Categories Anthropology I

I.6.(f) Neo- evolutionism- Elman Service

Service gave “Law of Evolutionary Potential’‘ in the context of culture.

This “law,” borrowed from biological evolution, states “The more specialized and adapted a form in a given evolutionary stage, the smaller its potential for passing on to the next stage.”

He developed the concept of general evolutionary change and specific evolutionary change.

Elman Service defined four classifications of the stages of social evolution which are also the four levels of political organizations: band, tribe, chiefdom, and state.

He also developed the “managerial benefits” theory that states that chiefdom-like society developed because it was apparently beneficial, because of the centralized leadership. The leader provides benefits to the followers, which, over time, become more complex, benefiting the whole chiefdom society. This keeps the leader in power, and allows the bureaucratic organization to grow.

He also had an integration theory. He believed that early civilizations were not stratified based on property. They were only stratified based on unequal political power, not because of unequal access to resources. He believed there were no true class conflicts, but only power struggles between the political elite in early civilizations. The integration part of this theory was that monuments were created through volunteering, not the leaders forcing it upon the populace.


  • Tobati: Paraguayan Town
  • A Profile of Primitive Culture
  • Evolution and Culture
  • Primitive Social Organization
  • Profiles in Ethnology
  • The Hunters
  • Cultural Evolutionism
  • Origins of the State and Civilization
  • A Century of Controversy,

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