Societal Size: Usefully Non-Cultural

Tue, 12 Sep 1995 10:36:08 CDT

M.T. Carson recently brought up the excellent question: Should the
lawlike relationship between societal growth and structural-functional
differentiation/stratification be considered a descriptive correlation,
a causal relationship, or perhaps something else? While I cannot answer
this question fully, there is a related point of some importance I would
like to make--namely, that the size of a society is not, in itself, the
sort of thing we ordinarily mean by *culture*. Having some quarter of a
billion people, for instance, is not what we would call a feature of our
socially acquired way of life--our culture--as are, for examples,
monogamous marriage or the automobile. What this means is that societal
size is, at least analytically, separable from culture; as such, it
becomes available as an independent variable vis-a-vis cultural
phenomena; and it is a hugely successful variable in explaining such
far-reaching cultural phenomena as stratification and
structural-functional differentiation.
--Bob Graber