Re: Cultural selection - Electronic book available for discussion

Agner Fog (
20 Sep 1996 11:55:15 GMT

Thank you for your contributions to the discussion.

John Wilkins wrote:
>The simple r/k model Fog proposes strikes me as overly typological and has
>not learned from the lessons of the species problem in biology. It also
>seems to be an implicit appeal to the r/K strategies that were so popular
>a few years ago (eg, in Gould's 1977 _Ontogeny and Phylogeny_)

How would you make a nomothetic science without typologies?

Or do you prefer an idiographic science which does not help us understand
causal connections?

I have never said that societies are either regal (r) or kalyptic (k). What I
say is that societies or cultures or subcultures etc. can be more or less regal
or kalyptic. The cultural r/k dimension is only one among many dimensions in
cultural change. Several other dimensions are also described in my document,
for example conservativism versus innovativism.

The reason why I am emphasizing the r/k dimension in particular is that it
influences many different areas of cultural life: religion, philosophy,
politics, art, music, and sexual behavior. The relationship between r/k-status
and musical style or -taste is particularly striking.

Gerold Firl wrote:
>I think that you describe a real historical trend, but I think a wider
>perspective would show that the adaptation does not always follow a
>path of greater regalism in the face of external conflict.
>What about athens? In a time of constant warfare with sparta, surely
>the best example of a rigidly "regal" society, athens actually became
>*more* egalitarian.
>What about post-bourbon france? Post-WWII germany? Japan? How about
>the evolution of english democracy?

My book actually discusses some of these examples. When an empire is
approaching the limits of its growth, a kalyptization sets in. This may lead
to democratization, advances in trade and technology, and possibly a beginning
desintegration of the empire.

>It seems to me that sometimes a society will adapt to external warfare
>by increasing discipline and military regimentation, but not always;
>sometimes an increased egalitarianism is a more adaptive response.

Societies can compete on brute military force or on economics and technology -
or, to put it another way: they can compete on regality or on innovativism, but
not easily on both. The cold war, for example, was won by the part that was
most innovative and advanced in technology and economics, rather than by the
most regal part.

All this is explained in my book 'Cultural Selection' which you can get for
free from

Agner Fog, Ph.D. See my electronic book: 'Cultural Selection' at: