Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Differing Theories on Culture

So what are some specific theories about sociocultural evolution? A predominate one centuries ago was that societies formed in circles (formation, rise, peak, fall, die) and that humans were in a decline with Rome and Greece as well as Egypt as its peak. During the Age of Enlightenment, or roughly the 18th century and beyond, people decided that humans were still getting better and got more confidence in themselves and science. Scottish thinkers realized all cultures start out as hunters/gatherers, progress to nomads who follow animals, become farmers eventually and become stationary, and finally use trade to build their society. (At this time industry and factories were not as common as now so it, the likely next step of all societies was not included in the theory. After industry progressed to sustain the population would come colonization and exploration. Once that meant wars or new discoveries, now our thirst for more knowledge and elbow room is taking us to the stars.) The then four stages of cultural evolution served to support colonialism and slavery as the natives were less developed than them and therefore deserved what happened to them due to more advanced cultures. Others focused on how society is formed due to biological or mental evolution. Herbert Spencer wrote of survival of the fittest as how societies grew. (The strongest and loudest changed society while the weakest and quiet ones could do nothing to stop the change until they died and no longer cared.) Auguste Comte wrote of how society went through three stages: the theological one where a god was the reason for everything, and age of wonder when mankind started to look for answers besides supernatural forces, and the time when they focus solely on science and an explanation for everything.
Around the World Wars people started to realize that there were a few problems with their thinking. First off, they believed that every society had the same goals and therefore all strove to be duplicates of Europe. So much death and destruction eventually made them wonder if their society really was perfect and the rise of equality for all made them think that maybe claiming Western society as best wasn’t quite true.
Nowadays people study everything from history of a culture to environment the society adapted to and political/economic relations with other societies to plot its “evolution”. It is more accepted that every nearby or connected culture effects the development of every other culture instead of each developing individually based on its own technology and morals as was once believed. Scientific fact is now the focus of sociology instead of racism, rationalizing what is already happening, or merely looking at “uncivilized” cultures to determine what other cultures were like before they started writing. However, ideas and theories are fodder for writers and some of the older theories based on fewer facts are ripe for ideas on creating you specie’s history or current position of development. What’s your idea of social development going to be?

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