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The classic thinkers in sociology and anthropology concocted many two-stagetheories of change, which are essentially like “before-and-after” snapshots oflarge-scale change in society. Examples include Redfield’s theory about thetransition from “folk” to “urban” societies, Durkheim’s theory of the transitionfrom “mechanical” to “organic” solidarity, and Tonnies’ theory of change fromGemeinschaftto Gesellschaft.HARPMC02_0131884980.QXD 11/7/06 12:01 AM Page 24
The Causes and Patterns of Change25These theories differ in the factors that they emphasize, but all view thebroad historical pattern of change in human societies as involving the transitionfrom small, undifferentiated societies with a homogeneous culture to largesocieties with a high degree of structural differentiation and a heterogeneousculture. Each, in some sense, depicts the evolution from preliterate to modernsocieties. This is what social scientists usedto refer to as social evolutionfrom theassumption that some sort of master change processes were at work in all societiesthrough time. But recent developments in the concept of social evolution empha-size the accumulation of complex contingencies (for example, the generation ofnovel forms and their transmission and selection over time) that is closer to thebiological meaning of the term evolution(Burns and Dietz, 1992; Sztompka,1993). Our purpose here is more elementary: to summarize the major historicaland developmental changes in human societies. We will discuss Lenski’s macro-stage theory that connects several—rather than two—stages in a historical-developmental sequence.The Historical Development of Human Societies.Lenski (Lenski andLenski, 1982) developed a broad developmental theory of different types of societies(hunting and gathering, pastoral and horticultural, agricultural, industrial) where thetransitions from one form to the next were caused by innovations in the technologyof economic production that produced an ever larger and more certain surplus offood and material resources. At each stage, societies could support a largerpopulation and grew in complexity and internal differentiation.Hunting and gathering societiesare the oldest type of human societies and stillexist in a few scattered places. These were small nomadic groups whose daily lifewas occupied by the hunting of animals and the search for edible foods. They wereessentially subsistence economies that produce no significant economic surplus.The plains Indians of North America, the polar Eskimos, and the Bushmen of theKalahari desert in southern Africa are near-contemporary hunters and gatherers.They traveled in bands of about fifty people, following wild game and carrying vir-tually all their possessions with them. Society was coterminous with the family andkinship unit, though hunters and gatherers were aware of related bands and peoplewith whom they shared language, culture, and territory. There were few larger-scalesocial units or statuses not defined by age, sex, or kinship. The division of labor was