The Evolution of Social Changes and Dynamics

Rica Dela Cruz's picture

If Darwinian evolution is about the biological changes that species and other organisms undergo to be able to physically and physiologically adapt to their environment, then one could say that communities of people have also, collectively and as separate groups, evolved socially over time. Indeed, since Darwin came out with his theory on the gradual evolution of the species 150 years ago, huge social changes have been made by man as a result of the phenomenal discoveries and inventions he made, particularly during the last century: the automobile, the airplane, the telephone, the computer, electricity, and so forth.

There is no question that much of the world we live in has changed dramatically in terms of physical growth of cities and the effects of industrial and commercial development on the environment. For example, when America was founded in 1776, more than two thirds of the country was still unspoiled and undeveloped. As our population increased and industrialization began, physical growth and development began in earnest; many times with little or no concern about the adverse effects of industrial development on the environment. For example, manufacturing industries simply threw their wastes, including toxic substances, in the nearest rivers and streams or bury them underground. To facilitate travel, a huge network of highways, bridges, dams and railways were built, many times without taking into account their adverse consequences on the environment.

Except for the creationists and those who believe in "intelligent design," Darwin's theory of the evolution of the species has essentially become accepted by the scientific community. But the evolution of mankind itself--as a social phenomenon composed of many different races, social groups and communities--remains a mystery, in terms of purpose and where it is going. For example, during the time of Plato and Socrates, there was a "flowering" of human intelligence, about such basic things like ideas and ideals-i.e. what constitutes the good life, existence, the soul and the ideal form of government. But life during the days of the Greek Enlightenment was, as we all know, quite simple and uncomplicated compared to today's world.

Centuries later, the Romans came along and ruled the "known world": consisting of only the Mediterranean, North Africa and the Middle East. Western civilization had very little knowledge of or contact with places like China, India and Japan. Yet each of these regions of the Eastern world had also been around for thousands of years; each with their own ways of living and doing things-each with their own unique cultures, customs and languages. Over time, however, their respective cultures and customs changed slowly--like accretion. The basic question that still perplexes us though is what would happen next to man as a social group. Like foretelling the future, none of us really know what social change would take place next, and what social life and human interaction would be like, say 100 years from today. Nobody really knows. Would there be, for example as some surmise, one global community? Or would we destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons before the end of 21st Century? Would we evolve socially and use our intelligence to further the best interest of mankind; or would we resort to our basest instincts and destroy those who threaten us, including everyone in this planet?

Some scholars theorize that there are three main stages of human social evolution: savagery, barbarism, and civilization. Savagery is that stage of social evolution where man as a social group lived by merely using the available native products of his surrounding for his existence. The second stage-barbarism-is when man started living in one place and began developing agriculture and animal domestication. The third stage-civilization-is when man begins learning how to manipulate the natural resources around him to his advantage and benefit. With each stage of social development, a new way of living starts and members of society change in terms of lifestyle and social interaction. For example, the shift from savagery to barbarism was a milestone in social evolution because, for the first time, man as a social group finally became stationary. People no longer lived the lives of nomads, migrating from place to place, hunting and looking for food. Once man as a social group decided to stay in one place, a new way of living began. The change is also significant because it appears to have given man more time to think and to talk and interact more with each other. Eventually, further developments-like social governance and social welfare concerns-- took place and led the group to the development and growth of civilizations.

The biological evolution of man as a species appears to be directly linked to the social evolution of man. The biological development of the human brain over thousands of years, for example, appears to have directly contributed to the growth of human intelligence and the notion we refer to as "human consciousness." As human intelligence continue to grow and develop, man as a social being starts utilizing his new discoveries and inventions in ways that change the way he lives and the way he interacts with others in his social group. For example, the mass production of the mobile phone, the personal computer and access to the internet has exponentially expanded human communication. Human consciousness, on a global scale, has simply been phenomenal over the past three decades. Such inventions and discoveries provide for instantaneous communication and social interaction worldwide. Like the horse and buggy which became extinct, the telephone landlines and the use of regular mail for communicating have literally become extinct.

It seems to me that so long as man continues to evolve as a species, social life would also continue to change. The two are directly related. Social changes occur because of the discoveries and inventions made by man. In turn, discoveries and changes made by man appear to be the result of the growth in human intelligence. We know about the physical growth and development of the human brain through the discoveries of human fossils by paleontologists, anthropologists and other scientists. For example, as the human brain developed, early man was able to acquire more knowledge, to discover and invent things and to learn how to do things, like cooking, do primitive painting, and invent crude tools and instruments. As time went by, man developed more sophisticated tools and equipments. Until man became homo sapiens though, social interaction among man's direct ancestors is probably similar to the social interactions of other primates. The parents care for their young, but there is really not much social interaction in the sense that we know of as human beings.

Social growth and development is uniquely a "product," if you will, of man as homo sapiens. It is his intelligence and consciousness that distinguishes him from other species. It is, I suggest, the reason why man is a gregarious and social being. It appears to be in man's nature to socialize and share with other human beings. Our human consciousness collectively contributes to our overall social consciousness.

Knowing that man will continue to evolve and that social changes will also continue to grow and change as a result, our next relevant inquiry is whether man's accumulation of knowledge and increase in consciousness will somehow bring us to the next stage of human social development. After the third stage of man's social development--civilization, what is the next stage? Another relevant inquiry is whether the accumulation of knowledge and human consciousness hereafter grow at a much faster rate. If so, will it end at some point? No one knows.


Work Cited

Mills, Word. Evolution of Society: From Primitive Savagery to the Industrial Republic. The Minerva Group, Inc, 2001.

Johnson, Patrick. "Human Ancestry: Species". Archeology Info. 1999-2008. Homidae. 13 March 2009.


Paul Grobstein's picture

"the evolution of

"the evolution of mankind itself--as a social phenomenon composed of many different races, social groups and communities--remains a mystery, in terms of purpose and where it is going"

Perhaps, like biological evolution, it is changing and will continue to change, largely without "purpose"?  And "stages" are apparent only in hindsight? 

Post new comment

The content of this field is kept private and will not be shown publicly.