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12.1: Overview of the Economy

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    • Anonymous
    • LibreTexts
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    Learning Objectives

    1. Describe the three sectors of the economy.
    2. Distinguish the two major economic systems in the world today.
    3. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of capitalism and socialism.

    When we hear the term economy, it is usually in the context of how the economy “is doing”: Is inflation soaring or under control? Is the economy growing or shrinking? Is unemployment rising, declining, or remaining stable? Are new college graduates finding jobs easily or not? All these questions concern the economy, but sociologists define economy more broadly as the social institution that organizes the production, distribution, and consumption of a society’s goods and services. Defined in this way, the economy touches us all. Keep in mind that the economy is not the same as government, which is the social institution through which power is distributed and exercised. Economy and government are social institutions that are certainly intertwined, but conceptually they are distinct.

    The economy is composed of three sectors. The primary sector is the part of the economy that takes and uses raw materials directly from the natural environment. Its activities include agriculture, fishing, forestry, and mining. The secondary sector of the economy transforms raw materials into finished products and is essentially the manufacturing industry. Finally, the tertiary sector is the part of the economy that provides services rather than products; its activities include clerical work, health care, teaching, and information technology services.


    Clerical work and other occupations that provide services rather than products constitute the tertiary sector in the economy.

    Wikimedia Commons – CC BY 2.0.

    12.1: Overview of the Economy is shared under a CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 license and was authored, remixed, and/or curated by Anonymous via source content that was edited to conform to the style and standards of the LibreTexts platform; a detailed edit history is available upon request.