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From the simple to the complex
Anatomy by Level of Organization

AideLinked Module:  l'Être socialLinked Module:  Evolution Channel : CultureLinked Module:   Social Psychology
Linked Module:  Cultural differences alter brain's hard-wiringLinked Module:   Unweaving the tangled webLinked Module:   The Young and the NeuroLinked Module:  Inverse correlation between norms and behaviour ?


Tool Module: Sociology

The recent transformations in parental roles in the Western nuclear family have made children more independent. Their socialization thus comes more and more from school, youth groups, and from the workplace, once they enter it.

This freedom is a two-edged sword. Being open to many influences can make children more well rounded, but the lack of clear guideposts can lead to a kind of relativism that stunts their moral development. Indeed, many young people rightly sense a great void in our consumer society and try to fill it through escapist entertainment or massive consumption of psychotropic drugs.


If society may be defined as the framework within which all organized human relationships and exchanges take place, then culture may be defined as all the products of these exchanges, including individual behaviours, objects, techniques and rituals, institutions, symbols, etc.

Human cultures vary considerably. Some are based solely on oral tradition, while others have vast libraries. In some, a good father must act like a tyrant; in others, he must be a tolerant protector. Some cultures forbid the consumption of pork, for religious reasons, while others consider it a meat of choice. And so on.

The emergence of language was a watershed event that made this astonishing diversity of human cultures possible. By enabling people to exchange meanings by making sounds, language becomes the starting point for cultural evolution. By transmitting the ideas, customs, and art forms specific to a culture, language gives the members of that culture’s community a feeling of belonging to it.

The following diagram summarizes the various influences that contribute to social evolution (place your cursor over each underlined term to see a brief definition).

The structure of any social group is so complex and evolves so continuously that any attempt to define it as a whole will encounter many obstacles.

How can individuals break free of the propaganda that tries to reduce their myriad fields of endeavour to the consumption reflex alone? They cannot, unless they personally have at least a minimum of material resources, cultural resources (knowledge, in particular), and affective resources (openness to the world, curiosity, etc.).

But some collective measures are also essential to guarantee some space for the solidarity that is necessary for physical and social survival. In our societies today, the distribution of resources is highly inegalitarian, and there are many obstacles on the path to collective action.

One thing is certain: if we hope to one day build a social and economic structure that can free all of us from primitive relations of dominance, we will first have to learn to know ourselves better.

Linked Module: Le Gambit du Fou
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