A New Model of Human Cultural History Centered on ‘Modes of Relating’


Author: Brent Ranalli
Journal: Social Evolution & History. Volume 17, Number 2 / September 2018

DOI: https://doi.org//10.30884/seh/2018.02.05

This paper synthesizes two models of human cultural evolution, Marxian materialism and environmental idealism, into a single, more powerful model. At the center of the new model is a constraint: It is argued that any given human society tends to be dominated at by a single ‘mode of relating’. That is, human societies tend to relate to the spiritual world and the natural world in a way that follows the pattern set in the human social world by the mode of economic organization. The focus on ‘modes of relating’ mirrors recent advances in the anthropological study of animism as humans’ original mode of relating to the natural and spiritual worlds. A hypothesis is offered to explain the animist ‘mode of relating’ as rooted in ancestral humans’ hyper-sociality.