Cultural evolutionism or cultural evolution attempts to describe and explain long-term change in human sociology, insofar as those ways are socially rather than biologically acquired. As the development of a culture, it may be viewed as a uni-linear or multi-linear phenomenon. Uni-linear describes the change in human behaviour whereas multi-linear describes the change in separate cultures and societies.
Culture as applied to evolution involves the transmission of information (particularly from generation to generation) by all non-genomic means - through the senses by example, or by instructions involving language. "Cultural evolution" therefore encompasses the generation and selection of new 'learning' by all means other than encoding in the genome. Although cultural evolution is not entirely peculiar to man (see for example: John Tyler Bonner, The Evolution of Culture in Animals (New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1980)) it is in a highly developed form restricted to man and much tied up with the development of language and writing.
The idea that human culture changes with time is evident with the fact that human beings have become a more civilized species through history.
Though often used interchangeably with the terms "social evolution" and "sociocultural evolution," the term "cultural evolution" sometimes is useful for specifying a focus on long-term change not in properties of a social group as such (e.g., its sheer size or location), but in the way of life–the characteristic artifacts, behaviors, and ideas–of the group. Defined this way, cultural evolutionism is not inherently ethnocentric, though of course the cultural past can be – and often has been – interpreted ethnocentrically. Today, many archaeologists, some cultural anthropologists, and even some sociologists are self-identified cultural evolutionists; and many more scholars are shown, by virtue of their research interests, to fit this definition. For example, the international scientific research project, the Seshat: Global History Databank takes an explicitly cultural evolutionary approach to human history.
Historically, cultural evolution occurred through migration. Migration happens as a result of war, geographical changes or survival requirements and demands. War affected the cultures morals, and regions (if they were dominated etc.) Regional domination could imply control over the population, causing the citizens to move. (see Arcadian movement 16th century) Geographic factors, such as climate affects the individual's attire. For instance, a warmer climate typically requires less clothing, and a colder climate requires additional clothing. A population in either of these climates, will make their attire accommodate to the temperature, therefore creating materialistic culture.
There had also been evidence explaining that cultural evolution was the result of cultural diffusion, the movement and spread of cultural patterns to another culture. The method of adoption of different cultural practices for social equilibrium maintenance, could have resulted in diffusion of culture during the adaptation of the changes.
Today, the theory of cultural evolution is an (often unstated) underpinning for other, more complex explanations for cultural change, and for the most part archaeologists believe that social changes are not only driven by biology or a strict adaptation to change, but by a complex web of social, environmental, and biological factors.
- Sociocultural evolution
- Dual inheritance theory
- Transformation of culture
- Evolutionary psychology and culture
- Peter Richerson
- "cultural evolution (social science) -- Britannica Online Encyclopedia." Encyclopedia - Britannica Online Encyclopedia. N.p., n.d. Web. 2 Dec. 2011. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/146212/cultural-evolution>.
- Heine, S.J.(2008) Cultural Psychology p.45
- Michael G, Michlovic. (1986). Cultural Evolutionism and Plains Archaeology. Plains Anthropological Society. 31(113), 207-218. JSTOR 25668613