Saturday, May 29, 2010

How human societies developed

The idea of evolution of human societies has today been severely questioned. That all societies are fated to follow the same line of development seems rather absurd. Not only was this idea incorrect, but it also played host to a host of notorieties. It set forth the final aim of all societies- those who created it, the Western scholars- and demonstrated that which they considered the nascent stages of man in general- the "savages", "primitive peoples", etc. as found in the newly explored areas of Asia, Africa, Australia, Oceania, Latin America, and even the fringes of North America and Europe.

However, giving up such an evolutionary view of societal development need not mean giving up a linear view of it. In fact, it is a linear view that makes a historical appraisal of a given society possible and without which one would have to remain mum about how any given group of people are living today as they are.

For this kind of an approach, it would suffice to look at our own society at the outset: from the right to adult franchise at one point of time, we moved towards a right to get information about what had been classified government documents. These two points (though it is too simple like this, considered in isolation) give a certain direction to the kind of life that we are living and will live in the future. Take, as a more plentiful example, the development of communication in our society. From telegraphs and letters to the radio, newspapers and telephone, then the cable TV along with emails and today social broadcast networks. Along with a technological development, we can see a linear development in the amount of comfort that one could afford, in the amount of roles one could have played, in the amount of exposure to information (and misinformation) one has had and also the amount of time one can waste. This is the case of our society. How about finding such 'points of interests' in other societies, and seeing how they join together? For example, for aboriginal Indian people, the British caused a drift towards alienation from what was considered legitimate living. Though they were close to the rest of the nation in the independence struggle, one sees them, today, again as the scapegoat of many govt. laws and policies. Is it not possible to construct a linear flow from that point to this?

Linear patterns need not be altogether difficult to see through time, but they need not be cosmically predetermined too.

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