Human settlements have undergone thousands if not millions of years of evolution, change and conflicts. According to Johnson & Earle (2000, p. 54) human foragers began spreading throughout the world over two million years ago. Maintaining their subsistence by gathering wild berries and hunting animals, this group became the first “affluent society” (Johnson & Earle, 2000, p. 54). A major cause of this affluence was the low population density and the ratio of wild food to the human population.
Because of the low population density and the reliance on cooperation and familial-level ties, there was very little social and economic stratification in these early foraging societies. This contrasts highly with human settlements of present day. Many world cities today have high levels of stratification, often with high rates of unemployment or underemployment. Even comparing human settlements of today to those within the last century one can witness the intensifying distance between those at the top strata and those in the bottom.
The question then arises: Have human settlements made progress over time in human settlements? What is progress? Is it fair to compare human settlements thousands of years apart, as technology has intensified exponentially over the span of human societies? This paper will attempt to address these issues. With a focus on the growing inequality between strata across the globe, a conclusion is made that progress has not been made in human settlements.
Using the example of an uncompleted high-rise skyscraper (referred to as the “Tower of David”) in Caracas, Venezuela, the effects of globalization and other factors will be examined. Globalization as well as the dominance of the global city network has led to the extreme “ghettoization” of this once multi-million dollar skyscraper “meant to be an emblem of Venezuela’s entrepreneurial mettle” (Romero & Diaz, 2011).
WHAT IS PROGRESS?
According to the Oxford American Dictionary, progress is defined as “forward or onward movement toward a destination; advance or development toward a better, more complete, or more modern condition.” Progress is not a purely objective term, however, especially when using it to describe human settlements. What constitutes a “better, more complete” society?
Progress must not be confused with the term evolution. Beinhocker (2006, p. 452) points out “there is nothing in evolution that guarantees progress.” The only thing that can objectively be said about progress according to Beinhocker is that evolution almost always leads to more complexity. This added complexity to human settlements accounts for much of the stratification and economic wealth disparities found throughout the history of human settlements.
Combining the dictionary definition along with Beinhocker’s opinion of evolution bringing about complexity (not necessarily progress), a new benchmark will be used in order to determine whether or not progress has been made through human...