Social Evolution Versus Organic Evolution

Man, who is at the centre of the theory of (social evolution, need not have to develop new organ in order to adjust himself with the changed conditions of life. Because man has the capacity of inventing tools, making instruments and devising techniques to control the forces of nature and to adjust himself with the natural conditions.

2. In the case of organic evolution only the descending generation is affected by the structural alternations. But in the case of social evolution even the old as well as the new generations are affected by it. For example, invention of new techniques and devices is influencing the present as well as the future generations.

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3. The change is transmitted in different ways in the two kinds of evolution. In the case of organic evolution the transmission of qualities takes place through biological heredity, that is, through genes. Social evolution takes place through idea, discoveries, inventions and experience. Here the changes are mostly initiated through the mental ability or genius of man.

4. The organic evolution is continuous and there can be no break in it. It is continuous because of the irresistible pressure within the organisation and of environment and natural forces. But such continuity may not be observed in the case of social evolution, there may even be breaks. It is subject to disruption.

Application of the Concept of Social Evolution in Sociological Studies:

The concept of ‘social evolution’ basically involves the notion that all societies pass through certain definite stages in a passage from a simple to complex form. All those who made use of this concept essentially meant the same.

Some have stressed the analogy between the growth of an or­ganism and the growth of human society. The concept has also been extended to include the process of gradual change taking place in all societies.

Saint Simon, for example, agreed that there was an evolutionary sequence through which all mankind must pass. He distinguished three stages of mental activity; the conjectural, the miconjectural and the positive.

Auguste Comte synthesised the works of his predecessors and developed his own theory in which he asserted that all societies must pass through three stages: the theological, meta-physical and the positive or scientific. Comte saw society as a social Organism possessing a harmony of structure and function,

Herbert Spencer in his ‘Principles of Sociology’ developed many of Comte’s ideas even though he did not acknowledge this fact. Spencer presupposed rather than tried to prove the evolutionary hypothesis. “He felt that there was in social life a change from simple to complex forms – from the homogeneous to the heterogeneous and that there was with society an integration of the ‘whole’ and a differentiation of parts”.

Other 19th century scholars were concerned with different aspects of social evolution,

(i) Sir Henry Maine in his Ancient Law, 1861 argued that “societies developed from organisational forms where relationships were based on status to those based upon contract,

(ii) L.H. Morgan in his “An­cient Society”-1878 “established an elaborate sequence of family forms from primordial promiscu­ity to monogamy through which he thought societies must pass,

(iii) E.B. Taylor in his famous work “Primitive Culture”-, linked his observations covering a large number of societies to the evo­lutionary framework. In particular, he tried to establish a sequential development of religious forms. This particular work had great impact on Sir James Frazer and Emile Durkheim.

“The evolutionary doctrine provided a broad general framework through which the whole progress of human society could be conceptualised.” This doctrine was, however, rejected in the early 20th century.

This vacuum could only gradually be filled with the development of the struc­tural system of analysis. This later development is more clearly witnessed in the field of social anthropology. In the field of sociology, the structural-functionalists have again renewed its usage by making a number of modifications so as to make it more scientific and less imaginary.