Social policies are a new concept in Civilization V, representing the non-scientific or religious advancements of your society. They act as a system of gameplay bonuses, activated little by little as your empire develops its Culture. Some of these bonuses are empire-wide (meaning they act on all cities and empire components at the same time), while others are related to particular buildings, units, or even Great People. Many Social Policies enhance individual buildings' functions - check the list of buildings for more info on that.
All policies are organised into branches, and each branch has to be unlocked first, in order for the particular policies in it to be adopted. Also, policies within a branch are organized in a tree, requiring that first-level policies are adopted first, before higher level ones can be unlocked. Unlocking a policy branch also activates a special bonus, as does adopting all five policies in it.
For more information on the exact process of adopting policies, as well as for different strategies concerning Social Policies, check the Social strategy article.
In the Brave New World expansion, the social policies have been updated, with the inclusion of the Aesthetics and Exploration policy trees. Also, Piety can now be adopted right from the Ancient Era, while the next trees all unlock an Era earlier, giving the player a wider choice for development in the early game. No Policy trees are mutually exclusive anymore, and the Anarchy concept has been reserved for when you switch Ideology. Order, Autocracy, and Freedom have been excluded as Social policies, but one of these can be adopted as an Ideology once you build three Factories or reach the Modern Era. Even more than in Gods & Kings, a player's choice of Ideology can drastically impact his or her standings with another civilization. Finally, note that some World Wonders are now linked to Social Policy trees (for example, the Pyramids are linked to the Liberty tree) - now they can only be built if the relevant tree has been unlocked, AND you have researched the necessary technology.
The Tradition tree is available right from the Ancient Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "Lord" for male leaders and "Lady" for female leaders.
Adopting Tradition greatly increases the rate of border expansion in cities and also grants 3 Culture in the Capital. Unlocks building the Hanging Gardens wonder.
Adopting all Policies in the Tradition tree will grant +15% Growth in all cities and a free Aqueduct in your first four cities. It also allows the purchase of Great Engineers with Faith starting in Industrial Era.
The Liberty tree is available right from the Ancient Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "Consul".
Adopting Liberty will provide 1 Culture in every city. Unlocks building the Pyramids wonder.
Adopting all policies in the Liberty tree will grant a free Great Person of your choice near the Capital.
|Republic||+1 Production in every City and +5% Production in cities when constructing Buildings.||Adopting Liberty|
|Citizenship||Tile improvement construction rate increased by 25% and a Worker appears near the Capital.||Adopting Liberty|
|Collective rule||Speeds the training of Settlers by 50% in the Capital and a free Settler appears near the Capital. (Venice receives a Merchant of Venice instead of Settler.)||Republic|
|Meritocracy||+1 Happiness for each City you own connected to the Capital and -5% Unhappiness from Citizens in non-occupied Cities.||Citizenship|
|Representation||Each city you found will increase the Culture cost of policies by 33% less than normal. Also starts a Golden Age (if one is already in progress, it is extended).||Citizenship|
The Honor tree is available right from the Ancient Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "The Great".
Adopting Honor gives a +33% combat bonus against Barbarians, and notifications will be provided when new Barbarian Encampments spawn in revealed territory. Gain Culture for the empire from each barbarian unit killed. Unlocks building the Statue of Zeus wonder.
|Warrior code||+15% Production when training Melee units and a Great General appears outside the Capital. Great Generals are earned 50% faster.||Adopting Honor|
|Discipline||+15% combat strength for melee units which have another military unit in an adjacent tile.||Adopting Honor|
|Military caste||Each City with a garrison increases local city Happiness by 1 and Culture by 2.||Discipline|
|Military tradition||Military Units gain 50% more Experience from combat.||Warrior code|
|Professional army||Gold cost of upgrading Military Units reduced by 33% and construct Barracks, Armories, and Military Academies 50% faster.||Military caste|
The Piety tree is available right from the Ancient Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "The Pious".
|Organized Religion||+1 Faith from Shrines and Temples.||Adopting Piety|
|Mandate of Heaven||20% discount on all purchases of religious units and buildings with Faith (does NOT work for Great People, including Great Prophets).||Adopting Piety|
|Theocracy||Temples increase a city's Gold output by 25%. Holy Sites provide +3 Gold.||Organized Religion|
|Religious tolerance||Cities with a majority religion also get the Pantheon belief bonus of the second most popular religion.||Organized Religion|
|Reformation||If you founded a religion, gain a bonus Reformation belief.||Religious tolerance|
The Patronage tree becomes available during the Classical Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "The Enlightened".
Adopting all policies in the Patronage tree will cause allied City-States to occasionally gift you Great People.
|Philanthropy||Gifts of Gold to a City-State generate 25% more Influence.||Adopting Patronage|
|Consulates||Resting point for Influence level with all City-States is increased by 20.||Adopting Patronage|
|Scholasticism||All City-States which are Allies provide a Science bonus equal to 25% of what they produce for themselves.||Philanthropy|
|Cultural diplomacy||Quantity of Resources gifted by City-States increased by 100%. Happiness from gifted Luxuries increased by 50%.||Scholasticism|
|Merchant confederacy||+2 Gold for trade routes with City-States.||Scholasticism & Consulates|
The Aesthetics tree becomes available during the Classical Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "Master" for male leaders and "Mistress" for female leaders.
Adopting all Policies in the Aesthetics tree doubles the theming bonus you receive from Museums and Wonders. It also allows the purchase of Great Writers, Artists, or Musicians with Faith starting in the Industrial Era.
|Cultural centers||Construct Monuments, Amphitheaters, Opera Houses, Museums and Broadcast Towers 50% faster.||Adopting Aesthetics|
|Fine arts||50% of excess Happiness added each turn to the amount of Culture that may be spent on Social Policies.||Adopting Aesthetics|
|Flourishing of the arts||Culture increased by 33% in all cities which have built a World Wonder and the empire immediately enters a Golden Age.||Cultural centers & Fine arts|
|Artistic genius||A Great Artist appears.||Fine arts|
|Cultural exchange||Increases the Tourism modifier for Shared Religion, Trade Routes, and Open Borders by 15% each.||Flourishing of the arts|
The Commerce tree becomes available during the Medieval Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "Doge".
Adopting Commerce boosts Gold output in Capital City by 25%. Unlocks building Big Ben.
|Wagon trains||+2 Gold from all your Land Trade Routes (with foreign nations). Maintenance paid on Roads and Railroads reduced by 50%.||Adopting Commerce|
|Mercenary army||Allows the purchasing of Landsknechts.||Adopting Commerce|
|Entrepreneurship||Great Merchants are earned 25% faster. Receive double Gold from Great Merchant trade missions.||Wagon trains|
|Mercantilism||Purchasing items in Cities requires 25% less Gold. +1 Science from every Mint, Market, Bank and Stock Exchange.||Mercenary army|
|Protectionism||+2 Happiness from each Luxury Resource.||Entrepreneurship & Mercantilism|
The Exploration tree becomes available during the Medieval Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "Captain".
Adopting Exploration gives +1 Movement for Naval units and +1 Sight for Naval Combat units. Unlocks building the Louvre.
|Maritime infrastructure||+3 Production in all coastal Cities.||Adopting Exploration|
|Naval tradition||+1 Happiness for each Harbor, Seaport, or Lighthouse.||Adopting Exploration|
|Navigation school||A Great Admiral appears. +2 Movement for all Great Admirals. Great Admirals are earned 50% faster.||Naval tradition|
|Merchant navy||+1 Gold for each Harbor, Seaport, or Lighthouse, +4 Production and +4 Culture in the city with the East India Company.||Maritime infrastructuve & Naval tradition|
|Treasure fleets||+4 Gold from all your Sea Trade Routes.||Merchant navy|
The Rationalism tree becomes available during the Renaissance Era. Choosing this policy first will give you the honorific "The Wise".
Adopting Rationalism will grant +10% Science while the empire is Happy. Unlocks building the Porcelain Tower.
|Secularism||+2 Science from every Specialist.||Adopting Rationalism|
|Humanism||Great Scientists are earned 25% faster.||Adopting Rationalism|
|Free thought||+1 Science from every Trading Post and +17% Science from Universities.||Humanism|
|Sovereignty||+1 Gold from Science buildings.||Secularism|
|Scientific revolution||Boosts Science gained from Research Agreements by +50%.||Sovereignty|