Categories Anthropology I

I.6.(f) Neo- evolutionism- Julian Steward

Julian Steward’s Multilinear Evolution

The evolutionary schools of thought have been classified by Julian Steward into Unilinear, Universal and Multilinear Evolutionary Models.

He defined multilinear evolution as a methodology concerned with regularity in social change, the goal of which is to develop cultural laws empirically. 

He termed his approach multilinear evolution, and defined it as “a methodology concerned with regularity in social change, the goal of which is to develop cultural laws empirically”.

The following are the general views on the scheme of Multilinear Evolution.

  1. All the cultures of the world develop through different stages and not through same stages.
  2. Cross cultural analysis is an important tool to understand and study the cultural parallels regularities.
  3. Multilinear Evolution is a Methodology to study cultural change with an assumption that cultural parallels exists.
  4. This approach is empirical than deductive and is based on historical reconstruction and does not subscribe to the view that historical data can be classified into universal stages. It is determined with the idea of cultural laws.

Multilinear Evolution method

  1. Multilinear Evolution is concerned with establishing sequences of parallel development and studies them empirirically.
  2. The methodology of this model is based on the twin concepts of Parallelism and the study of parallelism, involves a search for causality which has to be investigated in empirical reality.
  3. The assumption and (also the thesis) of Steward is that societies that exist in similar environment and with same technology would parallel one another in their form of political, economic and other social organizations also.
  4. Thus, there exists an interaction between environment and technology and technology is only a variable in hands of environment and hence is definitelynot an ultimate factor responsible for evolution.

These assumptions and theses of Multilinear view based that first study particular cultures and then making crosscultural generalizations, i.e.  to evolve particular with general.

Steward also developed the idea of culture types that have “cross-cultural validity and show the following characteristics:

  • they are made up of selected cultural elements rather than cultures as wholes;
  • these cultural elements must be selected in relationship to a problem and to a frame of reference; and
  • the cultural elements that are selected must have the same functional relationships in every culture fitting the type”.

To make systematic cross-cultural generalizations, Julian Steward has provided a way to analyze man- habitat interaction in his cuItural ecoIogy model. According to the cultural ecological model, not all feature of a given habitat and ecology are relevant to a given socio cultural system nor all aspects of a sociocultural system are affected or equally affected by man-environment interaction. This will leave only the evolutionary  important portion of socio-cultural system to be analyzed. This part is called by Steward as cultural core.

The technology of the system is the basic component of the core.  technology should also be analyzed in terms of the conditions of local habitat. The core, according to Steward, is more closely related to economic and subsistent activities.

Procedures Of Cultural Ecology Model

  1. Analysis of interrelationship between technology and environment.
  2. Analysis of the behavior patterns involved in exploitation of a particular area by means of a particular
  3. Analysis of the extent to which the above behavior pattern affects other aspects of culture.

Weaknesses of Steward’s Scheme

  1. The concept of Multilinear evolutionism of Steward is unexplained because the question of the “how many is Multilinear” still remains.
  1. The concept of culture core is similar to Marxism and the concept itself is very confusing.

Leslie White criticized Steward for confusing history with evolution, because history is concerned with particulars, while evolution seeks to generalize.

Leave a Reply