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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Innovation Innovation

  • Author(s): Read, Dwight W
  • van der Leeuw, Sander E
  • Lane, David
  • et al.

We seek explanation for how a species with our complex social systems could have arisen. We argue that an “innovation innovation” took place during hominin evolution that decoupled organizational change from a Darwinian evolutionary process and underlies the forms of social organization we find in human societies today. We discuss enculturation as a mode of cultural transmission that enabled our species to construct and transmit forms of social organization in which individual functionality derives from systematic organization of behavior, itself subject to endogenous change. We discuss a possible evolutionary pathway through which this change in the basis for societal organization could have arisen. The evolutionary pathway incorporated new cognitive abilities that enabled constructed, conceptual relations between individuals (cultural, rather than biological, kinship), along with recursive reasoning as a way to form new relations through composition of relations, to become the basis for social organization.

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