Earlier in history, when cultural groups were isolated from one another, they were better able to maintain their own traditions, beliefs, and values. Though there were some internal struggles, tribal and indigenous cultural groups typically had fewer sources of external conflict to contend with; they maintained their own way of life.
Traditional communities were intentionally designed to sustain community traditions. The coming together of the entire community for rites, ceremonies, and storytelling served to reaffirm the spiritual wellbeing of the community.
Later, as cultures moved around, expanded into others’ territory, and became imperialistic, their beliefs, values, and worldviews came into conflict, and struggle became the norm. New cultures emerged when two or more mixed. This is where the two primary forces of evolution—conservatism and dynamism—also came into play.
The dynamic force of change challenged tradition, or the status quo, even more. Thus, the twin opposing forces of tradition/conservatism vs. change/dynamism can be seen as laws governing the process of cultural growth and development.
Conservatism is the force that contributes to the retention of information, beliefs, customs, and other aspects of culture, and to maintaining them and passing them on to the next generation. Dynamism comprises all those elements that function to change the contents, meanings, and forms of culture over time. These two opposing forces can be envisioned as opposite ends of a spectrum.
Throughout history, interaction between the forces of conservatism and dynamism has been a fact of life, threatening traditional ways of life with exploitation, oppression, and domination, which has led to increased chaos and conflict.
This inherent struggle has gradually taken the form of a battle between sacred and secular values, as in the recent “Jihad vs. McWorld” phenomenon, the latest expression of a conflict always characterizing the end of one phase of cultural evolution and the beginning of another. This is also understood as the “death pangs” of an old order merging with the “birth pangs” of a new advance in society.