That Complex Whole: Hierarchies, Sorts, and Punctuation

Author(s): Michael Rosenberg

Year: 2015


Implicit in most approaches to the evolution of culture is both the view that cultural evolution is always incremental and that cultures are structurally simple entities, making individual cultures seem entirely as capable of evolving in one direction as another, based solely on phenotypic plasticity and/or selective forces. However, as noted 140+ years ago by Tylor, culture is a complex whole. Structurally, it can best be viewed as multiple reflexive social, behavioral and informational hierarchies, each subject to a different mode of selection. Selection within each hierarchy produces a sort that feeds into each of the other hierarchies to be reflexively acted on there by the specific selective forces in operation within each of the destination hierarchies. The sort sent by one hierarchy to another given hierarchy and the selective forces operating within that destination hierarchy are not of necessity always compatible. When such incompatibility occurs, punctuational change is sometimes produced.

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That Complex Whole: Hierarchies, Sorts, and Punctuation. Michael Rosenberg. Presented at The 80th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology, San Francisco, California. 2015 ( tDAR id: 396929)