Neo-Evolutionism: American School of Thought for Competitive Exams

Get unlimited access to the best preparation resource for UGC : Get detailed illustrated notes covering entire syllabus: point-by-point for high retention.

Download PDF of This Page (Size: 298K)

Neo-Evolutionism: American School of Thought (Anthropology)

Neo-Evolutionism: American School of Thought

  • Classical or Unilinear Evolutionists had to face rough criticism by 20th century diffusionists and relativists, on the ground of empirical data. Diffusionists empahsized upon the need of cultural diffusion which brought about similarities in cultures of the world. They disfavored the idea of ‘psychic unity’ and ‘parallel inventions’ on the argument that basically men were uninventive, but they had limitless capacity to adapt and imitate, which is possible either by diffusion or by migration.

  • In order to remove short comings, Neo-evolutionary scheme was proposed by Neo-evolutionists. Among Neo-evolutionists, Leslie White and Julian Steward of America and V. Gordon Childe of Britain occupy most significant place in reviving evolutionary theory.

Image of Neo-Evolutionism: American School of Thought

Image of Neo-Evolutionism: American School of Thought

American School of Neo-Evolutionism

  • JULIAN H. STEWARD (1902-1972)

  • He was an American anthropologist best known for “the concept and method” for cultural ecology. He gave the three ways for evolutionary data i.e.

Image of American School of Neo-Evolutionism

Image of American School of Neo-Evolutionism

  • Steward gave three-fold classification of evolutionary approaches.

  • Unilinear cultural evolution: It assumes that all societies follow the same path. Each evolves from simpler to complex forms.

  • Universal cultural evolution: It argues that mankind developed throughout the world passing through the same culture development stage.

  • Multilinear cultural evolution: It deals with the development of multiple cultures.

Steward’S Multilinear Evolution

  • He was of the opinion that all cultures of the world have not passed through the same development stage, rather their stages were different in different areas or sub-areas. For example, the sequences of cultural developments, in ice-area, deserted area, forested area and plain area are different due to varied environmental situation.

  • Multilinear evolution is a methodology based on assumption that significant regularities or parallels occur in cultural change, and it is concerned with the determination of cultural laws. Its method is empirical rather than deductive.

  • Steward suggested a systematic way to study the dynamics of man-habitat interaction so as to get a process and at the same time to provide cross-cultural generalizations. Also known as the ‘father of cultural ecology’, he was of the view that human-habitat interaction is instrumental in formation of a culture.

Leslie a. White (1900-1975)

  • He was a student of Franz Boas but he was also influenced by the work of Tylor and Morgan. Therefore, he was more interested in progressive course of cultural evolution.

  • He wrote ethnographies books on Pueblo people, “The science of Culture” in 1949. He put emphasis that culture is most important components for the technology development.

  • Culture represents the dynamic, integrated and symbolic systems for technology. Cultural development rose to development in technology.

  • In his book “The Evolution of Culture” in 1959, he argued that ‘energy’ is the key point for culture evolution. This was explained as energy exists in the human body and it’s harnessed by the men and women in the field. Infield for resources like plants, making fire, for domestication purpose, intensive work in agriculture field increase the efficiency in cultural evolution.

  • White tends to attempt study in cultural evolution in manner of technology and scientific development.

  • Image of Steward’s Multilinear Evolution

    Image of Steward’S Multilinear Evolution

According to White, culture is divided in to four aspect i.e.,


Q1. Which of the following doesn’t belong to the Neo-evolutionary School?

  1. Julian H. Steward

  2. Leslie A. White

  3. V. Gordon Childe

  4. E. B Tylor

Answer: (d) E.B. Tylor

Q2. Who studied the Pueblo People?

  1. R.R. Marett

  2. Julian H. Steward

  3. Leslie White

  4. Franz Boas

Answer: (c) Leslie White

Q3. The book “The Evolution of Culture” was written by

  1. Leslie White

  2. Franz Boas

  3. L.H. Morgan

  4. E.B. Tylor

Answer: (a) Leslie White

Q4. ‘Multilinearism’ as a methodology was developed by:

  1. Leslie White

  2. Franz Boas

  3. Julian Steward

  4. L.H. Morgan

Answer: (a) Leslie White

Q5. Who is known as the father of ‘Cultural Ecology’?

  1. Julian Steward

  2. L. H. Morgan

  3. Franz Boas

  4. Leslie White

Answer: (a) Julian Steward

#Neo Evolutionism

# American School of thought

# Julian Steward

# Multilinear Evolution

#Leslie White

#Cultural Evolution

#Anthropological Theories

#Socio-cultural Anthropology


Developed by: