Sociocultural evolution Aristotle thought that development of cultural form such as poetry stops when it reaches its maturity. Hodgson and Knudsen  single out David George Ritchie and Thorstein Veblencrediting the former with anticipating both dual inheritance theory and universal Darwinism. Despite the stereotypical image of social Darwinism that developed later in the century, neither Ritchie nor Veblen were on the political right.
All humans share basic biological and behavioral characteristics that make such extraordinary adaptability possible. Yet, as a species, we exhibit tremendous variation in environmental adaptations, physical appearance, language, beliefs, and social organization.
Earlier generations of people had myriad explanations for this variation. They often imposed value judgments on human differences, usually with their own ways of living deemed best.
Sometimes the resulting cultural misunderstandings created hostility or conflict. Most of the time, however, people have found ways to get along. Trade and alliances, for example, made cooperation more desirable. In the latter case, a practical understanding of human variation became essential.
These historical figures were pioneers in the study of human variation. But they were not anthropologists, and the discipline of anthropology did not emerge until the nineteenth century.
To address this focal question, the chapter is organized around the following problems: How did anthropology begin? What are the four subfields of anthropology, and what do they share in common?
How do anthropologists know what they know? How is anthropology put to work in the world? What ethical issues does anthropology raise?
Anthropology offers a powerful framework for posing questions about humanity and grasping the complexity of the human experience. It also provides important knowledge to help address many social problems. How Did Anthropology Begin? During the nineteenth century, anthropology emerged as an academic discipline devoted to the observation and analysis of human variation.
Building on natural sciences developed during the Enlightenment or Age of Reason in the s, scholars began to apply similar methods to understanding human cultural variation in the s. Three key concerns shaped the foundation of professional anthropology in the s: Disruptions caused by industrialization in Europe and America The rise of theories of evolution The spread of European colonialism Industrialization disrupted American and European societies by bringing large numbers of rural people into towns and cities to work in factories.
Asking about how European villages and cities were structured and how they perpetuated their cultures ultimately led to questions about how all sorts of non-Western societies worked as well. A second key influence on the development of anthropology was the rise of evolutionary theory to explain biological variation among and within species.
Evolution refers to the adaptive changes organisms make across generations.
He contributed the mechanism of natural selection to explain evolutionary changes. Natural selection shapes populations because individuals with locally advantageous traits tend to have more offspring.
Evolution by natural selection remains politically and religiously controversial to the present day in some parts of the world. But it is no longer scientifically controversial, and nearly all anthropologists and biologists accept evolution as a factual explanation of the diversification of plant and animal life and the origin of modern humans.
Today, anthropologists agree that such models of unilineal cultural evolution do not fit the observed facts. A third driving force behind anthropology was colonialism, the historical practice of more powerful countries claiming possession of less powerful ones.
To understand how to govern the poorly understood indigenous peoples of their colonies, Europeans and Americans began developing methods for studying those societies. Well into the s, anthropologists pursued an approach known as the salvage paradigm, which held that it was important to observe indigenous ways of life before knowledge of traditional languages and customs disappeared.
By the end of the nineteenth century, anthropology was already an international discipline, whose practitioners were mainly based in western Europe and the United States. Today, anthropology is a truly global discipline, with practitioners in countries around the world.
Anthropology has traditionally been divided into four subfields: Cultural anthropology focuses on the social lives of living communities. Prior to the s, most cultural anthropologists conducted fieldwork in non-Western communities.
In the twenty-first century, anthropologists still study non-Western societies but are apt to study the ethnic groups, occupations, institutions, advertising, or technology of their own cultures as well.
Archaeology studies past cultures, by excavating sites where people lived. Some archaeologists study prehistory the time period before written records.Cultural evolution is an evolutionary theory of social change.
It follows from the definition of culture as "information capable of affecting individuals' behavior that they acquire from other members of their species through teaching, imitation and other forms of social transmission".
. Evolutionism: the 19 th century school of cultural anthropology, represented by Morgan and Tyler that attempted to explain variations in cultures by the single deductive theory . Theories, objections, counter-proposals marked much of American archaeology in the twentieth century; trying to describe the most prominent ones would take many pages.
Processualists, post-processualists, Marxists, and others wrote and spoke, and some archaeologists continued their commitment to prehistory and history as they pleased. The aim of cultural anthropology is to document the full range of human cultural adaptations and achievements and to discern in this great diversity the underlying covariations among and changes in human ecology, institutions and ideologies.
Theories of DIFFUSION, according to which a key process in cultural change is cultural borrowing, or the diffusion of cultural traits (such as design motifs, folktales, and values) from one society to the next, became important in the first few decades of this century among North American anthropologists.
The major branches of anthropology Cultural anthropology. Tylor points up the enduring problem of distinguishing between biological and cultural influences, between nature and nurture.
by the midth century social anthropology was increasingly contrasted with the more humanistic tradition of American cultural anthropology.