Social Institutions: The Engine of Human Change

Social institutions—groups of people working toward a common aim—began with people who shared a language. From this, small-scale social structures developed. These structures have evolved  over time: Today they include local schools and businesses, as well as nations.

My work examines how these social institutions function, and where they have succeeded and failed over the course of history. In particular, I focus on the debates over social priorities within each institution. There are five main areas I’m currently exploring:

Origins of Social Evolution: Language and Institutional Evolution

Early humans were smart but did not have the ability to complete a sentence. This theory explores how adolescent children formed a group, created spoken language through play, and began the processes of detailed communication, collaborative groups, and social institutions. The theory goes on to examine how language spread throughout Africa and how African communities settled the Earth. This process marks the beginning of the large-scale social institutions we know today.

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Migration in World History

As soon as early language communities formed, migration from one group to another became a major process for learning. Communities linked by migration settled the Earth, leading to Pleistocene-era transformation of habitats, Holocene-era climate stability, Medieval collisions of climate and society, and Anthropocene social inequality and degradation of the environment.

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The Founders: A Novella

This imaginative essay is to tell the story of the East African children who created language. It traces the early results of their work and play: the excitement of exchanging ideas and creating words for every action, emotion, object, and experience. Their little group survived and they went on to teach language to new generations and new communities.

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Priorities in Today’s Institutions

What are the dynamics of institutions both large and small? What are their objectives of these institutions? How did they evolve? My research on today’s institutions begins by categorizing them into four sectors of society: households, the private sector, the public sector, and foundations. I also examine the work that individuals and groups are doing within these sectors.

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The arts and culture of people worldwide, connected by new social institutions and networks, provide a public arena for sharing and debate. While the local cultures of separate communities and ethnic groups persist, these groups have been exchanging and combining ideas about music, dress, visual art, poetry, prose, and drama for centuries. This has created a global basis for discussion—even consensus—among people all over the world.

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