Re: In What Sense do Cultures Evolve?

Cal Eastman (shiva@FREENET.SCRI.FSU.EDU)
Wed, 11 May 1994 08:24:01 18000

> T. Riley and Bob Graber are making posts about cultural evolution and have
> entered into the realm of subcultures. I would recommend a look at some
> of the work recently by Elizabeth Brumfiel and others on factions
> (Brumfiel 1992 _Am Anthro_ and Brunfiel and Fox 1994 Cambridge). Here are
> some cultural evolutionists making stabs at the issues presented by the
> critiques of the left. The left, for their part, are mostly against even
> the use of the word 'evolution' for it effectively removes the capacity
> for agency and choice. Instead they favor contingency, unintended
> consequences, and practice. People, fully conscious of their immediate
> goals and actions, create culture in history through practice, especially
> as they confront contradictions presented in their relations to the means
> of production and power.
> The above references are not of this line, but
> approach it. The use of factions and factional competition focuses on the
> direct and indirect control of the means of production by contending
> groups based on kinship, ethnicity, or politcal affiliation. Such groups,
> through practice, create as much as react to the cultural form in
> which they exist. From this perspective subcultures can be seen as major
> contributers to the 'culture' that Graber talks about. The creation of
> this 'culture' however is based soley on the dominant interests of a
> particular subculture whose maneoevered to achieve their dominance through
> force and favor. In this sense evolution is a perspective useful to the
> dominant for it makes history a only a cog of evolution. From the left,
> to the contrary, evolution is a consequence of history.
> Chris Matthews

Afew thoughts -

Nowhere in teh concept of evolution is the idea that there is no
"capacity for agency and choice." Evolution is teh idea of
development being shaped by survival pressures, as opposed to
relological or theological reasons for teh form of development. ( or
however u say that in english) In any sensient species some of those
pressuse will be internal and conceptual, as opposed to purely
environmental. That is to say some of the forms that will develop (
not neccessarily survive) will develop due to the pressure of
"shoulds" and "isms". These belief systems create situations which
need to be adapted to as strongly as a shift in climate or food supply.
To claim that because there is evolution there is no creativity or
choice or freedom of action is patently false and absurd. Evolution is
what makes some of those cultural choices survive given the
environment (mental physical and cultural) situation they live in.

Rightand left:

To see the world as either/or yes/no contrasts may be natural and
obvious to any creature which is bilaterally symmetrical, it does not
mean the world actually works that way. If we were built like starfish
perhaps our basic choices would be yes/no/maybe/xxx/yyy.
NO where is the false aristotelean view more tenacious. meaningless,
and dangerous then in teh realm of political ideologies. I for
instance am a firm believer in the free market ("right"), large social
programs ("left") minimal govt controls ("right") and an end to
victimless crime ( both and neither side claim a right to this"). AM i
right or left wing? In the US the consxzervatives were called right--
in the ussr they were called left. Both supported a slow change
attitude towards teh pressures of change in industrial society.
In an age when new paradigms are being formed, based on individual
choice rather than favctory based ideals of conformity there is little
room for for pigeonholing people into one of two choices, or even
charting thenm on the line between only 2 choices.
AS fm esfandiary wrote - im neither a right winger or a left winger,
im an up-winger


Boom shiva
mahalinga nataraj
(puffiness 4evah)