Development of pre-class society in the evolutionist interpretation

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Abstract


The article aims at systematization of approaches to understanding the evolution of pre-class society in historical sociology. The sociological tradition of interpreting the history of pre-class society developed in the late 18th century, when A. Ferguson defined the development of society as a natural process consisting of three stages: savagery, barbarism, and civilization. In classic sociology, there were two approaches to understanding the pre-class society evolution. The first approach is presented in the works of H. Spencer, who suggested a natural-scientific interpretation of social evolution but with a more elaborated scale of the development of pre-class societies - as differing by the complexity of their social structure. The second approach is presented in the research of L.H. Morgan, who used Ferguson’s three-stage periodization as a basis but expanded the list of fundamental criteria for their differentiation (progress in inventions and discoveries, ideas of management, family and property). In the middle of the 20th century, sociology managed to overcome its dependence on psychology and economics by neo-evolutionism that linked social evolution of the archaic society with qualitative changes in its structure. Sociologists proposed schemes for the evolution of pre-class society based on the empirical evidence of its complexity - institutionalization of leadership and increasing social inequality. Moreover, sociologists included the level of labor productivity achieved in the archaic society into the list of criteria for its development, which determined a single scale of progress even for societies with other types of social organization. After debates, sociologists came to the conclusion that the evolution of pre-class societies is determined not only by their development but also by their degradation and even collapse; that all social systems can have analogues with a comparable level of complexity; and that a certain level of social organization can be achieved by different evolutionary paths.


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S. A Davydov

Saint Petersburg State University of Economics

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Email: licurg@inbox.ru
Sadovaya St., 21, Saint Petersburg, 191023, Russia

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