Manual Cultural Evolution: Contemporary Viewpoints

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  1. Cultural Evolution: Contemporary Viewpoints - AbeBooks:
  2. 4.1. Types of Societies
  3. Chapter 4. Society and Modern Life
  4. Cultural Evolution Theory Definition
  5. Download E-books Cultural Evolution: Contemporary Viewpoints PDF

Both French and Scottish social and moral philosophers were using evolutionary schemes during the 18th century. Among these was Montesquieu, who proposed an evolutionary scheme consisting of three stages: hunting or savagery, herding or barbarism, and civilization. By the middle of the nineteenth century, Europeans had successfully explored, conquered and colonized many heretofore unknown to them parts of the globe.

Cultural Evolution: Contemporary Viewpoints - AbeBooks:

This global movement led to novel products and peoples that lived quite different lifestyles than the Europeans proved politically and scientifically problematic. The discipline of anthropology, beginning with these early social theories arose largely in response to this encounter between the disparate cultures of quite different societies Winthrop The notion of dividing the ethnological record into evolutionary stages ranging from primitive to civilized was fundamental to the new ideas of the nineteenth century social evolutionists.

These theorists developed rival schemes of overall social and cultural progress, as well as the origins of different institutions such as religion, marriage, and the family. Edward B. Tylor disagreed with the contention of some early-nineteenth-century French and English writers, led by Comte Joseph de Maistre, that groups such as the American Indians and other indigenous peoples were examples of cultural degeneration.

He believed that peoples in different locations were equally capable of developing and progressing through the stages. Tylor maintained that culture evolved from the simple to the complex, and that all societies passed through the three basic stages of development suggested by Montesquieu: from savagery through barbarism to civilization. To account for cultural variation, Tylor and other early evolutionists postulated that different contemporary societies were at different stages of evolution.

Thus, simpler contemporary societies were thought to resemble ancient societies. In more advanced societies one could see proof of cultural evolution through the presence of what Tylor called survivals — traces of earlier customs that survive in present-day cultures. The making of pottery is an example of a survival in the sense used by Tylor. Earlier peoples made their cooking pots out of clay; today we generally make them out of metal because it is more durable, but we still prefer dishes made of clay.

Tylor believed that there was a kind of psychic unity among all peoples that explained parallel evolutionary sequences in different cultural traditions. In other words, because of the basic similarities in the mental framework of all peoples, different societies often find the same solutions to the same problems independently.

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But, Tylor also noted that cultural traits may spread from one society to another by simple diffusion — the borrowing by one culture of a trait belonging to another as the result of contact between the two. Another nineteenth-century proponent of uniform and progressive cultural evolution was Lewis Henry Morgan. A lawyer in upstate New York, Morgan became interested in the local Iroquois Indians and defended their reservation in a land-grant case. But he also subdivided savagery and barbarism into upper, middle, and lower segments Morgan , providing contemporary examples of each of these three stages.

Each stage was distinguished by a technological development and had a correlate in patterns of subsistence, marriage, family, and political organization.

4.1. Types of Societies

Morgan distinguished these stages of development in terms of technological achievement, and thus each had its identifying benchmarks. Morgan postulated that the stages of technological development were associated with a sequence of different cultural patterns. For example, he speculated that the family evolved through six stages. In the next stage a group of brothers was married to a group of sisters and brother-sister mating was permitted.

In the third stage, group marriage was practiced, but brothers and sisters were not allowed to mate. The fourth stage, which supposedly evolved during barbarism, was characterized by a loosely paired male and female who lived with other people. In the next stage husband-dominant families arose in which the husband could have more than one wife simultaneously. Finally, the stage of civilization was distinguished by the monogamous family, with just one wife and one husband who were relatively equal in status.

Morgan believed that family units became progressively smaller and more self-contained as human society developed.


His postulated sequence for the evolution of the family, however, is not supported by the enormous amount of ethnographic data that has been collected since his time. For example, no recent society that Morgan would call savage indulges in group marriage or allows brother-sister mating. Although their works sought similar ends, the evolutionary theorists each had very different ideas about and foci for their studies.

It is important to note that most of the early evolutionary schemes were unilineal. Unilineal evolution refers to the idea that there is a set sequence of stages that all groups will pass through at some point, although the pace of progress through these stages will vary greatly.

Groups, both past and present, that are at the same level or stage of development were considered nearly identical.

Chapter 4. Society and Modern Life

One debate arising from the evolutionist perspective was whether civilization had evolved from a state of savagery or had always coexisted with primitive groups. Also, the degeneration theory of savagery that primitives regressed from the civilized state and that primitivism indicated the fall from grace had to be fought vigorously before social anthropology could progress.

This idea seemed to completely contradict traditional ideas about the relationships between God and humankind and the very nature of life and progress. Evolutionists criticized the Christian approach as requiring divine revelation to explain civilization. In short, social evolutionism offered a naturalist approach to understanding sociocultural variation within our species. As already suggested social evolutionism was a school of thought that admitted much divergence of opinion. Tthere were debates particularly concerning which sociocultural complex represented the most primitive stages of society.

Marx and his collaborator, Friedrich Engels, devised a theory in which the institutions of monogamy, private property, and the state were assumed to be chiefly responsible for the exploitation of the working classes in modern industrialized societies. Its leading opponent was Franz Boas, whose main disagreement with the evolutionists involved their assumption that universal laws governed all human culture. Boas argued that these nineteenth-century individuals lacked sufficient data as did Boas himself to formulate many useful generalizations.

Thus, historicism and, later, functionalism were reactions to nineteenth century social evolutionism. Johann Jacob Bachofen He postulated that primitive promiscuity was first characterized by matriarchy and later by patrilineality.

He linked the emergence of patrilineality to the development of private property and the desire of men to pass property on to their children. Sir James George Frazer — Frazer subsequently studied the value of superstition in the evolution of culture arguing that it strengthened respect for private property and for marriage, and contributed to the stricter observance of the rules of sexual morality. Sir John Lubbock ; Lord Avebury. He observed that there was a range of variation of stone implements from more to less crude and that archaeological deposits that lay beneath upper deposits seemed older.

Sir Henry James Sumner Maine His scheme traces society from systems based on kinship to those based on territoriality, from status to contract and from civil to criminal law. Maine argued that the most primitive societies were patriarchal. This view contrasted with the believers in the primacy of primitive promiscuity and matriarchy. Maine also contrasted with other evolutionists in that he was not a proponent of unilinear evolution Seymour-Smith John F.

McLellan From this he constructed a theory of the evolution of marriage. Like others, including Bachofen, McLellan postulated an original period of primitive promiscuity followed by matriarchy. His argument began with primitive peoples practicing female infanticide because women did not hunt to support the group. The shortage of women that followed was resolved by the practice of bride capture and fraternal polyandry. These then gave rise to patrilineal descent. Lewis Henry Morgan — One of the most influential evolutionary theorists of the 19th century, he has been called the father of American anthropology.

An American lawyer whose interest in Iroquois Indian affairs led him to study their customs and social system, giving rise to the first modern ethnographic study of a Native American group, the League of the Iroquois in He also initiated his study of kinship and marriage which he was later to develop into a classica comparative theory in his work, Systems of Consanguinity and Affinity This latter work is widely considered to be a milestone in the development of anthropology, establishing kinship and marriage as central areas of anthropological inquiry and beginning an enduring preoccupation with kinship terminologies as the key to the interpretation of kinship systems.

His Ancient Society is the most influential statement of the nineteenth-century cultural evolutionary position, to be developed by many later evolutionists and employed by Marx and Engels in their theory of social evolution. Importantly, each stage was characterized by a technological innovation that led to advances in subsistence patterns, family and marriage arrangements and political organization Seymour-Smith Sir Edward Burnett Tylor — It was an impressive and well-reasoned analysis of primitive psychology and far more general in application than anything which had been earlier suggested.

Cultural Evolution Theory Definition

Tylor correlates the three levels of social evolution to types of religion: savages practicing animism, barbarians practicing polytheism, and civilized people practicing monotheism. Another notable accomplishment of Tylor was his exploration of the use of statistics in anthropological research.

It was thought that most societies pass through the same series of stages, to arrive ultimately at a common end. The scheme originally included just three stages savagery, barbarism, and civilization , but was later subdivided in various manners to account for a greater amount of sociocultural diversity.

Download E-books Cultural Evolution: Contemporary Viewpoints PDF

If you have ever taken a psychology course in school, you probably remember learning about these different schools which included structuralism, functionalism, psychoanalysis, behaviorism, and humanism. As psychology has grown, so has the number and variety of topics that psychologists investigate. Since the early s, the field of psychology has flourished and continues to grow at a rapid pace, and so has the depth and breadth of subjects studied by psychologists. Today, few psychologists identify their outlook according to a particular school of thought.

While you may still find some pure behaviorists or psychoanalysts, the majority of psychologists instead categorize their work according to their specialty area and perspective. Every topic in psychology can be looked at in a number of different ways.