Selection Pressures and the Evolution of the Macrodynamic Realm

  • Jonathan H. Turner


In the first human societies, the only institutional domain was kinship, with the division of labor in nuclear families providing the structural template for economic and religious activities. Inequalities did not exist, and in fact, nomadic hunter-gatherers worked very hard to make sure that no one could gain power or even too much prestige (Boehm 1993, 1999). Hunting and gathering proved to be a highly adaptive form of social organization; and as long as populations remained small, there were few selection pressures on individuals to elaborate and differentiate new institutional domains from kinship and to increase inequalities as a result of institutional differentiation. Two corporate units – nuclear family and band – were sufficient to organize the fifty or so individuals. There were, no doubt, larger structures composed of relationships among bands sharing a language and elements of culture, such as values, religious beliefs, technologies, and common traditions; and in these inter-band systems, hints of a more macro social formations can be found (Chase-Dunn and Mann 1998). But, as I emphasized in the last chapter, it was not until bands began to settle down that selection pressures arising from population growth set into motion the evolution of the macro social realm. At first, settlements were few in number and often only temporary, but even then, pressures were placed upon the members of these settlements to find new forms of production, new modes of political regulation, new means for protecting their territories, and other macrodynamic forces that force people to develop more complex sociocultural formations, or die. And, as settlements eventually began to spread some 10,000–12,000 years ago, the power of these forces became that much greater.


Selection Pressure Corporate Actor Darwinian Selection Stratification System Adaptive Structure 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California at RiversideRiversideUSA

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