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(of human social evolution) superimposed upon, and surpassing, merely organic evolution. The term was introduced by Herbert SPENCER, and his choice of this term reflects his view that evolution must be viewed as a transformation that has taken place in three realms: the inorganic, organic, and superorganic. For Spencer, the superorganic is not a feature only of human evolution; it applies also to some social insects as well as many animals. But superorganic evolution is a central aspect particularly in human evolution.

Use of the term 'superorganic’ (rather than the terms ‘cultural’ or CULTURE) reflects a commitment by Spencer that human social development can only be understood in evolutionary terms, in which, while different from biological evolution, human social evolution retains a basic continuity with biological evolution.

This leaves open the question of how different is social evolution. While for Spencer there were definite continuities between the three types of evolution – inorganic, organic, superorganic – other sociologists have not always agreed and have tended instead to emphasize a sharp break between human culture and all previous forms of evolution. See also EVOLUTIONARY SOCIOLOGY, SOCIOCULTURAL EVOLUTION.

References in periodicals archive ?
(41) Ver DUNCAN, James S., "The Superorganic in American Cultural Geography", en Annals of the Association of American Geographers, Vol.
SAPIR E., 1917, << Do We Need a Superorganic >>, American Anthropologist, New Series, 19, 3 : 441-447.
However, only a few practitioners, notably Carter (1968) and Zelinsky (1973), concerned themselves with the conceptual implications of the landscape approach and even then the concern was with links to the superorganic concept of culture from anthropology (Kroeber, 1917) and not with behaviorist concepts from psychology.
Kroeber had published "The Superorganic" (a term taken from Herbert Spencer) in the American Anthropologist in 1917; it was anthropology's declaration of independence from biology and the grounding of the foundational concept of culture for anthropology.
Herbert Spencer (1967), a contemporary of Marshall, is the first to coin the term "superorganic" to describe human organization.
Folklorists frequently approach cinema, especially popular cinema, as an artistic text which has some kind of superorganic existence outside of the culture which produces it (see Thomas 1980, Degh 1994).
My concern has been to go beyond a conception of oral literature as disembodied superorganic stuff and to view it contextually and ethnographically, in order to discover the individual, social, and cultural factors that give it shape and meaning in the conduct of social life.
Perhaps Spencer's most pervasive effect has been on our language for analytic discourse; he either coined or popularized such important ideas as evolution (first used in 1854 as a less value-laden term than progress), superorganic, "survival of the fittest" (in: 1852, seven years before Darwin's Origin of Species), system, equilibrium, institution, structure, function, differentiation, adaptation, and social development.
In general terms, Ogburn conceptualized culture as our "social heritage", the "superorganic" which he got from Herbert Spencer's evolutionary theory, and "civilization" (Ogburn 1966, pp.
This fiction of ultimate ownership by an individual office is none the less legally real, just as the superorganic constructions of the Dreaming or Aboriginal Law have reality in Aboriginal culture and society.
However, we live our lives as individuals, not as some "superorganic" being.
This kind of discourse, in which the domination and incorporation of two New World continents by a North Atlantic capitalism is construed as matters of adaptive advantage, the class of superorganic cultures, and inevitability will seem naively unhistorical and distorting to most scholars of American Indian studies.