superorganic


Also found in: Dictionary, Wikipedia.

superorganic

(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 ?
1917, << Do We Need a Superorganic >>, American Anthropologist, New Series, 19, 3 : 441-447.
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.
The third criticism, that Ogburn's theory analyses culture as a superorganic entity apart from human behaviour, clearly represents a misunderstanding of Ogburn's framework.
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.
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.
Halbwachs (1992), in exploring the social and collective framing of memory, rejected any Durkheimian notion of a reified or superorganic cultural memory, instead looking at how social institutions and contexts made possible certain memories, encouraging certain recollections while discouraging others (Legg 2005, p.
The difficulty of the notion of the copy in folklore is that folklore itself--rather like language--is usually understood as being anonymous, communal, and characterized by variation, where the superorganic "original" exists only in the virtual world of langue or competence or Aarne-Thompson type, and the "copy" alone--parole, performance, version--has an objective existence, even if only in the moment of utterance.
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.