Social and socio-
Ontogeny and symbolism
Social relations, human ecology, and the evolution of culture: an exploration of concepts and definitions
'Society' and 'culture' are among the most contentious concepts of the human sciences. Sometimes treated as virtually synonymous, sometimes radically distinguished, their study has been maintained as the particular preserve of social and cultural anthropology, at the same time as it has been opened up by biologists to embrace almost the entire field of animal behaviour. This chapter is an attempt to resolve some of the conceptual ambiguities surrounding these notions, through an exploration of both the continuities and the contrasts between the worlds of humanity and of non-human animals. The argument is presented in three main parts. The first examines alternative foundations of sociality, distinguishing its interactive, regulative, and constitutive forms, and establishes the connections between social life, consciousness, and culture. This leads, in the second part, to a discussion of the ways in which human beings and other animals construct their environments, and to a characterization of the connection, established in production, between social and ecological systems. In the third part, a contrast is set up between definitions of culture that emphasize its non-genetic mode of transmission, and those that rest on the symbolic organization of experience. This contrast is linked to the distinction between learning and teaching, and to alternative views of the possible analogies and contrasts between 'biological' and 'cultural' evolution. The chapter concludes with a word on the relation between learning, thinking, and consciousness.