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Society and Culture From Evolutionary Perspective

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1. What is Evolution?

Evolution is a term derived from English. The term evolution is emerged from Latin language 'Evolere'. The combined from this we can make a conclusion that evolution is called to this condition where at first develops any social, cultural and biological figure and gradually with the change of time that develops and increases up to the wider area, and there emerges new condition and purification of it.


We seen the several aspects such as caste system, religion, family, kinship, marriage, values, political organizations etc of socio-cultural conditions as developed the consequences of particular socio-cultural processes. Such elements used to emerge as the consequences of the interaction of social behaviors. And these go on changing with the lapse of time and according to the need of the society. Likewise different aspects of civilization and culture emerge being centered in particular places and these forward with different types having with extension and purification. In this large process, the change comes in some socio-cultural events, behaviors and values but some of these can be disappeared and new forms can be developed. Therefore as the meaning and conclusion of evolution we can say that any thing condition or socio-cultural units emerge in a particular place or and go on changing with the lapse of time with purification on these. In this process, the condition are seen as social transformation and verification.


In the context of process of socio-cultural development, evolution is also a continuous process. Evolution is a law where social and cultural changes occur based on particular process. Today we have sen that political system, religion, family, marriage system, economic system or production system etc. aspects have completed the process of evolution either this or that form. Ancient society was based on simple and uniformity. Communal ownership was there is production system. In present time in the value of ancient religion has come great change.

Also read: Society and Culture from Diffusionist Perspective

Among production system, maketization has become successful system. Which condition was not there in ancient society. Likewise, society has been transformed from nomadic to agriculture and agriculture to civilized. In this way we can say that evolution is an universal process. How the process of biological evolution goes on simple to complex and uniform to diverse nature, likewise the rule of social evolution also goes on. For example a child which remains in the womb of mother has no shape and remains on very simple nature but gradually that fetus gets different shapes and reaches the full condition. Likewise, the units of social conditions also get specification, functional differentiation and develop new structure and working procedure in the process of transformation of simple to complex. The values of social processes go on uncertainty to certainty. This process goes on to a specific side with simple to complex direction. Therefore evolution is a compulsory rule of social condition. The rule of social change is also related with this rule of evolution.


Different scientists have developed different as their own concepts in the context of interpretation and analysis of the process of evolution. The founder of sociology August Comte has said that there remains greater role of evolution in the process of change. So that in the process of evolution society goes on simple to complex. In this the same process, the process of diversification and specialization also become applicable in social condition. Next scientist Maclver and Page says - Evolution is that type of condition of change on which changeable objects change in different conditions / form. This types of change occurs by the forces contained by that the same object. He further says 'When there is not only the continuity of change, but the direction of change we mean evolution'. According to the Ginsburg - Evolution is a change from simple to complex situation, it is a debatable subject'. As H.L. Morgan - Evolution is a socio-cultural development related to the continuous change on social condition.


Likewise, Macmillan Dictionary of Anthropology has mentioned - 'Evolution is the process by which a species or a population of individual organisms under goes structural modifications over time as a result of the process of interaction with its environment'. This definition is more related to the biological evolution. But the main thing that we should understand here is that in the process of evolution, as change in the interaction of related environment new situation comes there in social condition as structural transformation. In the context of socio-cultural evolution, the definition of Herbert Spencer has found very good.  This is as: "Evolution is the change from a state of homogeneity to a state of hetergeneity process. This advance from simple to complex throws, a process of successive differentiation. Evolution is observable in all aspect i.e. political, religious, organic as well as inorganic and even super organic". Really, evolution is a continuous process for the social change. This process goes on the basis of unilinear or multilinear. The reality that we should understand here is that each processes and stage of evolution goes on first after second normally qualitative complementary and towards complex. More than this, this process is related to the sequential change. From which in the society, change comes in qualitative and quantitative both condition. The form and format of civilization and culture these we have seen today are based on these processes of evolution. On the basis of this analysis, the characteristics of evolution. can be mentioned on points as:
  1. Evolution is an universal process. 
  2. This goes on continuous. 
  3. In the process of evolution sequential changes occur. 
  4. In the process of evolution society transforms simple to complex, uncompleted to complete, uncertainty to certainty, uniformity to differentiation etc. 
  5. This is a process of change, transformation and diversification. 
  6. Evolution symbolizes the socio-cultural change and development. 
  7. The speed of evolution is uncertain but it goes on gradually and slowly with change. 
  8. The process of evolution is applicable to all living being and socio-cultural system. 
  9. This is related to the continuity of social system and human needs accordance with time. 
  10. The process of evolution goes on with certain side, value and rule. 
  11. This is historical process. 
  12. The process of social system such as finance, politics, religion, institutions etc. have crossed certain stages of evolution. 
  13. The present state of socio-cultural evolution of us has been symbolized something about socio-cultural structure. 
  14. Modern, educated and industrialized society, comparatively rapidity of evolution can be seen. 
  15. Evolution never goes on back side, it gradually goes on towards ahead. 

2. Society and Culture from Evolutionary Perspective

The society which we have seen today, experienced and understood, on the back of it several stages of development. In society development has been joined. After crossing the long time's human evolution, the ancestors of today's human beings were developed in this planet earth. This process was the result of after millions of years of the process of development of species universe. More than this, after the acceptance of origin of the specie is of Darwin in the analysis of society and culture brought new whim, eagerness and debates. The cause of this was that either the ancestors of human were primate or not. After this the initial stage of human development process was finalized. This provided historical bases for the interpretation and analysis of socio-cultural aspects of human regarding to historical study and evolution, development and expansion by relating with contemporary society and its human communities. After this a sort of efforts started among sociologists and anthropologists to developed theories based on socio-cultural processes by doing study and research on different historical aspects of society and culture. Eagerness started to emerge among humans about were the different socio-cultural shapes of past similar to the present or not? How were developed marriage, kinship, family, species structure, death, ritual, norms, values etc. which we have seen today? How today's complex social structure formulated? How the evolution and development process of culture forwarded ahead? In the context of searching answers of these questions different anthropologists started to study of different aspects of socio-culture. After long process of evolution of socio-culture present social and cultural condition was able to come on existence. After this, to understand about the processes of change and formation of social structure scientific study and research started to do.


Specially all over the 19th century new processes, values and ways developed in anthropological study. As the consequence of this, the conclusion was made that the structure of today's complex society was of simple nature in past. On the other side, sociologists also gradually became eager in the study of social change, process, social mobility etc. aspects. To interpret and analysis about social change and to interpret about cultural evolution anthropologists expressed their own logic on the basis of their own study and research. For this they developed logic. They analyzed about the social rules. The consequence of this different thoughts and theories got birth to interpret and analyze society and culture.

In this way, in 19th century different sociologists and anthropologists agreed on this matter that how the evolution of species in the universe of species started from single cell, which process was in ancient time heading from simple to complex likewise, social and cultural units also went on with the development process of human society. And after long course of time, socio-cultural shapes and structures also went on from simple to complex. The new cultures emerged through the environment, geography, climate with the fulfillment of human needs, for the fulfillment of these needs the emerged condition and to face of it, relevant action system and its way development has found as performed the great role.

In this  background, in the context of study and research about the development process of socio-culture system, the birth was done of cultural evolution in 19th century. This value made a scientific conclusion that the different aspects of society and culture are the result of the development process of society rather than the contribution of God. After this really started the situation to study and research deeply about different aspects of society and culture. For the analysis of society and culture the new approaches developed. The consequence of it several sociological and anthropological theories are able to develop. Today we can understand that the industrial and modern society has come in this stage by crossing several initial stages. The hunting and gathering society was developed at first as the initial stage of society. After that the agro based society developed and after a long period of time present modern and industrial society developed. In this period of time, in the social system etc. have come with change and development and this process is running ahead. In this process complexities increase gradually in the society.


With the process of evolution of process of social differentiation also becomes strong. Through the medium of this process of social transformation goes ahead and start to develop new social structure. This process is the continuous process because human thoughts and concepts are not stable on the other side, for the adaptation in new circumstances also change occurs in social system regulation process. In the society, new social, cultural, economic and political system regulation process starts. This has helped for the change of whole social system. Therefore, in different sociological and anthropological theories the explanation of evolution has done either this or that form. While we accept the situation of social change automatically, the context of social evolution has joined there. Although, the interpretation and analysis about the model of evolution and process of it has not found some perspective among different scientists. In this context, for the explanation of modern, neo-evolutionism concept, and classical evolutionism concepts are found in existence. The division contained about these can be mentioned following as:

1. Concept of Classical evolution

Within this three schools are concentrated for the classical evolutionist concept, with this different anthropologists are involved. Among these schools:
  1. British classical evolutionists. 
  2. American classical evolutionists. 
  3. Continental classical evolutionists. 

2. Concept of Neo-Evolutionist

Within this two schools are remained as:
  1. American Neo-Evolutionists. 
  2. British Neo-Evolutionists.
    Let us see the following table to understand clearly about the evolutionists schools where can understand about different scientists regarding to their respective evolution and interpretation of this.

    The concepts and analyzes of these different evolutionists are mentioned in forth coming chapters. The concepts of these different evolutionists are based on or related to the theory of Darwin regarding to evolution. Therefore, some of the anthropologist have developed the concept of social Darwinism. 

3. Assumption of Evolutionism

It becomes necessary to understand some basic assumptions while doing interpretation and analysis of society and culture through the model of evolutionism. The understanding of which helps to understand the process of our socio-culture system regulation. If we say in reality, evolutionism is that a single theory which at first did the scientific interpretation about socio-cultural mobility. The evolutionism concept has been used for the search of the rule of theoretical cultural processes. In this context, it is necessary to understand some of the assumptions remained in this theoretical perspective. In general, the main aspects of this theory are the assumptions. Which could do the explanation about general aspects of the theory. The premises has been included the basic assumptions and hypothetical preview points of this theory. Which are mentioned in the following points. 

1. Assumptions of evolution is the universal process.

We see that all the things of this earth are changeable. Living being, organism and also socio-cultural system themselves run through the rule of evolution. If we try to understand socio-cultural system of the whole world then we see changeability on these too. If we try to understand civilization and the rule of culture development or process of it then we normally see the process of evolution there. Therefore, the ancient simple society has come up to this complex situation. Several complexities are emerged in socio-cultural condition. The society of today is based on diversification. From the process or rule of the development of society no any society can be out.

2. Certain stages of development have been cross sequently in the process of evolution.

Evolution is that type of process which has been heading forward by crossing some special stages. The process which is of change that is gradual and certain. We can understand that primitive communism society was very simple and there was communal ownership on production. Socio-cultural norms, values and behaviors were all simple. After certain period of time that society gradually changed as slave or feudalist, and after this to the capitalist society. In this process, each society has crossed each stages as these are seen today.

3. Assumption of origin of development, modification and change.

Evolutionary concept has kept the assumption that the emergence of any system. (institution, event, system) at first occurs in also the process of evolution. After this the thing which is emerged start to extend and to mix with society. Gradually, after long period of time these get new form or some of these change into totally new shape. This is simple rule and process of evolution.

4. Oriented toward simple to complex.

The next assumption of evolution is that in this process, social cultural models, structures, aspects, values normally are oriented toward simple to complex. The institutions on which was simple structure in the initial stage get the complex structure in the process of evolution. For example, we can see the initial structure of present government system which was developed family and simple gathering. Each aspect of human life normally is oriented simple to complex. This process inevitable for the attachment with new situation.

5. Continuous and progressive process.

Evolution is not stable process. The speed of it may be low or high but it always runs up. Education, socio-cultural system, science and technology etc. areas which today we see forward are the consequences of evolution. In the process of evolution, each stage normally is progressive qualitative and quantitative term. In the initial stage the change comes on qualitative and quantitative situation.

6. Emphasis on Psychic unity of human kind and parallel invention.

The next assumption of evolutionary perspective is that all the human beings of the world have almost similar type of psychic works we can see the similar situation. As the consequence of it the possibility remains there to be invented similar things. Therefore, the process of evolution can run through the particular side and speed. Because of the psychic unity remained in human, in similar type of ecology and in simple situation on the other places also may invent almost similar types of thoughts, behaviors or inventions. In each society about the basic human life almost same type of nature can be found.

7. Evolution is the change from only internal cause.

Evolution is that type of change and formulation of new structure which has been done by internal causes. In any social institution and cultural process, if new structure formulates because of the internal circumstances then that is taken as evolution. The structure that originates through the form of external causes that is not taken evolution by evolutionists. Example, in the evolution of human because of the internal and human's own cause that process went forward. Culture also goes on up by its own cause. In this type of evolution only we can see the systematic situation, continuous process and the form of diversification. Which are the basic assumption of evolution.

8. Structural Modification.

The process of evolution always symbolizes to the change. Inventions, socio-cultural structures and human behaviors. Which were in the existence at the beginning come the change on these after long period of time. In socio-cultural structures in the on going process of evolution may come the situation of structural transformation on that the same time on which particular time period has been crossed in the process of the development of society or for the structural change long period of time is essential. But this matter is fact that in the process of evolution time bound social, cultural, political and economic systems have been developed in the society. In this regard we can see only an example. Looking to the evolution; family, its type, size, function etc. have been changed drastically today than these of about a century ago. A new structure and value has been developed and on that structural change has done.

4. Context of Evolutionism

In the context of interpretation and analysis of society and culture especially in anthropological theories, evolutionary theory has the special place. Therefore, this takes society and culture as the consequence of a gradual development and change. That itself is the models of culture too. To understand any one socio-cultural element's development process evolutionary theory may be very important medium. This theory has found developed with the development anthropology. While anthropology subject accepted in the level of academic and research then automatically evolutionary perspective emerged. For the holistic study of social cultural, economic condition, evolutionary theory was stared to use in 19th century. Based on the background the context of development process of evolutionary theory has been mentioned here as:
  1. Emergence of law of biological evolutionism. 
  2. Development of organized effort of intellectual circle.
  3. Comparative study between society and organism. 
  4. Effect of positivism. 
  5. Role of businessperson, travelers and missionaries. 
  6. Emergence of concept of social evolution. 

A. Emergence of Biological Evolutionism.

Because of the development of the theory of Darwin related to origin of the species proved and provided scientific interpretation towards society that the emergence of human on this earth was done after the long course of time of the development of living being rather than by the power of god, this brought change drastically to the traditional concepts of while society. After this in the universe of living being stared to do deep study about the process evolution drastic change come in traditional concept. The studies started to natural environment and biological evolution. The contribution on this remained important specially of Le Mark, Roussel and Darwin. Later, Mendal did research and interpretation about the impact of gene in the process of human evolution. 

The concept that the process of human evolution also applied in social system emerged among social scientists. Different studies and researches were done to justify that the culture of human that was followed in pre-historical time and of present time are different, if human has come to present condition by crossing millions of years of living being development process. The society of present has come to this stage by crossing different stages of time. Conclusion had drawn that the society and culture initial stage was simple and based on uniformity. In the context of this rule and process developed by biological evolutionists and the use of this in socio-cultural system evolutionary theory could developed. The cultural evolutionary perspective itself developed after the development of biological evolutionary rule.

B. Development of organized effort of intellectual circle.

19th Century has been regarded as such century on which the development of physical and social science and theoretical values have seen as developed. In this the sometime, to analyze society and culture a method as in the form of theory of evolutionism was developed.

In this period of time regarding to do interpretation and analysis by different theorists on society and culture the rules of socio-culture have found developed. We can see that the evolution developed by August Comte related to socio-culture through three stages and by the process of socio-cultural development and change, the condition up to present time was developed, have been mentioned. Three stages as mentioned by him are spiritual stage, metaphysical stage and culture was done, had been emphasized. Likewise, next scientist Herbert Spencer developed social Darwinism. Morgan, Tylor and such other scientists took evolution process as socio-cultural rule and explained and analyzed it as a normal event. While coming up to the latest time explanation and analysis of it established as clear concept. The new thinkers regarding to evolution tried the best in this regard. From this the same process evolutionary theory developed.

After reorganization of the rule of biological evolution, mainly Herbert Spencer compared this in social science. How the development process of living being goes through the simple to complex, uniformity to differentiation, communal to diversification in function, certainty to uncertainty and similar to vivid like this the process regulates of socio-cultural system this value was developed by him. The deep study and research state to do in this regard and after long period of time evolutionary theory became able to develop.

C. Effect of Positivism

Positivism is a perspective which does the analysis of society and culture on objective way. Positivism was developed since the latest time period of 18th century. Through this, a new value was developed that each social condition has to be analyzed in scientific way. In this the same background, how developed and changed political institution, family, religion marriage, working procedures, norms values, beliefs, production system of the contemporary society and how the new condition were emerged on these were to be analyzed, in this the same context of the analysis of these in scientific way, the research was done of rule and process was interpreted. From this, a new value was accepted that different socio-cultural system may come to existence. This proved wrong that the creation of whole society was done by the power of God and new values established. In this the same situation, evolutionary theory has found as established and recognized. In reality, the base of evolutionary theory is positivism.

D. Role of Businessman, travelers and missionaries

In different period of time, as seen by different businessman, travelers and missionaries in the process of travel regarding to socio-cultural system, caste, ethnicity, technolgy, production system, leadership etc. were mentioned in different writing. Being the base of these, social scientists did comparative study between society and culture regarding to historical process. In spite of the study of businessman, travelers and missionaries in their own objective and way, social scientists took all these only an information as they were received facts.

In this way, because of the different contexts social scientists got inspiration and help to do study and research through evolution. On the other side, in this same period of time specialization began in social science, working areas of each and every social science was determined. In this the same context, anthropology also because able to remain as a separate special science. Within this, after the recognition of main form of cultural anthropology, this science got priority and emphasized about the study of historical aspects of culture. New trend started to do comparative study about civilization and culture developed in different time periods.

5. Critiques of Evolution Theory

Evolution theory itself is an important achievement regarding to interpretation and analysis of the process of socio-cultural life. With the interpretation it, definition of culture, cultural evolution, and macro perspective related to cultural change, value and norms have been developed. The evolutionist have used positivism and comparative research method in the study of culture. On the other side, evolution theory has exposed the fact that what sort of conditions were come in the long course of time in the processes of cultural development. In spite of several strengths of it, it is not sufficient itself or out of criticism. In the context, the issues mentioned by the criticizers is trying to mention here. Which care mentioned in different points as: 
  1. Evolutionist like Spencer the process of socio-cultural evolution have explained by comparing with biological evolution. Although in the development process of these two conditions and inner conditions of these never go forward as in a single process. The biological development process like in the body never remains there in socio-cultural evolution. Physical development process ends in a particular point but the development process of socio-culture goes on up regularly. 
  2. The greater scientist of evolution theory E.B Tylor has been accused as a chair lower anthropologist and an imaginary anthropologist. On the other side, the next allegation has been imposed to him that he become unable to raise the different conditions about cultural evolution and the nature of evolution while doing explanations of culture. Likewise, he is also allegated for the inability of him to measure social importance of religion. 
  3. Likewise, the interpretation by by Morgan, Comte, Tylor and such other unilinear evolutionists about cultural development process, speed and structure of it is not out of criticism. The conditions of the evolution of culture are different. The speed may be slow or fast. Any society may remain stable for the long time. These aspects of unilinear evolutionists are unable to draw our reality. 
  4. The role of diffusion in the process of cultural evolution is not mentioned by any evolutionist. 
  5. The fact that is not universal that the society goes forward through the simple to complex and it is also not sure that the society of second stage should be complex than of first stage.  
  6. Evolutionists are unable to say that what is the last goal of it?
  7. If the process of development and evolution in any area of society is greater and effective then that cannot to impact to the whole society. In today's age also we can see the development process of society run through irregular and different form. 
  8. According to the evolutionists because of the psychic unity of human kind there develops similar type of socio-culture but it has less reality. The different conditions which remain on the bases of culture development bring diversity on culture. 
  9. We can't say that the emergence and development of culture starts from a single place. 
  10. The agent factors of socio-cultural change only may not be evolution, other external factors and their contribution may be very important. 

8. Implication

Evolution theory has been exposed sovereign process towards continuous change of society and culture. To understand the rule of the developments of society and culture this theory has seen more practical. Likewise, evolution have accepted/followed field work study and comparative study of society and culture. In general all evolutionists are agreed in the fact that culture is a thing emerged by human, it is taken as constructive aspect. Which has brought change on the traditional practices towards society. This theory has accepted by dynamism towards socio-cultural system. In the understanding of society and culture and different historical aspects of these, this theory has prepared a macro theoretical structure. 


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