Social Evolution *is* Linear

Fri, 13 May 1994 09:08:07 CDT

I would like to express a position quite different from that of N.
Bowles but also somewhat different from M. Lieber's defense of
evolutionism. Bowles charges that the concepts of social and cultural
evolution connote linearity and therefore are bad; Lieber replies that
the concept of evolution is not necessarily linear. I agree with Lieber,
but wish to point out once again that where ten thousand years ago all
humans lived in small, politically autonomous communities, today we all
live in populous states. There is an obvious, overwhelming, physically
identifiable trend in social evolution from small societies to large
ones. To deny this, or to deny that it is central to understanding many
of the transformations in human culture, is politically-correct,
self-inflicted ignorance.In short, linearity is a not a definitional
feature of social evolution but an empirical one. It appears, too,
that this social growth has been generated by density increase; and that
it is possible to formulate exact mathematico-physical theories about
the relationship between population density change and societal-size
change. It is really rapidly becoming anachronistic to claim that
anthropology cannot or should not become more like, say, physics;
like it or not, the change is already occurring, and it is one
reason for the rift between the positivists who are making it happen,
and the postmodernists with their heads in the sand. --Bob Graber