Monday, 18 October, 2010 Leave a comment
POLITICAL structures evolve in much the same way as biological species, according to new research. And just as species can decline and vanish without warning, unstable political groupings can also degrade and disappear.
The similarities between animal evolution and political evolution are revealed in research published last week in the journal Nature. The international research team from Japan, the UK and New Zealand [led by Thomas Currie of the University of Tokyo], showed how it could build “family trees” for emerging political structures to map out their evolutionary development.
The thing that most startled the researchers was the fact that “cultural evolution” could be mapped on to a family tree.
“This study highlights the benefits of applying the same kinds of techniques used to study complex systems in nature to investigate long-term human social and cultural evolution,” the authors write.
“Interestingly, these results indicate that political evolution, like biological evolution, tends to proceed through small steps rather than through major jumps in ‘design space’,” they say.
The price of complexity…
They also found, however, that retrograde steps do not have to progress on this “sequential” basis and can come apart more quickly than they are assembled over time.
“This could occur if small, peripheral groups break away from the control of a centralised state or complex chiefdom, or found new societies with fewer levels of political organisation, or it could occur as part of a rapid, more widespread societal collapse and the breakdown of political institutions leaving smaller, less politically complex groups in some regions.”