This article needs additional citations for verification. Please help improve this article by adding citations to reliable sources. Unsourced material may be challenged and removed.Find sources: "Neoevolutionism" – news · newspapers · books · scholar · JSTOR (November 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)

Neoevolutionism as a social theory attempts to explain the evolution of societies by drawing on Charles Darwin's theory of evolution while discarding some dogmas of the previous theories of social evolutionism. Neoevolutionism is concerned with long-term,[1] directional,[citation needed] evolutionary social change and with the regular patterns of development that may be seen in unrelated, widely separated cultures.[2]

Sociological neoevolutionism emerged in the 1930s. It developed extensively in the period after the Second World War—and was incorporated[by whom?] into anthropology as well as into sociology in the 1960s.

Neoevolutionary theories are based on empirical evidence from fields such as archaeology, paleontology, and historiography. Proponents[which?] say neoevolutionism is objective and simply descriptive, eliminating any references to a moral or cultural system of values.

While the 19th-century cultural evolutionism attempted to explain how culture develops by describing general principles of its evolutionary process, historical particularism dismissed it as unscientific in the early-20th century. Neoevolutionary thinkers brought back evolutionary ideas and developed them, with the result that they became acceptable to contemporary anthropology.

Neoevolutionism discards many ideas of classical social evolutionism, notably the emphasis on social progress, so dominant in previous sociological evolution-related theories. Neoevolutionism discards the determinism argument and introduces probability, arguing that accidents and free will have much impact on the process of social evolution. It also supports counterfactual history[citation needed]—asking "what if?" and considering different possible paths that social evolution may (or might) have taken, and thus allows for the fact that various cultures may develop in different ways, some skipping entire "stages" others have passed through. Neoevolutionism stresses the importance of empirical evidence. While 19th-century social evolutionism used value judgments and assumptions when interpreting data, neoevolutionism relies on measurable information for analyzing the process of cultural evolution.

Important thinkers for neoevolutionism include:

See also


  1. ^ "Neoevolutionism". Encyclopaedia Britannica. Encyclopædia Britannica, inc. March 23, 2016. Neoevolutionism, school of anthropology concerned with long-term culture change and with the similar patterns of development that may be seen in unrelated, widely separated cultures.
  2. ^ "neoevolutionism - anthropology". Retrieved 13 November 2017.