,” according to which human societies progress from a theological stage, which is dominated by religion, through a metaphysical stage, in which abstract speculative thinking is most prominent, and onward toward a positivist stage, in which empirically based scientific theories prevail.
The most encompassing theory of social evolution was developed by , who, unlike Comte, linked social evolution to biological evolution.
These three ideas were already prominent in Greek and Roman antiquity and have characterized Western social thought since that time.
This universal human potential for social change has a biological basis.
It is rooted in the flexibility and adaptability of the human species—the near absence of biologically fixed action patterns (instincts) on the one hand and the enormous capacity for learning, symbolizing, and creating on the other hand.
The specific meaning of social change depends first on the social entity considered.
Changes in a small group may be important on the level of that group itself but negligible on the level of the larger society.
Similarly, the observation of social change depends on the time span studied; most short-term changes are negligible when examined in the long run.