Re: Cultural selection - Electronic book available for discussion

Agner Fog (
Thu, 05 Sep 1996 21:04:31 +0100

Gerold Firl wrote:
>Agner Fog writes:

>|> Unlike traditional evolutionist thinkers, I do not infer that cultural
>|> selection always will lead in the same direction (called 'progress').
>|> Rather, I have found that cultural selection may lead in different
>|> directions depending on the external conditions.
>I can't imagine who these "traditional" evolutionist thinkers might be;
>viewing history, sociology, and anthropology from an evolutionary
>perspective is hardly common, and hasn't been around enough to have any
>traditions besides those coopted from our collegues in biology.

In chapter 2 of my book I document that theories of social evolution have been
around for more than 100 years. Evolutionist ideas have been rejected and
re-invented several times.

>Proper anthropological practice would now use a variety of cultures to
>illustrate your point, showing the universality of the relation you
>propose in disparate settings.

Please don't judge my book from the short abstract. There is a lot in the book
which is not reflected in the abstract.

>Isn't the evolution of disciplined "regalism" in a warlike environment
>the kind of rigid determinism you decry above? Your assertion of
>causality has some merit, but is hardly the universal law of
>sociological evolution you make it out to be.

I am not claiming to have a 'grand theory'. But I have found a mechanism which
seems to have a profound influence on many areas of culture.

>The germans were very loosely
>organized, anarchic by contemporary standards, until compelled by
>contact with the romans, huns, and later the magyars, moslems and
>vikings to develop a more unified command and control structure.

That's exactly what my theory says: A culture becomes more and more regal when
fighting against some other culture which is regal. It's a self-amplifying
ping-pong process.

>However, until then they had been content to fight among themselves
>with no recourse to the "regalism" you describe, indicating that their
>evolution in that direction was a contingent adaptation, as opposed to
>some kind of sociological law.

Fighting internally with somebody from the same or a very similar culture is
not regalizing. Group-external conflicts are regalizing - group-internal
conflicts are the opposite.

Agner Fog

My book on cultural selection can be found at