The uni-lineal cultural evolution theory Essay

The uni-lineal cultural evolution theory postulates that all societies will go through an evolutionary phase from being simple hunters to living in intelligent civilizations. Although the theory points out that the evolutionary paths for all cultures are similar, the rate of change is noted to be different across societies (Erickson & Murphy, 2013). Fukuyama, a uni-linear evolution advocate, suggests that the spread of free societies is an indicator that human civilization is approaching the final stage in cultural evolution. On the other hand, the uni-lineal theory suggests the existence of a superior culture, describing the societies that are more developed as being superior over developing cultures (Fukuyama, 1992). The theory is often considered obsolete due to its ethnocentricity. The theory is further contradicted by evidence, considering different nations tend to have varied goals (Erickson & Murphy, 2013). The theory was based on a misrepresentation of the Darwinian evolution theory, and has been discounted for equating advancement with fitness.

The cyclical theory offers a variation on the uni-lineal theory by suggesting that all societies go through cycles of change. German philosopher Spengler added that these cycles are similar to an individual’s life; societies go through growth and maturity before their eventual decline. The theory is often supported by the historical rise and decline of all previous civilizations across the centuries (Murphy, 2016). This cycle repeats itself with an eventual rebirth, grow and decline. Furthermore, the theorists additionally argue that societies that learn to adapt to the changing environment can learn to survive.  In the pendular theory of social change, sociologist P.A Spengler describes these cycles as being irregular, changing, but continuous. However, this does not imply that there cannot be any social advancement. The theory fails to account the influence of the political and social environment on the development cycle of a society. Societies tend to adapt to a changing environment, influencing the level of cultural development. Although the cyclical theory is backed by historical data, it cannot account for the irregular shift in recent years towards becoming more culturally advanced without experiencing a social decline (Murphy, 2016).

Product innovation is the introduction of a new product or changes in the material and design of an already existing product. Product innovation occurs when a company identifies and takes advantage of a changing need in the marketplace. As a case in point, personal computers were introduced through the innovation of technology companies that saw a growing need in the consumer market (Rafinejad, 2007). Clayton Christensen describes disruptive innovation as a company introducing a new consumer category in an industry. In this case, personal computers created a mass market for manufacturers who only sold expensive and hard to maintain mainframe computers. Innovation creates a product that solved a preexisting problem in a market that either lacked a proper solution, or if the product provides a superior alternative to the existing solutions (Clayton, 2011). Product innovation can only occur when there is an actual need for the product in the market.

On the other hand, sustaining innovation is occurs when a company introduces products to satisfy the customers of an already existing market. This involves the introduction of new features, improving current features, or changing the build of a product. Disruptive innovation does not target an already existing market (Clayton, 2011). Already established businesses often practice sustaining innovation by predicting the future needs of the consumer. Sustaining innovation can be a deterrent to the growth of a company, especially companies that are dominant in their industries. The dominant companies prefer to sell products where there is an existing market to preserve company profits.

It is common for such companies to dismiss technological changes that could lead to a significant change in the market. However, there means that will always exist a smaller consumer base that is not served by the existing products. Smaller companies employ disruptive innovation more often by attempting to serve such markets (Rafinejad, 2007).  By introducing personal computers, HP, Apple, and other smaller companies were able to gain an edge over the reluctant tech giants such as IBM. Companies have to align themselves with the changing technology to serve changing consumer needs.

The rapidly changing nature of global market has made it possible for businesses to choose workers from a diverse labor pool. In a highly competitive market, companies are increasingly outsourcing their jobs to countries that provide cheap labor (Auer, Besse, & Méda, 2006). This has made it difficult for most industries to provide jobs to the workers in their home country as it has been witnessed by the massive layoffs across the auto industry which was one of the key industries in the US. The rapid economic growth that was witnessed between the 1950s and 1970s was significantly affected by the current global trends of offshoring and outsourcing. Technological advancements in communication and international transport have made it easier for the internalization of employment.  Internalization of employment has been further driven by the adoption of globalization across the world (Auer, Besse, & Méda, 2006).

It is important to note that the countries and areas where companies opt to do business are greatly influenced by government policies at the national and regional levels (Wainwright, 2016). The government has a key role to play in ensuring the job security of its citizens. The government should have policies that encourage businesses to retain their jobs locally. This could include the use of incentives, lower taxes, and regulations. However, it is also important for the government to avoid interfering with the competitiveness of local businesses in the global market. Isidore (2011) suggests that strong unions also play a crucial role in protecting the local labor force from the effects of globalization. Unions such as the United Auto Workers Union protect jobs of workers by getting guarantees from manufactures on job security. Job guarantees negotiated can include the building of local facilities. The job guarantees should also avoid making the union operated facilities less competitive than the non-union facilities. Negotiations with the main job creators should be used to guarantee the provision of jobs, wages, and to protect the competitiveness of the industry’s labor force (Isidore, 2011).

According to the uni-lineal evolution theory, all societies have to go through a similar development phase; from primitive hunter gatherers to living in highly developed societies. Societies can therefore be ranked according to their position on the development cycle. This assumption; however, suggests that there are societies that are superior because of their level of civil advancement. The multi-lineal theory, on the other hand, provides a variation to the assumptions made by the uni-lineal theorists. The theory provides more than one path of cultural evolution (Murphy, 2016). However, both theories are similar in that they point out that all societies go through a cycle of development. All societies have gradually advanced; becoming more civilized over the years. This can be evidenced by the increasing spread of peaceful co-existence. The two theories are also intrinsically tied to the theory of evolution. The idea of cultural advancement following a linear path was influenced by the Darwinian theory of evolution of moving from using simple tools to complex and advanced technology. Darwinian evolution explains the physical advancement of human beings along a linear development phase (Erickson & Murphy, 2013).

The main weakness of the uni-lineal cultural evolution theory was its assumption that all societies have to strictly follow a similar development path. Multi-lineal cultural evolution, on the other hand, countered this by providing several development cycles. Unlike uni-lineal evolution, multi-lineal evolutionists backed their research using scientific data. The former was highly reliant on a misinterpretation of the Darwinian theory of evolution (Erickson & Murphy, 2013).  The uni-lineal evolution theory further contrasts the multi-lineal theory by identifying civilization with the modern material culture such as urbanization and technology. The latter provides more frameworks for identifying cultural progress in society. Civilization can’t only be identified using the western definition of advancement. Some societies have different goals besides materialism (Murphy, 2016).

In spite of having an increasingly globalized market, it is difficult to select one product in the exact same form successfully in a different country. This is a result of the different cultures, economics, and administration (Auer, Besse, & Méda, 2006). Companies such as KFC and IKEA have successfully sold their products across many very diverse countries. Key to the success of both companies in the global market is innovation in new markets. KFC was highly successful in its attempt to enter the Chinese market through product localization. By working with local businesses, the company was able to innovate faster than most of its competitors. The company uses a multi-domestic strategy whereby all the business strategies are customized depending on the local market. Ikea has also experienced similar success in its attempt to sell the same product to consumers across very many diverse markets. Ikea achieves this by selling products at a very low cost, and shifting prices depending on the competitor activity in that specific region (Simmons, 2005).

Additionally, the two companies consistently provide new products depending on the needs of the market. When KFC launched in China, it drastically changed its business model. According to Shelman (2011) the successfully infused its western brand with the local characteristics. The low cost strategy used by Ikea enables it to sell in very large volumes, allowing the company to grow rapidly in every new market. By growing fast, new companies are able to keep up with the local competition. It is common to find and already existing competitor in a new country. New companies should be able to grow fast to prevent the dominant players in the market from impeding their growth. Multinationals often make the mistake by being overly reliant on just their brand identity while approaching a new market. The two multinationals have also successfully employed a customer-oriented approach to marketing. As a case in point, Ikea uses the feedback they receive from customers to consistently improve their product offering in new markets (Simmons, 2005).