Diffusionism V Evolutionism

Topics: Anthropology, Culture, Sociology Pages: 4 (1325 words) Published: November 7, 2012
Compare any TWO of these theoretical perspectives:
Evolutionism, Diffusionism, Boasian anthropology, Functionalism and Structuralism. What are their similarities and differences with respect to their explanations of culture or society?

In contrast to the predominantly gradual changes historical societies experienced, the modern world is developing at a rapid rate. We are constantly adapting to quick and significant developments in the fields of technology, science, politics and warfare. In order to understand how the world’s cultures and societies are evolving with these changes, Anthropologists continuously discuss and develop a number of contrasting theories and ideas. Two important theoretical perspectives anthropologists have established and debated are evolutionism and diffusionism. INTENTION Dominant in 19th century anthropology, evolutionism is a perspective which suggests that cultures develop in complexity through time. Diffusionism, on the other hand, suggests that cultures, their ideas, objects and skills are transferred and spread from one area or society to another. Both are concerned with societies and their cultures changing through time yet they each provide contrasting ideas of how and why human development occurs. In this essay, I will provide a brief summary of these two theoretical perspectives before going on to compare their similarities and differences. Evolutionism, the anthropological perspective we now know began to emerge around the 1860’s. Formerly a biological concept, the concept of evolution held that organisms, animals and humans alike were intrinsically destined to increase in complexity through time. In the middle of the 19th century, this belief grew to encompass both social and cultural evolution likening itself to the anthropological perspective we now speak of today. As defined by Alan Barnard, ‘Evolutionism is an anthropological perspective which emphasises the growing complexity of culture through time(Barnard, 2000/pg...
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