Tathagata Shakyamuni discusses this theme somewhere in the Pali Scriptures, he says that society must have achieved certain development before a Tathagata can appear, and only then his appearance will have beneficial consequences. The issue appears also in the abhidharma, according to Herbert Guenther there have to be four factors present in the society at large, in summary: 1. belief in karma and rebirth, 2.belief in the lower and higher states of existence, 3. belief in the existence of persons liberated from the round of birth and death, 4. belief in the path of practice. This list is in a short abhidharma text that Guenther has translated in the book Mind in Buddhist Psychology. The teaching is present somewhere in the tripitaka.
I think the system of shramanas, or free ascetics outside the brahmin caste, can be, to some extent, compared to the system of university education of the modern society. In truth Indian society did not support a system of monasticism in its later developed form, rather it allowed the existence of various schools of free ascetics, and supported them through the practice of alms giving, and by building halls for public debate. To start with the shramanas were homeless.