What Is Evolution Theory in Sociology?


Vincent White

In sociology, the theory of evolution is an essential concept that helps explain how societies change over time. This theory is based on the idea that societies evolve, just like living organisms do. The evolution of society is a complex process that involves various factors such as technology, culture, and politics.

What is Evolution Theory?

Evolution theory in sociology refers to the idea that societies change and develop over time. Just like living organisms evolve through natural selection, societies also evolve through a process of social selection. The concept of evolution theory in sociology was first introduced by Herbert Spencer in the 19th century.

Spencer argued that society could be understood as a living organism, with different parts working together to maintain its functioning. He believed that societal evolution was driven by the survival of the fittest, where those societies that were better adapted to their environment would thrive and those that were not would decline.

The Three Stages of Societal Evolution

According to Spencer’s theory, societal evolution occurs in three stages:

1. The Simple Society

The first stage is characterized by small and simple societies that are based on kinship ties and are primarily concerned with meeting basic needs such as food and shelter. In this stage, there is little specialization or differentiation in terms of social roles.

  • Example: The hunter-gatherer society.

2. The Complex Society

The second stage is characterized by larger and more complex societies with more specialized roles and a more formalized system of governance. In this stage, there is greater differentiation between social roles and institutions.

  • Example: Feudalism.

3. The Industrial Society

The third stage is characterized by the rise of industrialization and modernization. In this stage, there is a greater emphasis on technology and science, and society becomes more complex and interconnected.

  • Example: Modern-day societies.

Criticism of Evolution Theory

Although evolution theory has been influential in the field of sociology, it has also been criticized for its emphasis on progress and its neglect of cultural differences. Some sociologists argue that evolution theory is too deterministic and oversimplifies the complex processes involved in societal change.


Evolution theory in sociology is an essential concept that helps explain how societies change over time. By understanding the different stages of societal evolution, we can better understand how societies function and develop. However, it’s important to recognize that societal evolution is a complex process that involves many different factors, including culture, politics, and economics.