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Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition$
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Linnda R. Caporael, James R. Griesemer, and William C. Wimsatt

Print publication date: 2013

Print ISBN-13: 9780262019552

Published to MIT Press Scholarship Online: May 2014

DOI: 10.7551/mitpress/9780262019552.001.0001

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The Reproduction of the Social

The Reproduction of the Social

A Developmental System Approach

(p.307) 14 The Reproduction of the Social
Developing Scaffolds in Evolution, Culture, and Cognition

Iddo Tavory

Simona Ginsburg

Eva Jablonka

The MIT Press

We present a developmental system theory (DST) approach to social-cultural evolution, which emphasizes how self-sustaining feedback interactions lead to the persistence of a social world over time. We suggest that a landscape metaphor, based on Conrad Waddington’s epigenetic landscape model, can capture some important features of such social reproduction. To flesh out the approach, we analyse an example of such a social system—the persistence of an orthodox Jewish community in a Los Angeles neighbourhood, which is thriving in the midst of a secular space in the modern city. We argue that understanding the dynamics of social reproduction provides analytic leverage for understanding how departures from a particular reproduction dynamics occur, and how cultural dynamics can be understood.

Keywords:   Cultural evolution, Developmental system theory (DST), Epigenetic landscape, Waddington

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