Social Qualitative Development
Written by Dr. Nash Popovic
We propose that societies develop through stages akin to those of individual development. After all, any society consists of individuals (although, of course, it cannot be reduced to them), so some parallels can be expected.
The concept of stages has lost traction though, not so much because of empirical data (that are open to various interpretations), but mainly because of two concerns: determinism and inequality. So, we should address them first.
Determinism – until the early 20th century, social determinism was popular among both idealists (e.g. Hegel) and materialists (e.g. Marx). Later on, however, the idea that there is a particular trajectory of social development was largely abandoned (with the notable exception of Teilhard de Chardin). One reason for this was a teleological overtone of those theories that was a mismatch for the dominant zeitgeist. The other more important reason was that social determinism didn’t go very well with human freedom. If global social processes were determined, this could mean that historical events and even individuals themselves are also determined – not leaving much room for choice and free will (the basis of political and legal systems in most of the world). This concern is not warranted though. Recognising that there is a particular trajectory of social development (at least up to a point, which will be clarified below) does not imply inevitability of any social event and can be compatible with individual choices. It only means that a society and humankind as a whole may sooner or later, in one way or another, reach a certain stage of development (that is, if that society or humankind does not perish beforehand). To repeat the above analogy, the fact that every person (who lives long enough) goes