Andrey Korotayev

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Evolution: Cosmic, Biological, Social 


societal organisms and their external environment. The reaction of such sys-

tems to external challenges can be described in terms of certain general princi-

ples that are expressed, however, rather differently within biological and social 

reality. Thirdly, there is a direct ‘genetic’ link between the two types of macro-

evolution and their mutual influences.  

The similarity of the principles and regularities of these two types of mac-

roevolution does not imply that they produce the same results. Remarkable 

similarities are frequently accompanied by enormous differences (see, for ex-

ample, the above mentioned case of the impressive similarity between genomes 

of chimpanzees and of humans).  

According to the authors it appears reasonable to consider biological and  

social macroevolution as one single macro-evolutionary process to at least some  

extent, even though their concrete biological or social manifestations may display  

significant variations, depending on the specific properties of the evolving  

entities. This implies the necessity to comprehend general laws and regularities  

that describe this general process. An important notion that may contribute to  

our understanding of the differences and similarities of these two types of mac- 

roevolution is the term social aromorphosis. This term was developed as  

a counterpart to the notion of biological aromorphosis, which is well established  

within Russian evolutionary biology. Grinin, Markov, and Korotayev regard so- 

cial aromorphosis as a rare qualitative macro-change that increases in a very  

significant way complexity, adaptability, and mutual influence of social sys- 

tems, and thus opens up new possibilities for social macro-development. In their  

contribution, they discuss a number of regularities that describe biological and  

social macroevolution by employing the notions of social and biological  

aromorphosis, including such regularities as rules of ‘module evolution’ (or  

the evolutionary ‘block assemblage’), ‘payment for arogenic progress’, etc. 

*   *   * 

The Third Section of the Almanac (Aspects of Social Evolution) starts with  

the contribution  by  Dmitri Bondarenko, Leonid Grinin, and Andrey Korotayev  

‘Social Evolution: Alternatives and Variations (Introduction)’. The article deals  

with important theoretical problems of social evolution. In the authors' opinion,  

a number of general evolutionary ideas, principles and conclusions formulated  

in the article may not only be significant for the study of social evolution but al- 

so for evolution as a whole. The authors' basic ideas and principles are as fol- 

lows: Evolutionary alternatives can be found for any level of social complexity.  

Very often, different social and political forms have co-existed and competed  

with each other for a long time. Within specific ecological and social niches,  

some models and variants could be more competitive first, only to be taken over  

Introduction. Evolutionary Megaparadigms 


by other forms later. As a result, many statements about certain ‘inevitable’ out- 

comes of evolution can be considered correct only in the most general sense and  

within certain conditions. The underlying reasoning is that evolutionary out- 

comes are usually the result of long-lasting competition between different  

forms, sometimes resulting in their destruction, or in transformations, social se- 

lection, adaptation to various ecological milieus, etc. This means that evolution- 

ary outcomes are not inevitable for each and every particular society.  

These ideas are illustrated at different levels, including pre-state societies, 

most notably chiefdoms. The notions of homoarchy and heterarchy as labels for 

ideal models of rigid (invariable) and non-rigid (variable) social structures re-

spectively, are also discussed. The authors argue that it may be possible to pos-

tulate heterarchic and homoarchic evolutionary trajectories that embrace all cul- 

tures throughout all of human history. Special attention is paid to the analysis of  

models of politogenesis, in the course of which alternative models of transition  

to complex societies were realized. This idea is suggested as a replacement for  

the outdated theory that represents the transition from non-state to state socie- 

ties as direct and unilinear. The authors show that this transition was multili- 

near. They introduce the notion of early state analogues and propose a classifica- 

tion of various types of early state formation. Furthermore, some societies re- 

sembling early states can, in fact be regarded as complex non-state societies that  

are similar to early states in terms of size, socio-cultural and/or political com- 

plexity, functional differentiation level, etc., while they did not share some salient  

features that are typical of early states.  

Christopher Chase-Dunn in his paper ‘Evolution of Nested Networks in 

the Prehistoric U.S. Southwest: A Comparative World-Systems Approach’ uses 

a nested interaction networks approach to interpret patterns of social evolution 

in the late prehistoric U.S. Southwest within a comparative and world historical 

perspective. Place-centric interaction networks are arguably the best way to 

bound human systemic processes, because approaches that attempt to define 

regions or areas based on attributes necessarily assume homogenous character-

istics, whereas interaction itself often produces differences rather than similari-

ties. The culture area approach that has become institutionalized in the study of 

the evolution of pre-Columbian social systems is impossible to avoid, but 

the point needs to be made that important interactions occur across the bounda-

ries of the designated regions and interaction within regions produces differ-

ences as well as similarities. Networks are the best way to bound systems, but 

since all actors interact with their neighbors, a place-centric (or object-centric) 

approach that estimates the fall-off of interactional significance is also required.  

The comparative world-systems approach has adapted the concepts used to  

study the modern system for the purpose of using world-systems as the unit of  

analysis in the explanation of human social evolution. Nested networks are used  

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