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Cultural evolution

Sociocultural evolution(ism) is an umbrella term for theories of cultural evolution and social evolution, describing how cultures and societies change over time.

Note that "sociocultural evolution" is not an equivalent of "sociocultural development" (unified processes of differentiation and integration involving increases in sociocultural complexity), as sociocultural evolution also encompasses sociocultural transformations accompanied by decreases of complexity (degeneration) as well as ones not accompanied by any significant changes of sociocultural complexity (cladogenesis).

Thus, sociocultural evolution can be defined as "the process by which structural reorganization is affected through time, eventually producing a form or structure which is qualitatively different from the ancestral form."

Most 19th-century and some 20th-century approaches aimed to provide models for the evolution of humankind as a whole, arguing that different societies are at different stages of social development.

The most comprehensive attempt to develop a general theory of social evolution centering on the development of socio-cultural systems was done by Talcott Parsons on a scale which included a theory of world-history.

Another attempt both on a less systematic scale was attempted by World System approach.

Many of the more recent 20th-century approaches focus on changes specific to individual societies and reject the idea of directional change, or social progress.

Most archaeologists and cultural anthropologists work within the framework of modern theories of sociocultural evolution.

Modern approaches to sociocultural evolution include neoevolutionism, sociobiology, the theory of modernization and the theory of postindustrial society.

Note:   The above text is excerpted from the Wikipedia article "Cultural evolution", which has been released under the GNU Free Documentation License.
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December 2, 2015

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