Integrative and Disintegrative Processes in Complex Human Societies
The overwhelming majority of humanity lives in large-scale urbanized societies organized as states. This is an evolutionary novel condition—for over 90% of our history humans lived in small-scale societies of hunters and gatherers. This remarkable transformation of human societies is considered to be one of the Major Evolutionary Transitions. But this transition is not yet complete. Unlike biological organisms, or colonies of social insects, human societies are not “organismal-like”. There are huge differences in effectiveness of governance and economic performance among nations. Further, all complex societies (so far, without exceptions) have gone through recurrent integrative and disintegrative phases, marked first by cooperation and growth and then stasis/decline and increased internal violence and immiseration.
In this CSH Winter School-2023 we review fundamental organizational principles of complex human societies, states and cities, and study a wide range of integrative and disintegrative tendencies within them. Our focus is on the balance between centripetal forces, powered by selection on collectives (cities, states, and other polities) and centrifugal forces, arising from the “selfishness” of lower-level units within collectives (special interest groups, kinship networks, and corrupt leaders).
The school will bring together an international, interdisciplinary cast of lecturers and students to review and explore both theoretical and empirical directions currently advanced by different research groups. During the school students will gain exposure to new methods and approaches and develop small research projects on their own.