SOCIAL EVOLUTION Sociology Help

SOCIAL EVOLUTION

Biological evolution was one of the exciting ideas of the nineteenth century While many scholars contributed to
evolutionary theory, its most influential sponsor was the naturalist Charles Darwin. After traveling the world and classifying tens of thousands of present life forms and fossil traces of earlier life forms, he developed, in his Origin of Species (1859), the theory that the human race had gradually evolved from lower orders of life. This came about through the survival of those biological forms best fitted to survive. The early sociologists wondered if there might be an evolutionary pattern in the development of human culture and social life.

August Comte in his Positive Philosophy (1851-1854) wrote of three stages through which he believed human thought inevitably
moved: the theological, the metaphysical (or philosophical), and finally the positive (or scientific). Herbert Spencer, a sociological "giant" of the nineteenth century, was enamored of "social Darwinism." He saw social evolution as a set of stages through which all societies moved from the simple to the complex and from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous. Implicit in the thinking of both Comte and Spencer was an optimism which saw the progress of society unfolding in a way, that would gradually end misery and increase human happiness .

Wars, depressions, and totalitarian governments dampened this optimism and made the idea of social evolution seem naive. The
cultural relativists (defined on page 69) denied 'that one could speak of a "higher" or "lower" type of culture and claimed that every
culture was simply one of many possible ways of coping with the environment. The anthropologists denied that the direction of change is always from the simple to the more complex and pointed out that many primitive tribes , had a far more elaborate kinship system and more ritualistic and ceremonial life than do modem societies. Culture historians such as Spengler and Toynbee deny the existence of any upward linear progress. They claim that societies have moved in cycles in which democracy and dictatorship follow each other with each great civilization eventually destroyed by barbarians. Ideas, however, are hard to kill. The notion of social evolution, t which in the middle of the twentieth century seemed dead indeed, is very much alive today. One of the factors in its revival is the example of developing countries. As they become industrialized, they copy the technology and economic structures 'and My other features of the Western societies as a part of this "modernization" [Moore, 1963; Levy, 1967; Tinkles and Smith, 1974]. , Are there common characteristics which an industrial societies share? Are there common patterns which developing countries must follow as they modernize? All steel mills, for example, must operate in much the same way and cannot shut down for an afternoon siesta. Modem technology brings many common cultural characteristics to any people who embrace modem technology.

Posted on September 1, 2014 in FIELD AND METHODS OF SOCIOLOGY

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