Patrick Manning: The Origins of Social Evolution. Language and Institutional Evolution


This study hypothesizes the emergence of social evolution in northeast Africa, about 70,000 years ago. The combined emergence of syntactic language and collaborative groups generated a process of systematic social change. Spoken language itself and its speaking community, as they solidified, became the first social institutions. A deductive theory formalizes the emergence of language in a group of youths, tracing the “institutional evolution” of their community in a model inspired by Darwinian logic. The model relies on innovative variation in creating institutions, on institutional inheritance by succeeding generations, and a process of social selection that preserves the institutions seen as fit. It is argued that the articulation of this theory, with its testing on evidence from the late Pleistocene era, should help sort out relations among the many current research projects in human biological, cultural, and social evolution.

[social evolution, syntactic language, we-group behavior, institutional change, social selection]