Sociocultural evolution
Overview
 
Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term
Umbrella term
An umbrella term is a word that provides a superset or grouping of concepts that all fall under a single common category. Umbrella term is also called a hypernym. For example, cryptology is an umbrella term that encompasses cryptography and cryptanalysis, among other fields...

 for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution
Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor...

, describing how culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s and societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 have changed over time. Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity
Complexity
In general usage, complexity tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement. The study of these complex linkages is the main goal of complex systems theory. In science there are at this time a number of approaches to characterizing complexity, many of which are...

), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration
Degeneration
The idea of degeneration had significant influence on science, art and politics from the 1850s to the 1950s. The social theory developed consequently from Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution...

) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis
Cladogenesis
Cladogenesis is an evolutionary splitting event in a species in which each branch and its smaller branches forms a "clade", an evolutionary mechanism and a process of adaptive evolution that leads to the development of a greater variety of sister species...

).
Encyclopedia
Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term
Umbrella term
An umbrella term is a word that provides a superset or grouping of concepts that all fall under a single common category. Umbrella term is also called a hypernym. For example, cryptology is an umbrella term that encompasses cryptography and cryptanalysis, among other fields...

 for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution
Social evolution
Social evolution is a subdiscipline of evolutionary biology that is concerned with social behaviors that have fitness consequences for individuals other than the actor...

, describing how culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

s and societies
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

 have changed over time. Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity
Complexity
In general usage, complexity tends to be used to characterize something with many parts in intricate arrangement. The study of these complex linkages is the main goal of complex systems theory. In science there are at this time a number of approaches to characterizing complexity, many of which are...

), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration
Degeneration
The idea of degeneration had significant influence on science, art and politics from the 1850s to the 1950s. The social theory developed consequently from Charles Darwin's Theory of Evolution...

) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis
Cladogenesis
Cladogenesis is an evolutionary splitting event in a species in which each branch and its smaller branches forms a "clade", an evolutionary mechanism and a process of adaptive evolution that leads to the development of a greater variety of sister species...

). Thus, sociocultural evolution can be defined as "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form."

Most 19th century and some 20th century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies are at different stages of social development. The most comprehensive attempt to develop a general theory of social evolution centering on the development of socio-cultural systems was done by Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist who served on the faculty of Harvard University from 1927 to 1973....

 on a scale which included a theory of world-history. Another attempt both on a less systematic scale was attempted by World System
World Systems Theory
The world-systems theory is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change....

 approach.

Many of the more recent 20th-century approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea of directional change, or social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

. Most archaeologists
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 and cultural anthropologists
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

 work within the framework of modern theories of sociocultural evolution. Modern approaches to sociocultural evolution include neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism is a social theory that tries to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and discarding some dogmas of the previous social evolutionism...

, sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

, the theory of modernization and the theory of postindustrial society.

Introduction

Anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and sociologists
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 often assume that human beings have natural social tendencies
Social animal
A social animal is a loosely defined term for an organism that is highly interactive with other members of its species to the point of having a recognizable and distinct society.All mammals are social to the extent that mothers and offspring bond...

 and that particular human social behaviours have non-genetic
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 causes and dynamics (i.e. they are learned in a social environment
Social environment
The social environment of an individual, also called social context or milieu, is the culture that s/he was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts....

 and through social interaction). Societies exist in complex social
Social environment
The social environment of an individual, also called social context or milieu, is the culture that s/he was educated or lives in, and the people and institutions with whom the person interacts....

 environments (i.e. with natural resources and constraints), and adapt
Adaptation
An adaptation in biology is a trait with a current functional role in the life history of an organism that is maintained and evolved by means of natural selection. An adaptation refers to both the current state of being adapted and to the dynamic evolutionary process that leads to the adaptation....

 themselves to these environments. It is thus inevitable that all societies change.

Specific theories of social or cultural evolution are usually meant to explain differences between coeval societies, by positing that different societies are at different stages of development. Although such theories typically provide models for understanding the relationship between technologies
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

, social structure
Social structure
Social structure is a term used in the social sciences to refer to patterned social arrangements in society that are both emergent from and determinant of the actions of the individuals. The usage of the term "social structure" has changed over time and may reflect the various levels of analysis...

, or values of a society
Society
A society, or a human society, is a group of people related to each other through persistent relations, or a large social grouping sharing the same geographical or virtual territory, subject to the same political authority and dominant cultural expectations...

, they vary as to the extent to which they describe specific mechanisms of variation and change.

Early sociocultural evolution theories—the theories of Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

, Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

 and Lewis Henry Morgan—developed simultaneously with, but independently of, Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

's works and were popular from the late 19th century to the end of World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

. These 19th-century unilineal evolution
Unilineal evolution
Unilineal evolution is a 19th century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It was composed of many competing theories by various sociologists and anthropologists, who believed that Western culture is the contemporary pinnacle of social evolution...

 theories claimed that societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilized over time, and equated the culture
Culture
Culture is a term that has many different inter-related meanings. For example, in 1952, Alfred Kroeber and Clyde Kluckhohn compiled a list of 164 definitions of "culture" in Culture: A Critical Review of Concepts and Definitions...

 and technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

 of Western civilization
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 with progress. Some forms of early sociocultural evolution theories (mainly unilineal ones) have led to much criticised theories like social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

, and scientific racism
Scientific racism
Scientific racism is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to sanction the belief in racial superiority or racism.This is not the same as using scientific findings and the scientific method to investigate differences among the humans and argue that there are races...

, used in the past to justify existing policies of colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

 and slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, and to justify new policies such as eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

.

Most 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a single entity. However, most 20th-century approaches, such as multilineal evolution
Multilineal evolution
Multilineal evolution is a 20th century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It is composed of many competing theories by various sociologists and anthropologists...

, focused on changes specific to individual societies. Moreover, they rejected directional change (i.e. orthogenetic, teleological or progressive change). Most archaeologists
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

 work within the framework of multilineal evolution. Other contemporary approaches to social change include neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism is a social theory that tries to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and discarding some dogmas of the previous social evolutionism...

, sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

, dual inheritance theory
Dual inheritance theory
Dual inheritance theory , also known as gene-culture coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution...

, theory of modernisation and theory of postindustrial society.

Richard Dawkins
Richard Dawkins
Clinton Richard Dawkins, FRS, FRSL , known as Richard Dawkins, is a British ethologist, evolutionary biologist and author...

 wrote in The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene
The Selfish Gene is a book on evolution by Richard Dawkins, published in 1976. It builds upon the principal theory of George C. Williams's first book Adaptation and Natural Selection. Dawkins coined the term "selfish gene" as a way of expressing the gene-centred view of evolution as opposed to the...

in 1976 that "there are some examples of cultural evolution in birds and monkeys, but ... it is our own species that really shows what cultural evolution can do".

Development

Organic society

Several centuries before Western civilisation
Western culture
Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

 developed the science of sociology, the 14th century Islamic scholar Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldun
Ibn Khaldūn or Ibn Khaldoun was an Arab Tunisian historiographer and historian who is often viewed as one of the forerunners of modern historiography, sociology and economics...

 concluded that societies are living organisms that, due to universal causes, experience cyclic birth, growth, maturity, decline, and ultimately death. Nonetheless, theories of social and cultural evolution were common in modern European thought. Prior to the 18th century, Europeans predominantly believed that societies on Earth
Earth
Earth is the third planet from the Sun, and the densest and fifth-largest of the eight planets in the Solar System. It is also the largest of the Solar System's four terrestrial planets...

 were in a state of decline. European society held up the world of antiquity
Classical antiquity
Classical antiquity is a broad term for a long period of cultural history centered on the Mediterranean Sea, comprising the interlocking civilizations of ancient Greece and ancient Rome, collectively known as the Greco-Roman world...

 as a standard to aspire to, and Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece
Ancient Greece is a civilization belonging to a period of Greek history that lasted from the Archaic period of the 8th to 6th centuries BC to the end of antiquity. Immediately following this period was the beginning of the Early Middle Ages and the Byzantine era. Included in Ancient Greece is the...

 and Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 produced levels of technical accomplishment which Europeans of the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

 sought to emulate. At the same time, Christianity
Christianity
Christianity is a monotheistic religion based on the life and teachings of Jesus as presented in canonical gospels and other New Testament writings...

 taught that people lived in a debased world fundamentally inferior to the Garden of Eden
Garden of Eden
The Garden of Eden is in the Bible's Book of Genesis as being the place where the first man, Adam, and his wife, Eve, lived after they were created by God. Literally, the Bible speaks about a garden in Eden...

 and Heaven
Heaven
Heaven, the Heavens or Seven Heavens, is a common religious cosmological or metaphysical term for the physical or transcendent place from which heavenly beings originate, are enthroned or inhabit...

. During The Age of Enlightenment, however, European self-confidence grew and the notion of progress became increasingly popular. It was during this period that what would later become known as "sociological and cultural evolution" would have its roots.

Stadial theory

The Enlightenment thinkers often speculated that societies progressed through stages of increasing development and looked for the logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

, order and the set of scientific truths that determined the course of human history. Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel
Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was a German philosopher, one of the creators of German Idealism. His historicist and idealist account of reality as a whole revolutionized European philosophy and was an important precursor to Continental philosophy and Marxism.Hegel developed a comprehensive...

, for example, argued that social development was an inevitable and determined process, similar to an acorn which has no choice but to become an oak tree. Likewise, it was assumed that societies start out primitive, perhaps in a Hobbesian
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 state of nature
State of nature
State of nature is a term in political philosophy used in social contract theories to describe the hypothetical condition that preceded governments...

, and naturally progress toward something resembling industrial Europe.

While earlier authors such as Michel de Montaigne
Michel de Montaigne
Lord Michel Eyquem de Montaigne , February 28, 1533 – September 13, 1592, was one of the most influential writers of the French Renaissance, known for popularising the essay as a literary genre and is popularly thought of as the father of Modern Skepticism...

 discussed how societies change through time, it was truly the Scottish Enlightenment
Scottish Enlightenment
The Scottish Enlightenment was the period in 18th century Scotland characterised by an outpouring of intellectual and scientific accomplishments. By 1750, Scots were among the most literate citizens of Europe, with an estimated 75% level of literacy...

 which proved key in the development of sociocultural evolution. After Scotland's union with England
England
England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Scotland to the north and Wales to the west; the Irish Sea is to the north west, the Celtic Sea to the south west, with the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south separating it from continental...

 in 1707, several Scottish thinkers pondered the relationship between progress and the 'decadence' brought about by increased trade with England and the affluence it produced. The result was a series of "conjectural histories". Authors such as Adam Ferguson
Adam Ferguson
Adam Ferguson FRSE, also known as Ferguson of Raith was a Scottish philosopher, social scientist and historian of the Scottish Enlightenment...

, John Millar, and Adam Smith
Adam Smith
Adam Smith was a Scottish social philosopher and a pioneer of political economy. One of the key figures of the Scottish Enlightenment, Smith is the author of The Theory of Moral Sentiments and An Inquiry into the Nature and Causes of the Wealth of Nations...

 argued that all societies pass through a series of four stages: hunting and gathering, pastoralism and nomadism, agriculture, and finally a stage of commerce
Commerce
While business refers to the value-creating activities of an organization for profit, commerce means the whole system of an economy that constitutes an environment for business. The system includes legal, economic, political, social, cultural, and technological systems that are in operation in any...

. These thinkers thus understood the changes Scotland was undergoing as a transition from an agricultural to a mercantile society.
Philosophical concepts of progress (such as those expounded by the German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel) developed as well during this period. In France
France
The French Republic , The French Republic , The French Republic , (commonly known as France , is a unitary semi-presidential republic in Western Europe with several overseas territories and islands located on other continents and in the Indian, Pacific, and Atlantic oceans. Metropolitan France...

 authors such as Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius
Claude Adrien Helvétius was a French philosopher and littérateur.-Life:...

 and other philosophe
Philosophe
The philosophes were the intellectuals of the 18th century Enlightenment. Few were primarily philosophers; rather they were public intellectuals who applied reason to the study of many areas of learning, including philosophy, history, science, politics, economics and social issues...

s were influenced by this Scottish tradition. Later thinkers such as Comte de Saint-Simon
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon
Claude Henri de Rouvroy, comte de Saint-Simon, often referred to as Henri de Saint-Simon was a French early socialist theorist whose thought influenced the foundations of various 19th century philosophies; perhaps most notably Marxism, positivism and the discipline of sociology...

 developed these ideas. Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

 in particular presented a coherent view of social progress and a new discipline to study it—sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

.

These developments took place in a wider context. The first process was colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

. Although imperial powers
Imperialism
Imperialism, as defined by Dictionary of Human Geography, is "the creation and/or maintenance of an unequal economic, cultural, and territorial relationships, usually between states and often in the form of an empire, based on domination and subordination." The imperialism of the last 500 years,...

 settled most differences of opinion with their colonial subjects through force, increased awareness of non-Western peoples raised new questions for European scholars about the nature of society and culture. Similarly, effective administration
Public administration
Public Administration houses the implementation of government policy and an academic discipline that studies this implementation and that prepares civil servants for this work. As a "field of inquiry with a diverse scope" its "fundamental goal.....

 required some degree of understanding of other cultures. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution allowed Europeans to organise their new knowledge in a way that reflected and justified their increasing political and economic domination of others: colonised people were less evolved, colonising people were more evolved. When the 17th-century English philosopher Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes
Thomas Hobbes of Malmesbury , in some older texts Thomas Hobbs of Malmsbury, was an English philosopher, best known today for his work on political philosophy...

 described indigenous people as having "no arts, no letters, no society" and their life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short", he was defining the stereotype of a "savage
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

," one that would last for many years. Modern civilization, understood as the Western civilization, was the result of steady progress from such a state, and such a notion was common to many thinkers of the Enlightenment, including Voltaire
Voltaire
François-Marie Arouet , better known by the pen name Voltaire , was a French Enlightenment writer, historian and philosopher famous for his wit and for his advocacy of civil liberties, including freedom of religion, free trade and separation of church and state...

.

The second process was the Industrial Revolution
Industrial Revolution
The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

 and the rise of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 which allowed and promoted continual revolutions in the means of production
Means of production
Means of production refers to physical, non-human inputs used in production—the factories, machines, and tools used to produce wealth — along with both infrastructural capital and natural capital. This includes the classical factors of production minus financial capital and minus human capital...

. Emerging theories of sociocultural evolution reflected a belief that the changes in Europe wrought by the Industrial Revolution and capitalism were improvements. Industrialisation, combined with the intense political change brought about by the French Revolution
French Revolution
The French Revolution , sometimes distinguished as the 'Great French Revolution' , was a period of radical social and political upheaval in France and Europe. The absolute monarchy that had ruled France for centuries collapsed in three years...

 and the U.S. Constitution, which were paving the way for the dominance of democracy
History of democracy
The history of democracy traces back to Athens to its re-emergence and rise from the 17th century to the present day. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power...

, forced European thinkers to reconsider some of their assumptions about how society was organised.

Eventually, in the 19th century three great classical theories of social and historical change were created: sociocultural evolutionism, the social cycle theory, and Marxist historical materialism
Historical materialism
Historical materialism is a methodological approach to the study of society, economics, and history, first articulated by Karl Marx as "the materialist conception of history". Historical materialism looks for the causes of developments and changes in human society in the means by which humans...

. Those theories had one common factor: they all agreed that the history of humanity is pursuing a certain fixed path, most likely that of social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

. Thus, each past event is not only chronologically, but causally tied to the present and future events. Those theories postulated that by recreating the sequence of those events, sociology could discover the laws of history
History
History is the discovery, collection, organization, and presentation of information about past events. History can also mean the period of time after writing was invented. Scholars who write about history are called historians...

.

Sociocultural evolutionism and the idea of progress

While sociocultural evolutionists agree that an evolution-like process leads to social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

, classical social evolutionists have developed many different theories, known as theories of unilineal evolution
Unilineal evolution
Unilineal evolution is a 19th century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It was composed of many competing theories by various sociologists and anthropologists, who believed that Western culture is the contemporary pinnacle of social evolution...

. Sociocultural evolutionism was the prevailing theory of early sociocultural anthropology and social commentary
Social commentary
Social commentary is the act of rebelling against an individual, or a group of people by rhetorical means, or commentary on social issues or society...

, and is associated with scholars like Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

, Edward Burnett Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor , was an English anthropologist.Tylor is representative of cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture and Anthropology, he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell...

, Lewis Henry Morgan, Benjamin Kidd
Benjamin Kidd
Benjamin Kidd was a British sociologist. He entered the British civil service and did not become generally known until the publication of an essay, Social Evolution, in 1894...

, L.T. Hobhouse and Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

. Sociocultural evolutionism attempted to formalise social thinking along scientific lines, with the added influence from the biological theory of evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

. If organisms could develop over time according to discernible, deterministic laws, then it seemed reasonable that societies could as well. Human society was compared to a biological organism, and social science equivalents of concepts like variation
Variation
- Physics :* Magnetic variation, difference between magnetic north and true north, measured as an angle* Variation , any perturbation of the mean motion or orbit of a planet or satellite, particularly of the moon- Mathematics :* Bounded variation...

, natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

, and inheritance
Inheritance
Inheritance is the practice of passing on property, titles, debts, rights and obligations upon the death of an individual. It has long played an important role in human societies...

 were introduced as factors resulting in the progress of societies. Idea of progress led to that of a fixed "stages" through which human societies progress, usually numbering three—savagery, barbarism, and civilization—but sometimes many more. As early as the late 18th century Marquis de Condorcet
Marquis de Condorcet
Marie Jean Antoine Nicolas de Caritat, marquis de Condorcet , known as Nicolas de Condorcet, was a French philosopher, mathematician, and early political scientist whose Condorcet method in voting tally selects the candidate who would beat each of the other candidates in a run-off election...

 listed 10 stages, or "epochs", each advancing the rights of man and perfecting the human race. At that time, anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 was rising as a new scientific discipline, separating from the traditional views of "primitive" cultures that was usually based on religious views.
Classical social evolutionism is most closely associated with the 19th-century writings of Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

, Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

 (coiner of the phrase "survival of the fittest
Survival of the fittest
"Survival of the fittest" is a phrase originating in evolutionary theory, as an alternative description of Natural selection. The phrase is today commonly used in contexts that are incompatible with the original meaning as intended by its first two proponents: British polymath philosopher Herbert...

"). In many ways Spencer's theory of "cosmic evolution" has much more in common with the works of Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Lamarck
Jean-Baptiste Pierre Antoine de Monet, Chevalier de la Marck , often known simply as Lamarck, was a French naturalist...

 and Auguste Comte than with contemporary works of Charles Darwin
Charles Darwin
Charles Robert Darwin FRS was an English naturalist. He established that all species of life have descended over time from common ancestry, and proposed the scientific theory that this branching pattern of evolution resulted from a process that he called natural selection.He published his theory...

. Spencer also developed and published his theories several years earlier than Darwin. In regard to social institutions, however, there is a good case that Spencer's writings might be classified as 'Social Evolutionism'. Although he wrote that societies over time progressed, and that progress was accomplished through competition, he stressed that the individual
Individual
An individual is a person or any specific object or thing in a collection. Individuality is the state or quality of being an individual; a person separate from other persons and possessing his or her own needs, goals, and desires. Being self expressive...

 (rather than the collectivity
Collectivism
Collectivism is any philosophic, political, economic, mystical or social outlook that emphasizes the interdependence of every human in some collective group and the priority of group goals over individual goals. Collectivists usually focus on community, society, or nation...

) is the unit of analysis
Unit of analysis
The unit of analysis is the major entity that is being analyzed in the study. It is the 'what' or 'whom' that is being studied. In social science research, typical units of analysis include individuals , groups, social organizations and social artifacts.The literature of International Relations...

 that evolves, that evolution takes place through natural selection and that it affects social as well as biological phenomenon. Nonetheless, the publication of Darwin's works proved a boon to the proponents of sociocultural evolution. The ideas of biological evolution was seen as an attractive explanation for many questions about the development of society

Both Spencer and Comte view the society as a kind of organism subject to the process of growth—from simplicity to complexity, from chaos to order, from generalisation to specialisation, from flexibility to organisation. They agreed that the process of societies growth can be divided into certain stages, have their beginning and eventual end, and that this growth is in fact social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

—each newer, more evolved society is better. Thus progressivism
Progressivism
Progressivism is an umbrella term for a political ideology advocating or favoring social, political, and economic reform or changes. Progressivism is often viewed by some conservatives, constitutionalists, and libertarians to be in opposition to conservative or reactionary ideologies.The...

 became one of the basic ideas underlying the theory of sociocultural evolutionism.

Auguste Comte
Auguste Comte
Isidore Auguste Marie François Xavier Comte , better known as Auguste Comte , was a French philosopher, a founder of the discipline of sociology and of the doctrine of positivism...

, known as father of sociology, formulated the law of three stages
Law of three stages
The Law of Three Stages is an idea developed by Auguste Comte. It states that society as a whole, and each particular science, develops through three mentally conceived stages: the theological stage, the metaphysical stage, and the positive stage....

: human development progresses from the theological
Theology
Theology is the systematic and rational study of religion and its influences and of the nature of religious truths, or the learned profession acquired by completing specialized training in religious studies, usually at a university or school of divinity or seminary.-Definition:Augustine of Hippo...

 stage, in which nature was mythically conceived and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from supernatural beings, through metaphysical stage
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 in which nature was conceived of as a result of obscure forces and man sought the explanation of natural phenomena from them until the final positive stage in which all abstract and obscure forces are discarded, and natural phenomena are explained by their constant relationship. This progress is forced through the development of human mind, and increasing application of thought, reasoning and logic to the understanding of the world. For Comte, it was the science-valuing society that was the highest, most developed type of human organization.

Herbert Spencer, who argued against government intervention, believing that society evolution should be toward increasing individual freedom, differentiated between two phases of development, focusing on the type of internal regulation within societies. Thus he differentiated between military
Military
A military is an organization authorized by its greater society to use lethal force, usually including use of weapons, in defending its country by combating actual or perceived threats. The military may have additional functions of use to its greater society, such as advancing a political agenda e.g...

 and industrial
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 societies. The earlier, more primitive military society has a goal of conquest and defence
Defense (military)
Defense has several uses in the sphere of military application.Personal defense implies measures taken by individual soldiers in protecting themselves whether by use of protective materials such as armor, or field construction of trenches or a bunker, or by using weapons that prevent the enemy...

, is centralised, economically
Economy
An economy consists of the economic system of a country or other area; the labor, capital and land resources; and the manufacturing, trade, distribution, and consumption of goods and services of that area...

 self-sufficient, collectivistic
Collective
A collective is a group of entities that share or are motivated by at least one common issue or interest, or work together on a specific project to achieve a common objective...

, puts the good of a group over the good of an individual, uses compulsion, force and repression, rewards loyalty, obedience and discipline. The industrial society has a goal of production
Manufacturing
Manufacturing is the use of machines, tools and labor to produce goods for use or sale. The term may refer to a range of human activity, from handicraft to high tech, but is most commonly applied to industrial production, in which raw materials are transformed into finished goods on a large scale...

 and trade
Trade
Trade is the transfer of ownership of goods and services from one person or entity to another. Trade is sometimes loosely called commerce or financial transaction or barter. A network that allows trade is called a market. The original form of trade was barter, the direct exchange of goods and...

, is decentralised
Décentralisation
Décentralisation is a french word for both a policy concept in French politics from 1968-1990, and a term employed to describe the results of observations of the evolution of spatial economic and institutional organization of France....

, interconnected with other societies via economic relations, achieves its goals through voluntary cooperation and individual self-restraint, treats the good of individual as the highest value, regulates the social life via voluntary relations, values initiative, independence and innovation. The transition process from the military to industrial society is the outcome of steady evolutionary processes within the society.

Regardless of how scholars of Spencer interpret his relation to Darwin, Spencer proved to be an incredibly popular figure in the 1870s, particularly in the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. Authors such as Edward L. Youmans
Edward L. Youmans
Edward Livingston Youmans was an American scientific writer, editor, and lecturer and founder of Popular Science magazine.-Biography:...

, William Graham Sumner
William Graham Sumner
William Graham Sumner was an American academic and "held the first professorship in sociology" at Yale College. For many years he had a reputation as one of the most influential teachers there. He was a polymath with numerous books and essays on American history, economic history, political...

, John Fiske, John W. Burgess, Lester Frank Ward
Lester Frank Ward
Lester F. Ward was an American botanist, paleontologist, and sociologist. He served as the first president of the American Sociological Association.-Biography:...

, Lewis H. Morgan
Lewis H. Morgan
Lewis Henry Morgan was a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist, a railroad lawyer and capitalist. He is best known for his work on kinship and social structure, his theories of social evolution, and his ethnography of the Iroquois...

 and other thinkers of the gilded age
Gilded Age
In United States history, the Gilded Age refers to the era of rapid economic and population growth in the United States during the post–Civil War and post-Reconstruction eras of the late 19th century. The term "Gilded Age" was coined by Mark Twain and Charles Dudley Warner in their book The Gilded...

 all developed theories of social evolutionism as a result of their exposure to Spencer as well as Darwin.
Lewis H. Morgan
Lewis H. Morgan
Lewis Henry Morgan was a pioneering American anthropologist and social theorist, a railroad lawyer and capitalist. He is best known for his work on kinship and social structure, his theories of social evolution, and his ethnography of the Iroquois...

, an anthropologist
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 whose ideas have had much impact on sociology, in his 1877 classic Ancient Societies differentiated between three eras: savagery, barbarism
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 and civilization
Civilization
Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

, which are divided by technological inventions, like fire, bow
Bow (weapon)
The bow and arrow is a projectile weapon system that predates recorded history and is common to most cultures.-Description:A bow is a flexible arc that shoots aerodynamic projectiles by means of elastic energy. Essentially, the bow is a form of spring powered by a string or cord...

, pottery
Pottery
Pottery is the material from which the potteryware is made, of which major types include earthenware, stoneware and porcelain. The place where such wares are made is also called a pottery . Pottery also refers to the art or craft of the potter or the manufacture of pottery...

 in the savage era, domestication of animals, agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, metalworking
Metalworking
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills,...

 in the barbarian era and alphabet
Alphabet
An alphabet is a standard set of letters—basic written symbols or graphemes—each of which represents a phoneme in a spoken language, either as it exists now or as it was in the past. There are other systems, such as logographies, in which each character represents a word, morpheme, or semantic...

 and writing
Writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

 in the civilization era. Thus Morgan introduced a link between social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

 and technological progress. Morgan viewed technological progress as a force behind social progress, and any social change
Social change
Social change refers to an alteration in the social order of a society. It may refer to the notion of social progress or sociocultural evolution, the philosophical idea that society moves forward by dialectical or evolutionary means. It may refer to a paradigmatic change in the socio-economic...

—in social institutions, organizations or ideologies—has its beginnings in technological change. Morgan's theories were popularized by Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, who based his famous work The Origin of the Family, Private Property and the State on it. For Engels and other Marxists, this theory was important as it supported their conviction that materialistic factors—economic and technological—are decisive in shaping the fate of humanity.

Edward Burnett Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor , was an English anthropologist.Tylor is representative of cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture and Anthropology, he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell...

, pioneer of anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

, focused on the evolution of culture worldwide, noting that culture is an important part of every society and that it is also subject to the process of evolution. He believed that societies were at different stages of cultural development and that the purpose of anthropology was to reconstruct the evolution of culture, from primitive beginnings to the modern state.
Anthropologists
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 Sir E.B. Tylor
Edward Burnett Tylor
Sir Edward Burnett Tylor , was an English anthropologist.Tylor is representative of cultural evolutionism. In his works Primitive Culture and Anthropology, he defined the context of the scientific study of anthropology, based on the evolutionary theories of Charles Lyell...

 in England and Lewis Henry Morgan in the United States worked with data from indigenous people, who they claimed represented earlier stages of cultural evolution that gave insight into the process and progression of evolution of culture. Morgan would later have a significant influence on Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

 and Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels
Friedrich Engels was a German industrialist, social scientist, author, political theorist, philosopher, and father of Marxist theory, alongside Karl Marx. In 1845 he published The Condition of the Working Class in England, based on personal observations and research...

, who developed a theory of sociocultural evolution in which the internal contradictions in society created a series of escalating stages that ended in a socialist society (see Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

). Tylor and Morgan elaborated the theory of unilinear evolution, specifying criteria for categorising cultures according to their standing within a fixed system of growth of humanity as a whole and examining the modes and mechanisms of this growth. Theirs was often a concern with culture in general, not with individual cultures.

Their analysis of cross-cultural data was based on three assumptions:
  1. contemporary societies may be classified and ranked as more "primitive" or more "civilized";
  2. There are a determinate number of stages between "primitive" and "civilized" (e.g. band
    Band society
    A band society is the simplest form of human society. A band generally consists of a small kin group, no larger than an extended family or clan; it has been defined as consisting of no more than 30 to 50 individuals.Bands have a loose organization...

    , tribe
    Tribe
    A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

    , chiefdom
    Chiefdom
    A chiefdom is a political economy that organizes regional populations through a hierarchy of the chief.In anthropological theory, one model of human social development rooted in ideas of cultural evolution describes a chiefdom as a form of social organization more complex than a tribe or a band...

    , and state
    State (polity)
    A state is an organized political community, living under a government. States may be sovereign and may enjoy a monopoly on the legal initiation of force and are not dependent on, or subject to any other power or state. Many states are federated states which participate in a federal union...

    ),
  3. All societies progress through these stages in the same sequence, but at different rates.

Theorists usually measured progression (that is, the difference between one stage and the next) in terms of increasing social complexity (including class differentiation and a complex division of labour), or an increase in intellectual, theological, and aesthetic sophistication. These 19th-century ethnologists
Ethnology
Ethnology is the branch of anthropology that compares and analyzes the origins, distribution, technology, religion, language, and social structure of the ethnic, racial, and/or national divisions of humanity.-Scientific discipline:Compared to ethnography, the study of single groups through direct...

 used these principles primarily to explain differences in religious beliefs and kinship terminologies among various societies.
Lester Frank Ward
Lester Frank Ward
Lester F. Ward was an American botanist, paleontologist, and sociologist. He served as the first president of the American Sociological Association.-Biography:...

, sometimes referred to as the "father" of American sociology, rejected many of Spencer's theories regarding the evolution of societies. Ward, who was also a botanist and a paleontologist, believed that the law of evolution functioned much differently in human societies than it did in the plant and animal kingdoms, and theorized that the "law of nature" had been superseded by the "law of the mind".http://books.google.com/books?id=De5sdTFRt5YC&pg=PA199&dq=commager+the+american+mind&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4 He stressed that humans, driven by emotions, create goals for themselves and strive to realize them (most effectively with the modern scientific method) whereas there is no such intelligence and awareness guiding the non-human world. Plants and animals adapt to nature; man shapes nature. While Spencer believed that competition and 'survival of the fittest" benefited human society and socio-cultural evolution, Ward considered competition to be a destructive force, pointing out that all human institutions, traditions and laws were tools invented by the mind of man and, like all tools, were designed to "meet and checkmate" the unrestrained competition of natural forces.http://books.google.com/books?id=De5sdTFRt5YC&pg=PA199&dq=commager+the+american+mind&source=gbs_toc_r&cad=4 Ward agreed with Spencer that authoritarian governments repress the talents of the individual, but he believed that modern democratic societies, in which role of religion was minimized and that of science was maximized, could effectively support the individual in his or her attempt to fully utilize their talents and achieve happiness. He believed that there were four stages to the evolutionary processes. First, there is cosmogenesis
Cosmogenesis
Cosmogenesis is the origin and development of the cosmos. This term "Cosmogenesis" was used by Helena P. Blavatsky to describe the content of Volume I of her two-volume The Secret Doctrine, published in 1888; volume II was called "Anthropogenesis" or the origin of humanity.-Teilhard...

, creation and evolution of the world. Then, when life arises, there is biogenesis
Biogenesis
Biogenesis is the law that living things come only from other living things, e.g. a spider lays eggs, which develop into spiders. It may also refer to biochemical processes of production in living organisms.-Spontaneous generation:...

. Development of humanity leads to anthropogenesis, which is influenced by the human mind. Finally, there is sociogenesis, which is the science of shaping the evolutionary process itself to optimize progress, human happiness and individual self-actualization. While Ward believed that modern societies were superior to "primitive" societies (one need only look to the impact of medical science on health and lifespan) he rejected theories of white supremacy
White supremacy
White supremacy is the belief, and promotion of the belief, that white people are superior to people of other racial backgrounds. The term is sometimes used specifically to describe a political ideology that advocates the social and political dominance by whites.White supremacy, as with racial...

; he supported the Out-of-Africa theory of human evolution and believed that all races and social classes were equal in talent.http://books.google.com/books?ei=obeYTY7LJpDLtwf-jvnnCw&ct=result&id=WUucYTW6ug0C&dq=gosset+race&q=lester+ward However, Ward did not think that evolutionary progress was inevitable and he feared the degeneration of societies and cultures, which was very evident in the historical record.http://books.google.com/books?id=KmFJAAAAIAAJ&dq=personal+ward&source=gbs_navlinks_s Ward also did not favor the radical reshaping of society as proposed by the supporters of the eugenics
Eugenics
Eugenics is the "applied science or the bio-social movement which advocates the use of practices aimed at improving the genetic composition of a population", usually referring to human populations. The origins of the concept of eugenics began with certain interpretations of Mendelian inheritance,...

 movement and by the followers of Karl Marx
Karl Marx
Karl Heinrich Marx was a German philosopher, economist, sociologist, historian, journalist, and revolutionary socialist. His ideas played a significant role in the development of social science and the socialist political movement...

; like Comte, Ward believed that sociology was the most complex of the sciences and that true sociogenesis was impossible without considerable research and experimentation.http://books.google.com/books?ei=obeYTY7LJpDLtwf-jvnnCw&ct=result&id=WUucYTW6ug0C&dq=gosset+race&q=lester+ward
Émile Durkheim
Émile Durkheim
David Émile Durkheim was a French sociologist. He formally established the academic discipline and, with Karl Marx and Max Weber, is commonly cited as the principal architect of modern social science and father of sociology.Much of Durkheim's work was concerned with how societies could maintain...

, another of the "fathers" of sociology, developed a dichotomal
Dichotomy
A dichotomy is any splitting of a whole into exactly two non-overlapping parts, meaning it is a procedure in which a whole is divided into two parts...

 view of social progress. His key concept was social solidarity, as he defined social evolution in terms of progressing from mechanical solidarity to organic solidarity. In mechanical solidarity, people are self-sufficient, there is little integration and thus there is the need for use of force and repression to keep society together. In organic solidarity, people are much more integrated and interdependent and specialisation and cooperation are extensive. Progress from mechanical to organic solidarity is based first on population growth
Population growth
Population growth is the change in a population over time, and can be quantified as the change in the number of individuals of any species in a population using "per unit time" for measurement....

 and increasing population density
Population density
Population density is a measurement of population per unit area or unit volume. It is frequently applied to living organisms, and particularly to humans...

, second on increasing "morality density" (development of more complex social interactions) and thirdly, on the increasing specialisation in the workplace. To Durkheim, the most important factor in social progress is the division of labour
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

. This was later used in the mid-1900's by the economist Ester Boserup
Ester Böserup
Ester Boserup , born Ester Børgesen in Copenhagen, was a Danish economist, writer. She studied economical and agricultural development, worked at the United Nations as well as other international organizations, and she wrote several books...

 to attempt to discount some aspects of Malthusian theory.

Ferdinand Tönnies
Ferdinand Tönnies
Ferdinand Tönnies was a German sociologist. He was a major contributor to sociological theory and field studies, best known for his distinction between two types of social groups, Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft...

 describes evolution as the development from informal society, where people have many liberties and there are few laws and obligations, to modern, formal rational society, dominated by traditions and laws, where people are restricted from acting as they wish. He also notes that there is a tendency of standardisation and unification, when all smaller societies are absorbed into a single, large, modern society. Thus Tönnies can be said to describe part of the process known today as globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

. Tönnies was also one of the first sociologists to claim that the evolution of society is not necessarily going in the right direction, that social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

 is not perfect, and it can even be called a regression as the newer, more evolved societies are obtained only after paying a high cost, resulting in decreasing satisfaction of individuals making up that society. Tönnies' work became the foundation of neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism is a social theory that tries to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and discarding some dogmas of the previous social evolutionism...

.

Although not usually counted as a sociocultural evolutionist, Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

's theory of tripartite classification of authority
Tripartite classification of authority
Max Weber distinguished three ideal types of legitimate political leadership, domination and authority:# charismatic authority ,# traditional authority and...

 can be viewed as an evolutionary theory as well. Weber distinguishes three ideal type
Ideal type
Ideal type , also known as pure type, is a typological term most closely associated with antipositivist sociologist Max Weber . For Weber, the conduct of social science depends upon the construction of hypothetical concepts in the abstract...

s of political leadership
Leadership
Leadership has been described as the “process of social influence in which one person can enlist the aid and support of others in the accomplishment of a common task". Other in-depth definitions of leadership have also emerged.-Theories:...

, domination
Domination
-Books:* The Domination, an alternate history / science-fiction / alternate reality fictional, by S. M. Stirling.-Music:* Dominant , a diatonic scale step and diatonic function in tonal music theory...

 and authority
Authority
The word Authority is derived mainly from the Latin word auctoritas, meaning invention, advice, opinion, influence, or command. In English, the word 'authority' can be used to mean power given by the state or by academic knowledge of an area .-Authority in Philosophy:In...

: charismatic domination (familial and religious), traditional domination (patriarchs, patrimonalism, feudalism) and legal (rational) domination (modern law and state, bureaucracy). He also notes that legal domination is the most advanced, and that societies evolve from having mostly traditional
Traditional authority
Traditional authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to tradition or custom...

 and charismatic authorities
Charismatic authority
The sociologist Max Weber defined charismatic authority as "resting on devotion to the exceptional sanctity, heroism or exemplary character of an individual person, and of the normative patterns or order revealed or ordained by him." Charismatic authority is one of three forms of authority laid out...

 to mostly rational and legal ones
Rational-legal authority
Rational-legal authority is a form of leadership in which the authority of an organization or a ruling regime is largely tied to legal rationality, legal legitimacy and bureaucracy...

.

Critique and impact on modern theories

The early 20th century inaugurated a period of systematic critical examination, and rejection of the sweeping generalisations of the unilineal theories of sociocultural evolution. Cultural anthropologists
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

 such as Franz Boas
Franz Boas
Franz Boas was a German-American anthropologist and a pioneer of modern anthropology who has been called the "Father of American Anthropology" and "the Father of Modern Anthropology." Like many such pioneers, he trained in other disciplines; he received his doctorate in physics, and did...

, along with his students, including Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict
Ruth Benedict was an American anthropologist, cultural relativist, and folklorist....

 and Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead
Margaret Mead was an American cultural anthropologist, who was frequently a featured writer and speaker in the mass media throughout the 1960s and 1970s....

, are regarded as the leaders of anthropology's rejection of classical social evolutionism.

They used sophisticated ethnography
Ethnography
Ethnography is a qualitative method aimed to learn and understand cultural phenomena which reflect the knowledge and system of meanings guiding the life of a cultural group...

 and more rigorous empirical methods to argue that Spencer, Tylor, and Morgan's theories were speculative and systematically misrepresented ethnographic data. Theories regarding "stages" of evolution were especially criticised as illusions. Additionally, they rejected the distinction between "primitive" and "civilized" (or "modern"), pointing out that so-called primitive contemporary societies have just as much history, and were just as evolved, as so-called civilized societies. They therefore argued that any attempt to use this theory to reconstruct the histories of non-literate (i.e. leaving no historical documents) peoples is entirely speculative and unscientific.

They observed that the postulated progression, which typically ended with a stage of civilization identical to that of modern Europe, is ethnocentric
Ethnocentrism
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one's ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured in relation to one's own. The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with...

. They also pointed out that the theory assumes that societies are clearly bounded and distinct, when in fact cultural traits and forms often cross social boundaries and diffuse among many different societies (and are thus an important mechanism of change). Boas in his culture history approach focused on anthropological fieldwork in an attempt to identify factual processes instead of what he criticized as speculative stages of growth. His approach was a major influence on the American anthropology in the first half of the 20th century, and marked a retreat from high-level generalization and "systems building" .

Later critics observed that this assumption of firmly bounded societies was proposed precisely at the time when European powers were colonising non-Western societies, and was thus self-serving. Many anthropologists and social theorists now consider unilineal cultural and social evolution a Western myth
Mythology
The term mythology can refer either to the study of myths, or to a body or collection of myths. As examples, comparative mythology is the study of connections between myths from different cultures, whereas Greek mythology is the body of myths from ancient Greece...

 seldom based on solid empirical grounds. Critical theorists argue that notions of social evolution are simply justifications for power
Power (sociology)
Power is a measurement of an entity's ability to control its environment, including the behavior of other entities. The term authority is often used for power perceived as legitimate by the social structure. Power can be seen as evil or unjust, but the exercise of power is accepted as endemic to...

 by the elites of society. Finally, the devastating World Wars that occurred between 1914 and 1945 crippled Europe's self-confidence. After millions of deaths, genocide, and the destruction of Europe's industrial infrastructure, the idea of progress seemed dubious at best.

Thus modern sociocultural evolutionism rejects most of classical social evolutionism due to various theoretical problems:
  1. The theory was deeply ethnocentric—it makes heavy value judgments about different societies, with Western civilization
    Western culture
    Western culture, sometimes equated with Western civilization or European civilization, refers to cultures of European origin and is used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, religious beliefs, political systems, and specific artifacts and...

     seen as the most valuable.
  2. It assumed all cultures follow the same path or progression and have the same goals.
  3. It equated civilization
    Civilization
    Civilization is a sometimes controversial term that has been used in several related ways. Primarily, the term has been used to refer to the material and instrumental side of human cultures that are complex in terms of technology, science, and division of labor. Such civilizations are generally...

     with material culture
    Material culture
    In the social sciences, material culture is a term that refers to the relationship between artifacts and social relations. Studying a culture's relationship to materiality is a lens through which social and cultural attitudes can be discussed...

     (technology, cities, etc.)


Because social evolution was posited as a scientific theory, it was often used to support unjust and often racist social practices—--particularly colonialism
Colonialism
Colonialism is the establishment, maintenance, acquisition and expansion of colonies in one territory by people from another territory. It is a process whereby the metropole claims sovereignty over the colony and the social structure, government, and economics of the colony are changed by...

, slavery
Slavery
Slavery is a system under which people are treated as property to be bought and sold, and are forced to work. Slaves can be held against their will from the time of their capture, purchase or birth, and deprived of the right to leave, to refuse to work, or to demand compensation...

, and the unequal economic conditions present within industrialized Europe. Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism
Social Darwinism is a term commonly used for theories of society that emerged in England and the United States in the 1870s, seeking to apply the principles of Darwinian evolution to sociology and politics...

 is especially criticised, as it led to some philosophies used by the Nazis.

Max Weber, disenchantment, and critical theory


Weber's major works in economic sociology
Economic sociology
Economic sociology studies both the social effects and the social causes of various economic phenomena. The field can be broadly divided into a classical period and a contemporary one. The classical period was concerned particularly with modernity and its constituent aspects...

 and the sociology of religion
Sociology of religion
The sociology of religion concerns the role of religion in society: practices, historical backgrounds, developments and universal themes. There is particular emphasis on the recurring role of religion in all societies and throughout recorded history...

 dealt with the rationalization, secularisation, and so called "disenchantment
Disenchantment
Disenchantment is a term in the social sciences used to describe the cultural rationalization and devaluation of mysticism apparent in modern society...

" which he associated with the rise of capitalism
Capitalism
Capitalism is an economic system that became dominant in the Western world following the demise of feudalism. There is no consensus on the precise definition nor on how the term should be used as a historical category...

 and modernity
Modernity
Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance...

. In sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

, rationalization is the process whereby an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality
Morality
Morality is the differentiation among intentions, decisions, and actions between those that are good and bad . A moral code is a system of morality and a moral is any one practice or teaching within a moral code...

, emotion
Emotion
Emotion is a complex psychophysiological experience of an individual's state of mind as interacting with biochemical and environmental influences. In humans, emotion fundamentally involves "physiological arousal, expressive behaviors, and conscious experience." Emotion is associated with mood,...

, custom
Custom
Custom may refer to:* Convention , a set of agreed, stipulated or generally accepted rules, norms, standards or criteria, often taking the form of a custom* Customization , anything made or modified to personal taste...

, or tradition
Tradition
A tradition is a ritual, belief or object passed down within a society, still maintained in the present, with origins in the past. Common examples include holidays or impractical but socially meaningful clothes , but the idea has also been applied to social norms such as greetings...

. Rather than referring to what is genuinely "rational" or "logical", rationalization refers to a relentless quest for goals that might actually function to the detriment of a society. Rationalization is an ambivalent aspect of modernity, manifested especially in Western society; as a behaviour of the capitalist market; of rational administration in the state
Sovereign state
A sovereign state, or simply, state, is a state with a defined territory on which it exercises internal and external sovereignty, a permanent population, a government, and the capacity to enter into relations with other sovereign states. It is also normally understood to be a state which is neither...

 and bureaucracy
Bureaucracy
A bureaucracy is an organization of non-elected officials of a governmental or organization who implement the rules, laws, and functions of their institution, and are occasionally characterized by officialism and red tape.-Weberian bureaucracy:...

; of the extension of modern science
Science
Science is a systematic enterprise that builds and organizes knowledge in the form of testable explanations and predictions about the universe...

; and of the expansion of modern technology.

Weber's thought regarding the rationalizing and secularizing tendencies of modern Western society (sometimes described as the "Weber Thesis
Rationalization (sociology)
Rationalization is a term used in sociology to refer to a process in which an increasing number of social actions become based on considerations of teleological efficiency or calculation rather than on motivations derived from morality, emotion, custom, or tradition...

") would blend with Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 to facilitate critical theory
Critical theory
Critical theory is an examination and critique of society and culture, drawing from knowledge across the social sciences and humanities. The term has two different meanings with different origins and histories: one originating in sociology and the other in literary criticism...

, particularly in the work of thinkers such as Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

. Critical theorists, as antipositivists, are critical of the idea of a hierarchy of sciences or societies, particularly with respect to the sociological positivism
Positivism
Positivism is a a view of scientific methods and a philosophical approach, theory, or system based on the view that, in the social as well as natural sciences, sensory experiences and their logical and mathematical treatment are together the exclusive source of all worthwhile information....

 originally set forth by Comte. Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

 has critiqued the concept of pure instrumental rationality
Instrumental rationality
Two views of instrumental rationality can be discerned in modern philosophy: one view comes from social philosophy, sociology and critical theory, whereas another comes from natural philosophy.-The view from critical theory and social philosophy:...

 as meaning that scientific-thinking becomes something akin to ideology
Ideology
An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

 itself. For theorists such as Zygmunt Bauman
Zygmunt Bauman
Zygmunt Bauman is a Polish sociologist who, since 1971, has resided in England after being driven out of Poland by an anti-Semitic campaign, engineered by the Communist government which he had previously supported...

, rationalization as a manifestation of modernity
Modernity
Modernity typically refers to a post-traditional, post-medieval historical period, one marked by the move from feudalism toward capitalism, industrialization, secularization, rationalization, the nation-state and its constituent institutions and forms of surveillance...

 may be most closely and regrettably associated with the events of the Holocaust
The Holocaust
The Holocaust , also known as the Shoah , was the genocide of approximately six million European Jews and millions of others during World War II, a programme of systematic state-sponsored murder by Nazi...

.

Modern theories

When the critique of classical social evolutionism became widely accepted, modern anthropological and sociological approaches changed respectively . Modern theories are careful to avoid unsourced, ethnocentric speculation, comparisons, or value judgments; more or less regarding individual societies as existing within their own historical contexts. These conditions provided the context for new theories such as cultural relativism
Cultural relativism
Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human's beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual's own culture. This principle was established as axiomatic in anthropological research by Franz Boas in the first few decades of the 20th century and...

 and multilineal evolution
Multilineal evolution
Multilineal evolution is a 20th century social theory about the evolution of societies and cultures. It is composed of many competing theories by various sociologists and anthropologists...

.

In the 1920s and 1930s, Gordon Childe revolutionized the study of cultural evolutionism. He conducted a comprehensive pre-history account that provided scholars with evidence for African and Asian cultural transmission into Europe. He combated scientific racism
Scientific racism
Scientific racism is the use of scientific techniques and hypotheses to sanction the belief in racial superiority or racism.This is not the same as using scientific findings and the scientific method to investigate differences among the humans and argue that there are races...

 by finding the tools and artifacts of the indigenous people from Africa and Asia and showed how they influenced the technology of European culture. Evidence from his excavations countered the idea of Aryan supremacy and superiority. Childe explained cultural evolution by his theory of divergence with modifications of convergence. He postulated that different cultures form separate methods that meet different needs, but when two cultures were in contact they developed similar adaptations, solving similar problems. Rejecting Spencer's theory of parallel cultural evolution, Childe found that interactions between cultures contributed to the convergence of similar aspects most often attributed to one culture. Childe placed emphasis on human culture as a social construct rather than products of environmental or technological contexts. Childe coined the terms "Neolithic Revolution
Neolithic Revolution
The Neolithic Revolution was the first agricultural revolution. It was the transition from hunting and gathering to agriculture and settlement. Archaeological data indicates that various forms of plants and animal domestication evolved independently in 6 separate locations worldwide circa...

", and "Urban Revolution
Urban revolution
In anthropology and archaeology, the Urban Revolution is the process by which small, kin-based, nonliterate agricultural villages were transformed into large, socially complex, urban societies....

" which are still used today in the branch of pre-historic anthropology.

In 1941 anthropologist Robert Redfield
Robert Redfield
Robert Redfield was an American anthropologist and ethnolinguist. Redfield graduated from the University of Chicago, eventually with a J.D. from its law school and then a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology, which he began to teach in 1927...

 wrote about a shift from 'folk society' to 'urban society'. By the 1940s cultural anthropologists such as Leslie White
Leslie White
Leslie Alvin White was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of theories of cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor...

 and Julian Steward
Julian Steward
Julian Haynes Steward was an American anthropologist best known for his role in developing "the concept and method" of cultural ecology, as well as a scientific theory of culture change.-Early life and education:...

 sought to revive an evolutionary model on a more scientific basis, and succeeded in establishing an approach known as neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism
Neoevolutionism is a social theory that tries to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution and discarding some dogmas of the previous social evolutionism...

. White rejected the opposition between "primitive" and "modern" societies but did argue that societies could be distinguished based on the amount of energy they harnessed, and that increased energy allowed for greater social differentiation (White's law
White's law
White's law, named after Leslie White and published in 1943, states that, other factors remaining constant, "culture evolves as the amount of energy harnessed per capita per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased".White spoke of...

). Steward on the other hand rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way.

The anthropologists Marshall Sahlins
Marshall Sahlins
Marshall David Sahlins is a prominent American anthropologist. He received both a Bachelors and Masters degree at the University of Michigan where he studied with Leslie White, and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954 where his main intellectual influences included Karl Polanyi and...

 and Elman Service
Elman Service
Elman Rogers Service was an American cultural anthropologist.- Biography :He was born on May 18, 1915 in Tecumseh, Michigan and died on November 14, 1996 in Santa Barbara, California. He earned a Bachelors Degree in 1941 from the University of Michigan. He earned a Ph.D. in Anthropology from...

 prepared an edited volume, Evolution and Culture, in which they attempted to synthesise White's and Steward's approaches. Other anthropologists, building on or responding to work by White and Steward, developed theories of cultural ecology and ecological anthropology. The most prominent examples are Peter Vayda and Roy Rappaport
Roy Rappaport
Roy A. Rappaport was a distinguished anthropologist known for his contributions to the anthropological study of ritual and to ecological anthropology.-Biography:...

. By the late 1950s, students of Steward such as Eric Wolf
Eric Wolf
Eric Robert Wolf was an anthropologist, best known for his studies of peasants, Latin America, and his advocacy of Marxian perspectives within anthropology.-Early life:...

 and Sidney Mintz
Sidney Mintz
Sidney Wilfred Mintz is an anthropologist best known for his studies of Latin America and the Caribbean. Mintz studied at Brooklyn College earning his B.A in 1943. He got his doctoral degree from Columbia University under the supervision of Julian Steward and Ruth Benedict...

 turned away from cultural ecology to Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

, World Systems Theory
World Systems Theory
The world-systems theory is a multidisciplinary, macro-scale approach to world history and social change....

, Dependency theory
Dependency theory
Dependency theory or dependencia theory is a body of social science theories predicated on the notion that resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former...

 and Marvin Harris
Marvin Harris
Marvin Harris was an American anthropologist. He was born in Brooklyn, New York. A prolific writer, he was highly influential in the development of cultural materialism...

's Cultural materialism
Cultural materialism
The term Cultural materialism refers to two separate scholarly endeavours:* Cultural materialism — an anthropological research paradigm championed most notably by Marvin Harris....

.

Today most anthropologists reject 19th-century notions of progress and the three assumptions of unilineal evolution. Following Steward, they take seriously the relationship between a culture and its environment to explain different aspects of a culture. But most modern cultural anthropologists have adopted a general systems approach, examining cultures as emergent systems and arguing that one must consider the whole social environment, which includes political and economic relations among cultures. As a result of simplistic notions of "progressive evolution", more modern, complex cultural evolution theories (such as Dual Inheritance Theory
Dual inheritance theory
Dual inheritance theory , also known as gene-culture coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution...

, discussed below) receive little attention in the social sciences, having given way in some cases to a series of more humanist approaches. Some reject the entirety of evolutionary thinking and look instead at historical contingencies, contacts with other cultures, and the operation of cultural symbol systems. In the area of development studies, authors such as Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen
Amartya Sen, CH is an Indian economist who was awarded the 1998 Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences for his contributions to welfare economics and social choice theory, and for his interest in the problems of society's poorest members...

 have developed an understanding of "development" and 'human flourishing' that also question more simplistic notions of progress, while retaining much of their original inspiration.

Neoevolutionism

Neoevolutionism was the first in a series of modern multilineal evolution theories. It emerged in the 1930s and extensively developed in the period following the Second World War and was incorporated into both anthropology
Anthropology
Anthropology is the study of humanity. It has origins in the humanities, the natural sciences, and the social sciences. The term "anthropology" is from the Greek anthrōpos , "man", understood to mean mankind or humanity, and -logia , "discourse" or "study", and was first used in 1501 by German...

 and sociology
Sociology
Sociology is the study of society. It is a social science—a term with which it is sometimes synonymous—which uses various methods of empirical investigation and critical analysis to develop a body of knowledge about human social activity...

 in the 1960s. It bases its theories on empirical evidence from areas of archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, palaeontology and historiography
Historiography
Historiography refers either to the study of the history and methodology of history as a discipline, or to a body of historical work on a specialized topic...

 and tries to eliminate any references to systems of values
Value (personal and cultural)
A personal or cultural value is an absolute or relative ethical value, the assumption of which can be the basis for ethical action. A value system is a set of consistent values and measures. A principle value is a foundation upon which other values and measures of integrity are based...

, be it moral or cultural, instead trying to remain objective and simply descriptive.

While 19th-century evolutionism explained how culture develops by giving general principles of its evolutionary process, it was dismissed by the Historical Particularists
Historical particularism
Historical Particularism is widely considered the first American anthropological school of thought.Founded by Franz Boas, historical particularism rejected the cultural evolutionary model that had dominated...

 as unscientific in the early 20th century. It was the neo-evolutionary thinkers who brought back evolutionary thought and developed it to be acceptable to contemporary anthropology.

Neo-evolutionism discards many ideas of classical social evolutionism, namely that of social progress
Social progress
Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

, so dominant in previous sociology evolution-related theories. Then neo-evolutionism discards the determinism
Determinism
Determinism is the general philosophical thesis that states that for everything that happens there are conditions such that, given them, nothing else could happen. There are many versions of this thesis. Each of them rests upon various alleged connections, and interdependencies of things and...

 argument and introduces probability
Probability
Probability is ordinarily used to describe an attitude of mind towards some proposition of whose truth we arenot certain. The proposition of interest is usually of the form "Will a specific event occur?" The attitude of mind is of the form "How certain are we that the event will occur?" The...

, arguing that accidents and free will greatly affect the process of social evolution. It also supports counterfactual history—asking "what if" and considering different possible paths that social evolution may take or might have taken, and thus allows for the fact that various cultures may develop in different ways, some skipping entire stages others have passed through. Neo-evolutionism stresses the importance of empirical
Empirical
The word empirical denotes information gained by means of observation or experimentation. Empirical data are data produced by an experiment or observation....

 evidence. While 19th-century evolutionism used value judgments and assumptions for interpreting data, neo-evolutionism relies on measurable information for analysing the process of sociocultural evolution.

Leslie White
Leslie White
Leslie Alvin White was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of theories of cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor...

, author of The Evolution of Culture: The Development of Civilization to the Fall of Rome (1959), attempted to create a theory explaining the entire history of humanity
History of Humanity
The is part of UNESCO’s Collection. The publication seeks to contribute to mutual understanding and dialogue between cultures and civilizations. This series seeks to illustrate the encounters between cultures across history and their respective contributions to the general progress of humankind...

. The most important factor in his theory is technology
Technology
Technology is the making, usage, and knowledge of tools, machines, techniques, crafts, systems or methods of organization in order to solve a problem or perform a specific function. It can also refer to the collection of such tools, machinery, and procedures. The word technology comes ;...

. Social systems are determined by technological systems, wrote White in his book, echoing the earlier theory of Lewis Henry Morgan. He proposes a society's energy consumption
World energy resources and consumption
]World energy consumption in 2010: over 5% growthEnergy markets have combined crisis recovery and strong industry dynamism. Energy consumption in the G20 soared by more than 5% in 2010, after the slight decrease of 2009. This strong increase is the result of two converging trends...

 as a measure of its advancement. He differentiates between five stages of human development. In the first, people use the energy of their own muscles. In the second, they use the energy of domesticated animals. In the third, they use the energy of plants (so White refers to agricultural revolution
Agricultural revolution
Agricultural Revolution or Agrarian Revolution may refer to:*The Neolithic Revolution , the initial transition from hunting and gathering to settled agriculture in prehistory...

 here). In the fourth, they learn to use the energy of natural resources: coal, oil, gas. In the fifth, they harness nuclear energy
Nuclear power
Nuclear power is the use of sustained nuclear fission to generate heat and electricity. Nuclear power plants provide about 6% of the world's energy and 13–14% of the world's electricity, with the U.S., France, and Japan together accounting for about 50% of nuclear generated electricity...

. White introduced a formula, P=E*T, where E is a measure of energy consumed, and T is the measure of efficiency of technical factors utilising the energy. This theory is similar to Russian astronomer Nikolai Kardashev
Nikolai Kardashev
Nikolai Semenovich Kardashev is a Russian astrophysicist, and is the deputy director of the Russian Space Research Institute of the Russian Academy of Sciences in Moscow.Kardashev graduated from Moscow State University in 1955, following up at...

's later theory of the Kardashev scale
Kardashev scale
The Kardashev scale is a method of measuring an advanced civilization's level of technological advancement. The scale is only theoretical and in terms of an actual civilization highly speculative; however, it puts energy consumption of an entire civilization in a cosmic perspective. It was first...

.

Julian Steward
Julian Steward
Julian Haynes Steward was an American anthropologist best known for his role in developing "the concept and method" of cultural ecology, as well as a scientific theory of culture change.-Early life and education:...

, author of Theory of Culture Change: The Methodology of Multilinear Evolution (1955, reprinted 1979), created the theory of "multilinear" evolution which examined the way in which societies adapted to their environment. This approach was more nuanced than White's theory of "unilinear evolution." Steward rejected the 19th-century notion of progress, and instead called attention to the Darwinian notion of "adaptation", arguing that all societies had to adapt to their environment in some way. He argued that different adaptations could be studied through the examination of the specific resources a society exploited, the technology the society relied on to exploit these resources, and the organization of human labour. He further argued that different environments and technologies would require different kinds of adaptations, and that as the resource base or technology changed, so too would a culture. In other words, cultures do not change according to some inner logic, but rather in terms of a changing relationship with a changing environment. Cultures therefore would not pass through the same stages in the same order as they changed—rather, they would change in varying ways and directions. He called his theory "multilineal evolution". He questioned the possibility of creating a social theory encompassing the entire evolution of humanity; however, he argued that anthropologists are not limited to describing specific existing cultures. He believed that it is possible to create theories analysing typical common culture, representative of specific eras or regions. As the decisive factors determining the development of given culture he pointed to technology and economics, but noted that there are secondary factors, like political system, ideologies and religion. All those factors push the evolution of a given society in several directions at the same time; hence the application of the term "multilinear" to his theory of evolution.

Marshall Sahlins
Marshall Sahlins
Marshall David Sahlins is a prominent American anthropologist. He received both a Bachelors and Masters degree at the University of Michigan where he studied with Leslie White, and earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University in 1954 where his main intellectual influences included Karl Polanyi and...

, co-editor with Elman Service of Evolution and Culture (1960), divided the evolution of societies into 'general' and 'specific'. General evolution is the tendency of cultural and social systems to increase in complexity, organization and adaptiveness to environment. However, as the various cultures are not isolated, there is interaction and a diffusion of their qualities (like technological invention
Invention
An invention is a novel composition, device, or process. An invention may be derived from a pre-existing model or idea, or it could be independently conceived, in which case it may be a radical breakthrough. In addition, there is cultural invention, which is an innovative set of useful social...

s). This leads cultures to develop in different ways (specific evolution), as various elements are introduced to them in different combinations and at different stages of evolution.

In his Power and Prestige (1966) and Human Societies: An Introduction to Macrosociology (1974), Gerhard Lenski
Gerhard Lenski
Gerhard Emmanuel Lenski is an American sociologist known for contributions to the sociology of religion, social inequality, and ecological-evolutionary social theory...

 expands on the works of Leslie White
Leslie White
Leslie Alvin White was an American anthropologist known for his advocacy of theories of cultural evolution, sociocultural evolution, and especially neoevolutionism, and for his role in creating the department of anthropology at the University of Michigan Ann Arbor...

 and Lewis Henry Morgan. He views technological progress as the most basic factor in the evolution of societies and cultures. Unlike White, who defined technology as the ability to create and utilise energy
Energy
In physics, energy is an indirectly observed quantity. It is often understood as the ability a physical system has to do work on other physical systems...

, Lenski focuses on information
Information
Information in its most restricted technical sense is a message or collection of messages that consists of an ordered sequence of symbols, or it is the meaning that can be interpreted from such a message or collection of messages. Information can be recorded or transmitted. It can be recorded as...

—its amount and uses. The more information and knowledge (especially allowing the shaping of natural environment) a given society has, the more advanced it is. He distinguishes four stages of human development, based on advances in the history of communication
History of communication
The history of communication dates back to prehistory, with significant changes in communication technologies evolving in tandem with shifts in political and economic systems, and by extension, systems of power. Communication can range from very subtle processes of exchange, to full conversations...

. In the first stage, information is passed by gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s. In the second, when humans gain sentience
Sentience
Sentience is the ability to feel, perceive or be conscious, or to have subjective experiences. Eighteenth century philosophers used the concept to distinguish the ability to think from the ability to feel . In modern western philosophy, sentience is the ability to have sensations or experiences...

, they can learn
LEARN
LEARN may refer to:* Law Enforcement Agency Resource Network, a website run by the Anti-Defamation League* LEARN diet, a brand name diet product...

 and pass information through by experience. In the third, humans start using signs
Signs
Signs is the plural of sign. See sign .Signs may also refer to:*Signs , a 2002 film by M. Night Shyamalan*Signs , a journal of women's studies...

 and develop logic
Logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

. In the fourth, they can create symbol
Symbol
A symbol is something which represents an idea, a physical entity or a process but is distinct from it. The purpose of a symbol is to communicate meaning. For example, a red octagon may be a symbol for "STOP". On a map, a picture of a tent might represent a campsite. Numerals are symbols for...

s and develop language
Language
Language may refer either to the specifically human capacity for acquiring and using complex systems of communication, or to a specific instance of such a system of complex communication...

 and writing
Writing
Writing is the representation of language in a textual medium through the use of a set of signs or symbols . It is distinguished from illustration, such as cave drawing and painting, and non-symbolic preservation of language via non-textual media, such as magnetic tape audio.Writing most likely...

. Advancements in the technology of communication translate into advancements in the economic system
Economic system
An economic system is the combination of the various agencies, entities that provide the economic structure that defines the social community. These agencies are joined by lines of trade and exchange along which goods, money etc. are continuously flowing. An example of such a system for a closed...

 and political system
Political system
A political system is a system of politics and government. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems...

, distribution of goods, social inequality
Social inequality
Social inequality refers to a situation in which individual groups in a society do not have equal social status. Areas of potential social inequality include voting rights, freedom of speech and assembly, the extent of property rights and access to education, health care, quality housing and other...

 and other spheres of social life. He also differentiates societies based on their level of technology, communication and economy: (1) hunters and gatherers, (2) agricultural, (3) industrial, and (4) special (like fishing societies).

Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist who served on the faculty of Harvard University from 1927 to 1973....

, author of Societies: Evolutionary and Comparative Perspectives (1966) and The System of Modern Societies (1971) divided evolution into four subprocesses: (1) division, which creates functional subsystems from the main system; (2) adaptation, where those systems evolve into more efficient versions; (3) inclusion of elements previously excluded from the given systems; and (4) generalization of values, increasing the legitimization of the ever more complex system. He shows those processes on 4 stages of evolution: (I) primitive or foraging, (II) archaic agricultural, (III) classical or "historic" in his terminology, using formalized and universalizing theories about reality and (IV) modern empirical cultures. However, these divisions in Parsons' theory are the more formal ways in which the evolutionary process is conceptualized, and should not be mistaken for Parsons' actual theory. Parsons develops a theory where he tries to reveal the complexity of the processes which take form between two points of necessity, the first being the cultural "necessity," which is given through the values-system of each evolving community; the other is the environmental necessities, which most directly is reflected in the material realities of the basic production system and in the relative capacity of each industrial-economical level at each window of time. Generally, Parsons highlights that the dynamics and directions of these processes is shaped by the cultural imperative embodied in the cultural heritage, and more secondarily, an outcome of sheer "economic" conditions.

Sociobiology

Sociobiology
Sociobiology
Sociobiology is a field of scientific study which is based on the assumption that social behavior has resulted from evolution and attempts to explain and examine social behavior within that context. Often considered a branch of biology and sociology, it also draws from ethology, anthropology,...

 departs perhaps the furthest from classical social evolutionism. It was introduced by Edward Wilson in his 1975 book Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis
Sociobiology: The New Synthesis is a book written by E. O. Wilson, which started the sociobiology debate, one of the great scientific controversies in biology of the 20th century...

and followed his adaptation of evolutionary theory to the field of social sciences. Wilson pioneered the attempt to explain the evolutionary mechanics behind social behaviours such as altruism
Altruism
Altruism is a concern for the welfare of others. It is a traditional virtue in many cultures, and a core aspect of various religious traditions, though the concept of 'others' toward whom concern should be directed can vary among cultures and religions. Altruism is the opposite of...

, aggression
Aggression
In psychology, as well as other social and behavioral sciences, aggression refers to behavior between members of the same species that is intended to cause humiliation, pain, or harm. Ferguson and Beaver defined aggressive behavior as "Behavior which is intended to increase the social dominance of...

, and nurturance. In doing so, Wilson sparked one of the greatest scientific controversies
Controversy
Controversy is a state of prolonged public dispute or debate, usually concerning a matter of opinion. The word was coined from the Latin controversia, as a composite of controversus – "turned in an opposite direction," from contra – "against" – and vertere – to turn, or versus , hence, "to turn...

 of the 20th century.

The current theory of evolution, the modern evolutionary synthesis
Modern evolutionary synthesis
The modern evolutionary synthesis is a union of ideas from several biological specialties which provides a widely accepted account of evolution...

 (or neo-darwinism), explains that evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

 of species
Species
In biology, a species is one of the basic units of biological classification and a taxonomic rank. A species is often defined as a group of organisms capable of interbreeding and producing fertile offspring. While in many cases this definition is adequate, more precise or differing measures are...

 occurs through a combination of Darwin's mechanism of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 and Gregor Mendel
Gregor Mendel
Gregor Johann Mendel was an Austrian scientist and Augustinian friar who gained posthumous fame as the founder of the new science of genetics. Mendel demonstrated that the inheritance of certain traits in pea plants follows particular patterns, now referred to as the laws of Mendelian inheritance...

's theory of genetics
Genetics
Genetics , a discipline of biology, is the science of genes, heredity, and variation in living organisms....

 as the basis for biological inheritance and mathematical population genetics
Population genetics
Population genetics is the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. It also takes into account the factors of recombination, population subdivision and population...

. Essentially, the modern synthesis introduced the connection between two important discoveries; the units of evolution (gene
Gene
A gene is a molecular unit of heredity of a living organism. It is a name given to some stretches of DNA and RNA that code for a type of protein or for an RNA chain that has a function in the organism. Living beings depend on genes, as they specify all proteins and functional RNA chains...

s) with the main mechanism of evolution (selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

).

Due to its close reliance on biology, sociobiology is often considered a branch of the biology and sociology disciplines, although it uses techniques from a plethora of sciences, including ethology
Ethology
Ethology is the scientific study of animal behavior, and a sub-topic of zoology....

, evolution
Evolution
Evolution is any change across successive generations in the heritable characteristics of biological populations. Evolutionary processes give rise to diversity at every level of biological organisation, including species, individual organisms and molecules such as DNA and proteins.Life on Earth...

, zoology
Zoology
Zoology |zoölogy]]), is the branch of biology that relates to the animal kingdom, including the structure, embryology, evolution, classification, habits, and distribution of all animals, both living and extinct...

, archaeology
Archaeology
Archaeology, or archeology , is the study of human society, primarily through the recovery and analysis of the material culture and environmental data that they have left behind, which includes artifacts, architecture, biofacts and cultural landscapes...

, population genetics
Population genetics
Population genetics is the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. It also takes into account the factors of recombination, population subdivision and population...

, and many others. Within the study of human societies, sociobiology is closely related to the fields of human behavioral ecology
Human behavioral ecology
Human behavioral ecology or human evolutionary ecology applies the principles of evolutionary theory and optimization to the study of human behavioral and cultural diversity. HBE examines the adaptive design of traits, behaviors, and life histories of humans in an ecological context...

 and evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

.

Sociobiology has remained highly controversial as it contends genes
Gênes
Gênes is the name of a département of the First French Empire in present Italy, named after the city of Genoa. It was formed in 1805, when Napoleon Bonaparte occupied the Republic of Genoa. Its capital was Genoa, and it was divided in the arrondissements of Genoa, Bobbio, Novi Ligure, Tortona and...

 explain specific human behaviours, although sociobiologists describe this role as a very complex and often unpredictable interaction between nature and nurture. The most notable critics of the view that genes play a direct role in human behaviour have been biologists Richard Lewontin
Richard Lewontin
Richard Charles "Dick" Lewontin is an American evolutionary biologist, geneticist and social commentator. A leader in developing the mathematical basis of population genetics and evolutionary theory, he pioneered the notion of using techniques from molecular biology such as gel electrophoresis to...

 and Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould
Stephen Jay Gould was an American paleontologist, evolutionary biologist, and historian of science. He was also one of the most influential and widely read writers of popular science of his generation....

.

Since the rise of evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology
Evolutionary psychology is an approach in the social and natural sciences that examines psychological traits such as memory, perception, and language from a modern evolutionary perspective. It seeks to identify which human psychological traits are evolved adaptations, that is, the functional...

, another school of thought, Dual Inheritance Theory
Dual inheritance theory
Dual inheritance theory , also known as gene-culture coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution...

, has emerged in the past 25 years that applies the mathematical standards of Population genetics
Population genetics
Population genetics is the study of allele frequency distribution and change under the influence of the four main evolutionary processes: natural selection, genetic drift, mutation and gene flow. It also takes into account the factors of recombination, population subdivision and population...

 to modeling the adaptive and selective principles of culture. This school of thought was pioneered by Robert Boyd at UCLA
University of California, Los Angeles
The University of California, Los Angeles is a public research university located in the Westwood neighborhood of Los Angeles, California, USA. It was founded in 1919 as the "Southern Branch" of the University of California and is the second oldest of the ten campuses...

 and Peter Richerson at UC Davis
University of California, Davis
The University of California, Davis is a public teaching and research university established in 1905 and located in Davis, California, USA. Spanning over , the campus is the largest within the University of California system and third largest by enrollment...

 and expanded by William Wimsatt
William Wimsatt
William Wimsatt may refer to:* William C. Wimsatt , philosopher and teacher* William Kurtz Wimsatt, Jr. , American professor of English* William Upski Wimsatt , graffiti artist, author, and activist...

, among others. Boyd and Richerson's book, Culture and the Evolutionary Process (1985),http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/240.ctl was a highly mathematical description of cultural change, later published in a more accessible form in Not by Genes Alone (2004). http://www.press.uchicago.edu/cgi-bin/hfs.cgi/00/16460.ctl In Boyd and Richerson's view, cultural evolution, operating on socially learned information, exists on a separate but co-evolutionary track from genetic evolution, and while the two are related, cultural evolution is more dynamic, rapid, and influential on human society than genetic evolution. Dual Inheritance Theory
Dual inheritance theory
Dual inheritance theory , also known as gene-culture coevolution, was developed in the late 1970s and early 1980s to explain how human behavior is a product of two different and interacting evolutionary processes: genetic evolution and cultural evolution...

 has the benefit of providing unifying territory for a "nature and nurture" paradigm and accounts for more accurate phenomenon in evolutionary theory applied to culture, such as randomness effects (drift), concentration dependency, "fidelity" of evolving information systems, and lateral transmission through communication.

Theory of modernization

Theories of modernization
Modernization
In the social sciences, modernization or modernisation refers to a model of an evolutionary transition from a 'pre-modern' or 'traditional' to a 'modern' society. The teleology of modernization is described in social evolutionism theories, existing as a template that has been generally followed by...

 have been developed and popularized in 1950s and 1960s and are closely related to the dependency theory
Dependency theory
Dependency theory or dependencia theory is a body of social science theories predicated on the notion that resources flow from a "periphery" of poor and underdeveloped states to a "core" of wealthy states, enriching the latter at the expense of the former...

 and development theory
Development theory
Development theory is a conglomeration of theories about how desirable change in society is best to be achieved. Such theories draw on a variety of social scientific disciplines and approaches.-Modernization theory:...

. They combine the previous theories of sociocultural evolution with practical experiences and empirical research, especially those from the era of decolonization
Decolonization
Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory over another...

. The theory states that:
  • Western countries are the most developed, and the rest of the world (mostly former colonies) is in the earlier stages of development, and will eventually reach the same level as the Western world.
  • Development stages go from the traditional societies
    Traditional society
    In sociology, traditional society refers to a society characterized by lack of distinction between family and business, division of labor influenced primarily by age, gender, and status, high position of custom in the system of values, self-sufficiency, preference to saving and accumulation of...

     to developed ones.
  • Third World
    Third World
    The term Third World arose during the Cold War to define countries that remained non-aligned with either capitalism and NATO , or communism and the Soviet Union...

     countries have fallen behind with their social progress
    Social progress
    Social progress is the idea that societies can or do improve in terms of their social, political, and economic structures. This may happen as a result of direct human action, as in social enterprise or through social activism, or as a natural part of sociocultural evolution...

     and need to be directed on their way to becoming more advanced.

Developing from classical social evolutionism theories, the theory of modernization stresses the modernization factor: many societies are simply trying (or need) to emulate the most successful societies and cultures. It also states that it is possible to do so, thus supporting the concepts of social engineering
Social engineering (political science)
Social engineering is a discipline in political science that refers to efforts to influence popular attitudes and social behaviors on a large scale, whether by governments or private groups. In the political arena, the counterpart of social engineering is political engineering.For various reasons,...

 and that the developed countries can and should help those less developed, directly or indirectly.

Among the scientists who contributed much to this theory are Walt Rostow, who in his The Stages of Economic Growth: A Non-Communist Manifesto (1960) concentrates on the economic system
Economic system
An economic system is the combination of the various agencies, entities that provide the economic structure that defines the social community. These agencies are joined by lines of trade and exchange along which goods, money etc. are continuously flowing. An example of such a system for a closed...

 side of the modernization, trying to show factors needed for a country to reach the path to modernization in his Rostovian take-off model
Rostovian take-off model
The Rostow's Stages of Growth model is one of the major historical models of economic growth. It was developed by W. W. Rostow...

. David Apter concentrated on the political system
Political system
A political system is a system of politics and government. It is usually compared to the legal system, economic system, cultural system, and other social systems...

 and history of democracy
History of democracy
The history of democracy traces back to Athens to its re-emergence and rise from the 17th century to the present day. According to one definition, democracy is a political system in which all the members of the society have an equal share of formal political power...

, researching the connection between democracy
Democracy
Democracy is generally defined as a form of government in which all adult citizens have an equal say in the decisions that affect their lives. Ideally, this includes equal participation in the proposal, development and passage of legislation into law...

, good governance
Governance
Governance is the act of governing. It relates to decisions that define expectations, grant power, or verify performance. It consists of either a separate process or part of management or leadership processes...

 and efficiency and modernization. David McClelland
David McClelland
David C. McClelland was an American psychological theorist. Noted for his work on need theory, he published a number of works from the 1950s until the 1990s and developed new scoring systems for the Thematic Apperception Test and its descendants...

 (The Achieving Society, 1967) approached this subject from the psychological
Psychology
Psychology is the study of the mind and behavior. Its immediate goal is to understand individuals and groups by both establishing general principles and researching specific cases. For many, the ultimate goal of psychology is to benefit society...

 perspective, with his motivation
Motivation
Motivation is the driving force by which humans achieve their goals. Motivation is said to be intrinsic or extrinsic. The term is generally used for humans but it can also be used to describe the causes for animal behavior as well. This article refers to human motivation...

s theory, arguing that modernization cannot happen until given society values innovation, success and free enterprise. Alex Inkeles (Becoming Modern, 1974) similarly creates a model of modern personality, which needs to be independent, active, interested in public policies and cultural matters, open to new experiences, rational and able to create long-term plans for the future. Some works of Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas
Jürgen Habermas is a German sociologist and philosopher in the tradition of critical theory and pragmatism. He is perhaps best known for his theory on the concepts of 'communicative rationality' and the 'public sphere'...

 are also connected with this subfield.

The theory of modernization has been subject to some criticism similar to that levied against classical social evolutionism, especially for being too ethnocentric, one-sided and focused on the Western world and its culture.

Prediction for a stable cultural and social future

Cultural evolution follows punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium
Punctuated equilibrium is a theory in evolutionary biology which proposes that most species will exhibit little net evolutionary change for most of their geological history, remaining in an extended state called stasis...

 which Gould and Eldredge developed for biological evolution. Bloomfield has written that human societies follow punctuated equilibrium which would mean first, a stable society, and then a transition resulting in a subsequent stable society with greater complexity. This model would claim mankind has had a stable animal society, a transition to a stable tribal society, another transition to a stable peasant society and is currently in a transitional industrial society.

The status of a human society rests on the productivity
Productivity
Productivity is a measure of the efficiency of production. Productivity is a ratio of what is produced to what is required to produce it. Usually this ratio is in the form of an average, expressing the total output divided by the total input...

 of food production. Deevey
Edward Smith Deevey, Jr.
Edward Smith Deevey, Jr. , born in Albany, New York, was a prominent American ecologist and paleolimnologist, and an early protégé of G. Evelyn Hutchinson at Yale University...

 reported on the growth of the number of humans. Deevey also reported on the productivity of food production, noting that productivity changes very little for stable societies, but increases during transitions. When productivity and especially food productivity can no longer be increased, Bloomfield has proposed that man will have achieved a stable automated society. Space is also assumed to allow for the continued growth of the human population, as well as providing a solution to the current pollution problem by providing limitless energy from solar satellite power stations.

Theory of postindustrial society

Scientists have used the theory of evolution to analyze various trends and to predict the future development of societies. These scientists have created the theories of postindustrial societies
Post-industrial society
If a nation becomes "post-industrial" it passes through, or dodges, a phase of society predominated by a manufacturing-based economy and moves on to a structure of society based on the provision of information, innovation, finance, and services.-Characteristics:...

, arguing that the current era of industrial society
Industrial society
In sociology, industrial society refers to a society driven by the use of technology to enable mass production, supporting a large population with a high capacity for division of labour. Such a structure developed in the west in the period of time following the Industrial Revolution, and replaced...

 is coming to an end, and services and information are becoming more important than industry
Industry
Industry refers to the production of an economic good or service within an economy.-Industrial sectors:There are four key industrial economic sectors: the primary sector, largely raw material extraction industries such as mining and farming; the secondary sector, involving refining, construction,...

 and goods.

In 1974, sociologist Daniel Bell
Daniel Bell
Daniel Bell was an American sociologist, writer, editor, and professor emeritus at Harvard University, best known for his seminal contributions to the study of post-industrialism...

, author of The Coming of Post-Industrial Society, introduced the concept of postindustrial society. He divided the history of humanity into three eras: pre-industrial, industrial and postindustrial. He predicted that by the end of the 20th century, the U.S., Japan and Western Europe would reach the postindustrial stage. This "post-industrial" stage would be demonstrated by:
  • domination of the service sector (administration, banking, trade, transport, healthcare, education, science, mass media, culture) over the traditional industry sector (manufacturing industries, which have surpassed the more traditional, agriculture and mining sector after the 19th-century Industrial Revolution
    Industrial Revolution
    The Industrial Revolution was a period from the 18th to the 19th century where major changes in agriculture, manufacturing, mining, transportation, and technology had a profound effect on the social, economic and cultural conditions of the times...

    )
  • growing importance of information technologies
    Information technology
    Information technology is the acquisition, processing, storage and dissemination of vocal, pictorial, textual and numerical information by a microelectronics-based combination of computing and telecommunications...

  • increased role of long-term planning, modelling future trends
  • domination of technocracy
    Technocracy (bureaucratic)
    Technocracy is a form of government where technical experts are in control of decision making in their respective fields. Economists, engineers, scientists, health professionals, and those who have knowledge, expertise or skills would compose the governing body...

     and pragmatism
    Pragmatism
    Pragmatism is a philosophical tradition centered on the linking of practice and theory. It describes a process where theory is extracted from practice, and applied back to practice to form what is called intelligent practice...

     over traditional ethics and ideologies
    Ideology
    An ideology is a set of ideas that constitutes one's goals, expectations, and actions. An ideology can be thought of as a comprehensive vision, as a way of looking at things , as in common sense and several philosophical tendencies , or a set of ideas proposed by the dominant class of a society to...

  • increasing importance and use of technology and intellect
  • changes in the traditional hierarchy of social class
    Social class
    Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

    es, with highly educated specialists and scientists overtaking the traditional bourgeois


From the 1970s many other sociologists and anthropologists, like Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffler
Alvin Toffler is an American writer and futurist, known for his works discussing the digital revolution, communication revolution, corporate revolution and technological singularity....

 (Future Shock
Future Shock
Future Shock is a book written by the futurist Alvin Toffler in 1970. In the book, Toffler defines the term "future shock" as a certain psychological state of individuals and entire societies. His shortest definition for the term is a personal perception of "too much change in too short a period of...

, 1970), and John Naisbitt
John Naisbitt
John Naisbitt is an American author and public speaker in the area of futures studies. His first book Megatrends was published in 1982. It was the result of almost ten years of research. It was on the New York Times bestseller list for two years, mostly as #1...

 (Megatrends 2000: The New Directions for the 1990s, 1982) have followed in Bell's footsteps and created similar theories. John Naisbitt introduced the concept of megatrends: powerful, global trends that are changing societies on a worldwide scale. Among the megatrends he mentions is the process of globalization
Globalization
Globalization refers to the increasingly global relationships of culture, people and economic activity. Most often, it refers to economics: the global distribution of the production of goods and services, through reduction of barriers to international trade such as tariffs, export fees, and import...

. Another important megatrend was the increase in performance of computers and the development of the World Wide Web
World Wide Web
The World Wide Web is a system of interlinked hypertext documents accessed via the Internet...

. Marshall McLuhan
Marshall McLuhan
Herbert Marshall McLuhan, CC was a Canadian educator, philosopher, and scholar—a professor of English literature, a literary critic, a rhetorician, and a communication theorist...

 introduced the concept of the global village (The Gutenberg Galaxy
The Gutenberg Galaxy
The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man is a book by Marshall McLuhan, in which he analyzes the effects of mass media, especially the printing press, on European culture and human consciousness...

, 1962), and this term was soon adapted by the researchers of globalization and the Internet
Internet
The Internet is a global system of interconnected computer networks that use the standard Internet protocol suite to serve billions of users worldwide...

. Naisbitt and many other proponents of the theory of postindustrial societies argue that those megatrends lead to decentralization
Decentralization
__FORCETOC__Decentralization or decentralisation is the process of dispersing decision-making governance closer to the people and/or citizens. It includes the dispersal of administration or governance in sectors or areas like engineering, management science, political science, political economy,...

, weakening of the central government
Central government
A central government also known as a national government, union government and in federal states, the federal government, is the government at the level of the nation-state. The structure of central governments varies from institution to institution...

, increasing importance of local initiatives and direct democracy
Direct democracy
Direct democracy is a form of government in which people vote on policy initiatives directly, as opposed to a representative democracy in which people vote for representatives who then vote on policy initiatives. Direct democracy is classically termed "pure democracy"...

, changes in the hierarchy of the traditional social classes, development of new social movement
Social movement
Social movements are a type of group action. They are large informal groupings of individuals or organizations focused on specific political or social issues, in other words, on carrying out, resisting or undoing a social change....

s and an increase in the power of consumers and the number of choices available to them (Toffler even used the term "overchoice
Overchoice
Overchoice, also referred to as "choice overload", is a term describing a problem facing consumers in the postindustrial society: too many choices. The term was first introduced by Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book, Future Shock....

").
Some of the more extreme visions of the postindustrial society are those related to the theory of the technological singularity
Technological singularity
Technological singularity refers to the hypothetical future emergence of greater-than-human intelligence through technological means. Since the capabilities of such an intelligence would be difficult for an unaided human mind to comprehend, the occurrence of a technological singularity is seen as...

. This theory refers to a predicted
Prediction
A prediction or forecast is a statement about the way things will happen in the future, often but not always based on experience or knowledge...

 point or period in the development of a civilization at which due to the acceleration of technological progress, the societal, scientific and economic change is so rapid that nothing beyond that time can be reliably comprehended, understood or predicted by the pre-Singularity humans. Such a singularity was first discussed in the 1950s, and vastly popularized in the 1980s by Vernor Vinge
Vernor Vinge
Vernor Steffen Vinge is a retired San Diego State University Professor of Mathematics, computer scientist, and science fiction author. He is best known for his Hugo Award-winning novels and novellas A Fire Upon the Deep , A Deepness in the Sky , Rainbows End , Fast Times at Fairmont High ...

.

Critics of the postindustrial society theory point out that it is very vague and as with any prediction, there is no guarantee that any of the trends visible today will in fact exist in the future or develop in the directions predicted by contemporary researchers. However, no serious sociologist would argue it is possible to predict the future, but only that such theories allow us to gain a better understanding of the changes taking place in the modernised world.

Contemporary discourse about sociocultural evolution

The Cold War
Cold War
The Cold War was the continuing state from roughly 1946 to 1991 of political conflict, military tension, proxy wars, and economic competition between the Communist World—primarily the Soviet Union and its satellite states and allies—and the powers of the Western world, primarily the United States...

 period was marked by rivalry between two superpowers, both of which considered themselves to be the most highly evolved cultures on the planet. The USSR painted itself as a socialist
Socialism
Socialism is an economic system characterized by social ownership of the means of production and cooperative management of the economy; or a political philosophy advocating such a system. "Social ownership" may refer to any one of, or a combination of, the following: cooperative enterprises,...

 society which emerged out of class struggle
Class struggle
Class struggle is the active expression of a class conflict looked at from any kind of socialist perspective. Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels wrote "The [written] history of all hitherto existing society is the history of class struggle"....

, destined to reach the state of communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

, while sociologists in the United States (such as Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons
Talcott Parsons was an American sociologist who served on the faculty of Harvard University from 1927 to 1973....

) argued that the freedom and prosperity of the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 were a proof of a higher level of sociocultural evolution of its culture and society. At the same time, decolonization
Decolonization
Decolonization refers to the undoing of colonialism, the unequal relation of polities whereby one people or nation establishes and maintains dependent Territory over another...

 created newly independent countries who sought to become more developed—-a model of progress and industrialization which was itself a form of sociocultural evolution.

There is, however, a tradition in European social theory
Social theory
Social theories are theoretical frameworks which are used to study and interpret social phenomena within a particular school of thought. An essential tool used by social scientists, theories relate to historical debates over the most valid and reliable methodologies , as well as the primacy of...

 from Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau
Jean-Jacques Rousseau was a Genevan philosopher, writer, and composer of 18th-century Romanticism. His political philosophy influenced the French Revolution as well as the overall development of modern political, sociological and educational thought.His novel Émile: or, On Education is a treatise...

 to Max Weber
Max Weber
Karl Emil Maximilian "Max" Weber was a German sociologist and political economist who profoundly influenced social theory, social research, and the discipline of sociology itself...

 arguing that this progression coincides with a loss of human freedom and dignity. At the height of the Cold War, this tradition merged with an interest in ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

 to influence an activist culture in the 1960s. This movement produced a variety of political and philosophical programs which emphasized the importance of bringing society and the environment into harmony.

Current political theories of the new tribalists consciously mimic ecology and the life-ways of indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

, augmenting them with modern sciences. Ecoregional Democracy attempts to confine the "shifting groups", or tribe
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

s, within "more or less clear boundaries" that a society inherits from the surrounding ecology
Ecology
Ecology is the scientific study of the relations that living organisms have with respect to each other and their natural environment. Variables of interest to ecologists include the composition, distribution, amount , number, and changing states of organisms within and among ecosystems...

, to the borders of a naturally occurring ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

.

Progress can proceed by competition between but not within tribes, and it is limited by ecological borders or by Natural Capitalism
Natural capitalism
Natural Capitalism: Creating the Next Industrial Revolution is a 1999 book co-authored by Paul Hawken, Amory Lovins and Hunter Lovins. It has been translated into a dozen languages and was the subject of a Harvard Business Review summary....

 incentives which attempt to mimic the pressure of natural selection
Natural selection
Natural selection is the nonrandom process by which biologic traits become either more or less common in a population as a function of differential reproduction of their bearers. It is a key mechanism of evolution....

 on a human society by forcing it to adapt consciously to scarce energy or materials. Gaians argue that societies evolve deterministically to play a role in the ecology of their biosphere
Biosphere
The biosphere is the global sum of all ecosystems. It can also be called the zone of life on Earth, a closed and self-regulating system...

, or else die off as failures due to competition from more efficient societies exploiting nature's leverage.

Thus, some have appealed to theories of sociocultural evolution to assert that optimizing the ecology and the social harmony of closely knit groups is more desirable or necessary than the progression to "civilization." A 2002 poll of experts on Neoarctic and Neotropic
Neotropic
In biogeography, the Neotropic or Neotropical zone is one of the eight terrestrial ecozones. This ecozone includes South and Central America, the Mexican lowlands, the Caribbean islands, and southern Florida, because these regions share a large number of plant and animal groups.It is sometimes used...

 indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 (reported in Harper's magazine) revealed that all of them would have preferred to be a typical New World person in the year 1491, prior to any European contact, rather than a typical European of that time.

This approach has been criticised by pointing out that there are a number of historical examples of indigenous peoples doing severe environmental damage (such as the deforestation
Deforestation
Deforestation is the removal of a forest or stand of trees where the land is thereafter converted to a nonforest use. Examples of deforestation include conversion of forestland to farms, ranches, or urban use....

 of Easter Island
Easter Island
Easter Island is a Polynesian island in the southeastern Pacific Ocean, at the southeasternmost point of the Polynesian triangle. A special territory of Chile that was annexed in 1888, Easter Island is famous for its 887 extant monumental statues, called moai, created by the early Rapanui people...

 and the extinction of mammoth
Mammoth
A mammoth is any species of the extinct genus Mammuthus. These proboscideans are members of Elephantidae, the family of elephants and mammoths, and close relatives of modern elephants. They were often equipped with long curved tusks and, in northern species, a covering of long hair...

s in North America) and that proponents of the goal have been trapped by the European stereotype of the noble savage
Noble savage
The term noble savage , expresses the concept an idealized indigene, outsider , and refers to the literary stock character of the same...

.

Today, postmodernists question whether the notions of evolution or society have inherent meaning and whether they reveal more about the person doing the description than the thing being described. Observing and observed cultures may lack sufficient cultural similarities (such as a common foundation ontology) to be able to communicate their respective priorities easily. Or, one may impose such a system of belief and judgment upon another, via conquest
Right of conquest
The right of conquest is the right of a conqueror to territory taken by force of arms. It was traditionally a principle of international law which has in modern times gradually given way until its proscription after the Second World War when the crime of war of aggression was first codified in the...

 or colonization. For instance, observation of very different ideas of mathematics
Mathematics
Mathematics is the study of quantity, space, structure, and change. Mathematicians seek out patterns and formulate new conjectures. Mathematicians resolve the truth or falsity of conjectures by mathematical proofs, which are arguments sufficient to convince other mathematicians of their validity...

 and physics
Physics
Physics is a natural science that involves the study of matter and its motion through spacetime, along with related concepts such as energy and force. More broadly, it is the general analysis of nature, conducted in order to understand how the universe behaves.Physics is one of the oldest academic...

 in indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples
Indigenous peoples are ethnic groups that are defined as indigenous according to one of the various definitions of the term, there is no universally accepted definition but most of which carry connotations of being the "original inhabitants" of a territory....

 led indirectly to ideas such as George Lakoff
George Lakoff
George P. Lakoff is an American cognitive linguist and professor of linguistics at the University of California, Berkeley, where he has taught since 1972...

's "cognitive science of mathematics", which asks if measurement systems themselves can be objective.

Readings from an evolutionary anthropological perspective


External links

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