25 terms

Cultural evolutionism

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Cultural evolutionism:
refers to the idea that societies have
changed throughout the course of human history by moving through a series of stages, from `simple' societies to ever more
complex societies:
Cultural evolutionism
From hunter-gatherers, towards what is often perceived, by many, as the pinnacle of human society, the Western industrialized nation. Under this premise, progress is the mechanism for evolutionary change.
During the 40s and 50s Leslie White
became a champion of the 19th century evolutionists whom he felt got a bad shake by Boas and had been wrongly dismissed. He attempted to revive their
evolutionary perspective as a counter-reaction to the theoretical sterility of environmental possibilism.
Leslie White theory of cultural evolutionism
that human behavior originates in the use of symbols, which is the basis of culture.
Leslie White theory of cultural evolutionism symbol
Every aspect of culture depends on the ability to use symbol, which is "the ability freely and arbitrarily to originate and bestow meaning upon a thing or event, and, correspondingly, the ability to grasp and appreciate such meaning"
Leslie White 2
So culture is super-organic and evolves according to its own principles and is subject to natural laws
Leslie White 3
the individual is totally not relevant to cultural process. The great man theory of history is an illusion and you can plot cultural development independent of individual achievement.
Leslie White quote
So culture is super-organic and evolves according to its own principles and is subject to natural laws
The technological system
plays a primary role or is the primary determining factor in the cultural system
Culture evolves as
the amount of energy harnessed per capita
per year is increased, or as the efficiency of the instrumental means of putting the energy to work is increased.
For White
energy capture is accomplished through the
technological aspect of culture so that a modification in
technology could, in turn, lead to a greater amount of energy capture or a more efficient method of energy capture thus changing culture
Culture is founded on a physical principle
For White: The amount of energy harnessed by a culture actually makes a difference with regard to the kinds of cultural forms that occur. The more energy the more complex the form and we can demonstrate that objectively, he said.
White divides the human societies into four categories
1.Technological system,
2. Social system,
3. Ideological system,
4. Sentimental or attitudinal systems
1-Technology
plays the primary role in the cultural system. It
consists of the manufacturing and use of tools and implements.
2- The social system
is secondary to the technological system.
White defines it as "the subsistence, offense and defense, and protection" system, or a function of the technological system.
3-The ideological systems
are "organizations of beliefs in which
human experience finds its interpretations." However, these experiences are conditioned by the technology of the culture.
4- As for the sentimental category
of culture, it is "merely an emotional accompaniment of technological, social and philosophic elements of culture." Sentiments are less important to an
explanation of cultural systems than social institutions and systems of belief.
Marx and Engels
ideas of the centrality of technological and economic factors in socio cultural change
Tyler
White developed his concept of culture and the idea of a science of culture.
Morgan
he developed the idea of property in shaping social
organization
Spencer
White developed the idea of evolution as consisting in the differentiation of structure and the specialization of function.
Durkheim
culturological approach , that culture is super organic
White treated cultural evolution as independent from individual action and the environment, the latter
being just a backdrop
White treated cultural evolution as independent from individual action and the environment, the latter
being just a backdrop
White was less interested
in the development of cultures
as he was in the overall development of culture as a
whole.
His perspective is called
Universal Evolution - rather than unilinear evolution, which was more or less the brand of 19th century scholars he was trying to seek universal laws of cultural change based on a scientific and generalizing approach.
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