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Social Evolutionism and Historicism Essay Sample

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Social Evolutionism and Historicism Essay Sample

* Social Evolution is the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form. * Society is inevitable to change.

* Societies start out in a primitive state and gradually become more civilized over time, and equated the culture and technology of Western civilization with progress. * The end-point among theorists was usually the image of the mid-19th Century Industrialized England (Age of Enlightenment). Concept of “PRIMITIVE to CIVILIZED” Expounded

2 Types:
1. STADIAL HISTORY – a society will always start from a primitive state and will eventually progress through 3 stages: COLONIALISM > INDUSTRIALIZATION > PROGRESS
* Scottish Enlightenment
* French Revolution
2. CONJECTURAL HISTORY theorists believed that all societies go through 4 stages: hunting & gathering, pastoralism & nomadism, agriculture, commerce. Conditions that triggered the development of Evolutionism

1. Influence of Darwin’s theory of biological evolution = triggered the theory of Organicism that was adopted by most of the proponents in social evolutionism a. Societies/cultures evolve & do not remain static. 2. Exposure to colonist factors:

b. Migration
c. Colonization
d. Trade
e. Commerce

Major Proponents and their Theories
Herbert Spencer
* First signs of the thought of evolution.
* Evolution is the analysis of societal movement from simple (homogeneous) forms to differentiated (heterogeneous) forms. * Evolution revolves around the process of aggregating matter. * Evolution is a universal law (Cosmic Evolution).

* 3 Principles: integration, differentiation, definiteness * STUDY OF SOCIOLOGY – emphasized the need for empirical methods to be used in sociology.
EX. The English(published work)
* Principles of Sociology
Factors that affect the evolution of society:
* Nature of the people involved
* Effects of environmental conditions

* “Derived factors” involving the new environments created by the evolution of society. * (1) size and density of a population and (2) the relations of societies with their neighbors Similarities and differences between organic and super-organic systems: 1. Both society and organisms can be distinguished from inorganic matter, for both grow and develop. 2. In both society and organisms, an increase in size means an increase in complexity and differentiation. 3. In both, a progressive differentiation in structure is accompanied by a differentiation in function. 4. In both, parts of the whole are interdependent, with a change in one part affecting other parts. 5. In both, each part of the whole is also a microsociety or organism in and of itself. 6. And in both organisms and societies, the life of the whole can be destroyed, but the parts will live on for a while.

* There is close proximity and physical contact of parts in organic bodies. * Communication occurs as molecular waves passing through channels of varying degrees of coherence. * Only some elements in only some species reveal the capacity for conscious deliberations. Super-organic

* There is dispersion and only occasional physical contact of elements. * Virtue of the capacity to use language to communicate ideas and feelings. * All individual units exhibit the capacity for conscious thought.

Application of the Analysis of Super-Organic Dynamics
* (1) forces causing growth in system size, (2) the differentiation of units, (3) the processes whereby differentiated units become integrated, and (4) the creation of a “coherent heterogeneity,” which increases the level of adaptation to the environment. EX.Overpopulation > Middle and Lower Class (e.g. beggars)> Outreach/Programs (e.g. Livelihood Programs) > Work is given to Lower Class

* Non-intervention of government (Capitalism) & the eradication of the weak.
Ex. Influenced Hitler’s Aryan Race
Lewis Morgan
* 3 Stages of Societal Progression:
Savagery > Barbarism > Civilization
* Technological advancement in each stage:
use of fire, bow, pottery > domestication of animals, agriculture, and metallurgy > development of the alphabet and writing.

August Comte
Theory of Positivism
1. Theological Stage – man’s place in society and society’s restrictions upon man were referenced to God. * Fetishism
* Polytheism
* Monotheism
2. Metaphysical or Abstract Stage – stage of investigation; man starts to reason and question, although no solid evidence was laid. 3.
Positive Stage – man finds solutions to social problems and brings them into force despite the proclamations of human rights or prophecy of the will of God.

Edward Tylor and Lewis Morgan
Theory of sociocultural evolution in which the internal contradictions in society created a series of escalating stages that ended in a socialist society(Marx): 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 is a determinate number of stages between “primitive” and “civilized” (e.g. band, tribe, chiefdom, and state), 3. All societies progress through these stages in the same sequence, but at different rates. Durkheim: Traditional (Mechanical Solidarity) > Modern (Organic Solidarity) Spengler: Birth > Maturity > Old Age > Death >Repeat process Toynbee: Challenge + Successful/Failed Response = Societal Achievement/Progress of Collapse/Extinction Criticisms

* Primitive societies are as evolved as civilized societies. * Ethnocentric
* Societies are not clearly bounded and distinct.
* Assumes all cultures follow the same path and goal.
* Equated civilization with material culture.
* Evolutionary Revival & Neo-Evolutionism
Major Proponents and their Theories II
Leslie White & Gerhard Lenski
Basic Premise: Technology is the basic factor that aggregates a society to change. * White: Technology in terms of machinery/tools.
* Lenski: Technology in terms of information and service.
4 stages of human development:
Genetically > individually > signs > language/symbols * Social-Ecological-Evolutionary Theory
* Relationship of population & production; Capability of food production. * Human populations tend to grow until they come up against the limits of food production. Julian Steward

* Culture changes when resource base or technology changes. * Culture is affected by its changing relationship with a changing environment. * Societies would change in varying ways and directions; application of the term “multilinear” * Society’s evolutionary stage could be measured quantitatively, as the amount of energy, per capita, it could extract from the environment. Marshall Sahlins

General Evolution
* Deals with complexity of society, organization and adaptation. * Universal, long-term trend towards greater energy production.

Specific Evolution
* Deals with the reason why cultures develop in different ways is due to interaction and diffusion of qualities (ex. Technological inventions). * Local trend, towards more efficient utilization of a given resource base (this is often referred to as adaptation).

Talcott Parsons
4 Sub-processes of Evolution:
* Division
* Adaptation
* Inclusion of previously excluded elements
* Generalization of values
* Primitive/foraging
* Archaic agriculture
* Classical/historic

* Historicism
Introduction to Historicism
* Encompasses two distinct forms of historicism: diffusionism and historical particularism * Assigned particular significance to the specific context of culture, such as to historical period or geographical location. * It placed great importance on cautious and contextualized interpretation of data, as well as a relativistic point of view, and rejected the universal, immutable interpretations of the social evolutionists. * Answers what and why of evolutionism.

Theory of Diffusionism
G. E. Smith (The British School)
* All of culture and civilization was developed only once in ancient Egypt and diffused throughout the rest of the world through migration and colonization. * All culture has a common origin: Ancient Egypt

* Did not hold up long due to its inability to account for independent invention. Fritz Graebner (The German School)
* Culture traits developed in a few areas of the world and diffused in concentric circles, or culture circles. * Socio-cultural development could be viewed as a function of the interaction of expanding culture circles with native cultures and other culture circles. Frank Boas

Historical Particularism
* Sought to reconstruct the histories of cultures through carrying out detailed regional studies of individual cultures to discover the distribution of culture traits and to understand the individual processes of culture change at work. * Importance of Ethnography.

* Generalization is useless to Sociology.
* Experimentation is not applicable to Sociology.
* Summary
Social Evolutionism
* Unilinear pattern of development – the notion that society/culture generally develops (or evolves) in a uniform and progressive manner. * Stages of development – societies/culture evolve following a determinate number of progressive stages through universal laws. * The peak/goal is to become a perfect society (in this case: the Western Society). * Reliance on the concept of progress.

* Assumes that all societies/cultures are similar.
* Classical: CoSMoTy
* Neo: ParSah SteWhLen
Key Element Causing Change
* Comte: Intellectual changes; the way of thinking.
* Theological mind > Reasoning > Scientific (Theory of Positivism) * Durkheim: Division of labor; as society progresses, division of labor becomes more defined. * Traditional (Mechanical Solidarity) > Modern (Organic Solidarity) * Morgan: technology; tools of production

* Savagery > Barbarism > Civilization
*Note: All 3 believed that society progresses through stages. Historicism
* Multilinear – takes into account various paths and directions that a society can take. * Cultural Historicism – historical particularism takes into account the in-depth view of the locals. * Adopts the concept of concentric circles; interaction & interrelationships of societies/cultures. * Culture change is external.

* Historical approach context.
* People are adaptive/sensitive to change. People are generally uninventive. * No stages = no universal laws.
* No assertion being made by the theory.
* Emphasizes ethnography.
* To Remember: GraeBoSm


* (Turner, Beeghley, & Powers, 2002, pp. 54-89)
* Turner, Jonathan H., Beeghley, Leonard, & Powers, Charles H. (2002). The Emergence of Sociological Theory (5th ed.). Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Thomson Learning. * Sanderson, Stephen K., et al. (1997). “Evolutionism and its Critics.” Journal of World-System Research 3:94-114. * Morgan, Lewis H. (1877). “Ancient Society.” Chapter 3: Ratio of Human Progress. * Burrow, J.W. (). “Evolution and Society: A Study in Victorian Social
Theory.” * Dr. Elwell, Frank. “A Note on Evolutionary Theory in Sociology” * http://spruce.flint.umich.edu/~simoncu/269/boas.htm

* http://www.infoplease.com/encyclopedia/people/boas-franz.html * http://www.sociologyguide.com/social-change/evolutionary-theories.php * Wikipedia

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