of the population that transforms the resources exploited by the primary sector. At the tip of the pyramid, a tiny minority provides services, and in turn have their vital needs provided for by the rest of the population.
For an industrial society, the pyramid rests on its tip. The tiny base consists of a tiny minority of the population who exploit the natural resources for the entire population; above this is a larger minority of the population who transform these resources into products; and at the top is the majority of the population who make up the service sector.
You might say that we live in luxury; but have we achieved abundance?