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Wild to Civilized

Human movement patterns

from nomadic packs in the African wilderness

to megacities in a global industrial civilization

From decentralization to centralization

to sum it up mathematically

From small nomadic packs 

in the African wilderness . . .

Skip Schloming, Ph.D.

Lenore Monello Schloming, M.A.

Independent sociologists

Bios below

. . . to megacities linked in

a global industrial civilization

A work in progress presents the authors’ linked doctoral dissertations and new material in a form accessible to general readers as well as scholars. Topic pages are in various stages, from near-final, to needing work, to briefly summarized.

Human movement patterns

    A new way to study human society and history


     When social scientists and historians talk about social class, social structure, feudalism, industrialization and many similar topics, we seldom, never really know the ground-level, observable reality to which these concepts refer. This work takes the unusual position that the most fundamental reality of human existence is our movements. At every moment in time, we always move in the horizontal plane. In other words, we stand, walk, and sit on the various surfaces under our feet and bodies.

    Because we are physical creatures, we are always, at every moment, ruled by gravity. We are always in contact with the surfaces under us. We can “fly” in the air only by a vehicle in which we sit or stand, that lifts us up in the air. We always walk and hike and run across more or less horizontal surfaces. Even sleep occurs on surfaces such as beds or even just upon layers of straw, and our sleep can be described as near-zero movement.

      Yes, we have many other types of movement – gesture, facial expression, speech – but these other types of movement always occur in conjunction with our whole-body horizontal movements. Indeed, as we hope to show, we can often infer the quality of these other types of movement from our horizontal movements.

From this fundamental level of movement, we can describe movement patterns, ways of moving that repeat over time. Movement patterns that repeat over time can be called “social structure.” Movement patterns that change over time can be called history. In theory, these movement patterns can be described physically and measured.

    For example, we gather in big cities or we spread out in small groups, but we cannot do both at the same time in the same space. We meet the same few people every day or we interact briefly with each one of many different people we encounter in a day, but again, we cannot do both at the same time in the same space. Small groups and large organizations and whole civilizations come into existence, last for a time, and dissolve to form new groups, organizations, and civilizations.

From prehistoric Africa to today’s global economy,

    from wild to civilized,

        from decentralization to centralization


     In the long view of all human history, we have transformed from living in small nomadic packs of hunter-gatherers in the prehistoric African wilderness to becoming settled villages surviving on subsistence agriculture, to developing into towns as early trading centers for food and multiple nonfood products, to becoming cities with widespread trade networks of many highly specialized products, cities that ultimately become linked into regional or far-flung empires under centralized military control. It ends with our modern global industrial civilization, with many cities comprised of increasingly tall, grand buildings of concrete, steel, and glass. How much further can we go?

     When we analyze the human movement patterns involved, we see an amazing transformation from widely dispersed small groups – decentralization – to many dense settlements interconnected by a vast transportation system – centralization. In real life situations today, however, areas of relative decentralization, such as homes and family groups, are intermixed with areas of relative centralization, such as towns and cities.


Movement: A scientific way to study society and history

     The study of society and the study of history have not yet become scientific disciplines on the same order as the “hard” sciences: physics, astronomy, chemistry, and biology. Tying research to our human movement patterns would make both fields more scientific.

      Are we humans fundamentally different from all other physical phenomena? Yes. We have big brains. We have language. We invent religions and laws and technologies. But, we move. We share movement with all other physical phenomena, from astronomical to infinitestimal. Even plants move, as time-delay photography shows, but the speed of movement in plants is much slower than the speed of movement of animals.

Basic movement patterns

      This movement perspective originated in the work of Nobel-prize-winning scholar Konrad Lorenz, who studied animals in their natural habitats, the field of ethology. Lenore Monello Schloming, co-author of this Wild to Civilized project, combined Lorenz’s many observations in his major work “On Aggression” with her own observations of movement patterns among dogs and other species – and formalized them into a typology. Curiously, the quality of space itself allows only three basic arrangements or movement patterns among vertebrates of the same species, as we now describe.

Everyone together, flocks, herds, crowds, head-to-tail formations.  Anonymous followers in a protective crowd; when one is startled, they all flee together in the same direction.

Everyone apart, territorial individuals, head-to-head confrontations. The dominant one claims the space it occupies and scares off the submissive intruder, who flees and then seeks its own territory.

Together with some, apart from others, packs, bonded pairs, tribes, head-to-head formations with partners, head-to-tail formations with outsiders:  Personal, long-term bonds with aggression redirected against outsiders or towards a shared goal.

     Each pattern has a typical spatial arrangement as well as its own quality of relationships. Aggression can be defined as forward movement towards an object. Fear is retreat. Dominance and submission, a pervasive behavior in humans and some other species, can also be identified in terms of movement.

The classic concepts: Community and Society

     This work aims to define, in a precise way, two fundamental concepts in the study of society, the concepts of Community and Society, sometimes called by the German terms Gemeinschaft and Gesellschaft, respectively.

Community refers to small, close-knit groups with long-lasting personal friendship bonds within each group, what we call decentralization.  Society refers to a large collection of people who move rapidly and have many brief, impersonal, stereotyped relationships. We call it centralization.

     These two concepts are theoretical extremes. Many intermediate forms occur in actual societies. But a tension always exists between the two forms since their movement patterns are incompatible within the same space.

     These two concepts were first identified by two emigré aristocrats, Louis de Bonald and Joseph de Maistre, who fled France to escape the French Revolution (1789) and the guillotine. As descendants of feudal lords, they pushed to identify the quality of social life in medieval Europe – small farming villages, strong communal ties, and a unifying religion – which they contrasted to the emerging cities and industrialization throughout Europe and the new Enlightenment philosophies of the 17th and 18th centuries – rationalism, science, secularism, individualism, and natural law.

Movement patterns and technology, our survival skills

     A constant feature of all movement and movement patterns is their involvement with some sort of technology that helps humans to survive. The first stone tools developed in those prehistoric hunting-gathering nomadic packs. The Agricultural Revolution led to the first settled villages. As new agricultural techniques produced a food surplus, non-food-producing specialists developed the various craft technologies – bakers, cobblers, tailors, etc. – who traded their products in the first towns and markets. A huge burst of inventions led to the first cities and the subsequent rise of the industrial form of production, which accelerated with increasing speed, leading to today’s highly industrialized, interconnected, techno-digital-corporate economies around the world.

     Broadly conceived, language itself is a technology, an invention of words and ways to string them together to communicate a message that involves some kind of coordination with others, as when husbands and wives and different scholars talk with each other, the former about what to have for dinner or to hint at sex, the latter about whether the universe is infinite or how many angels can fit on the head of a pin. 

Examples of a few movement patterns

     Male warrior bands   Patterns of movement among male warrior bands occur in various forms throughout history:  male hunting groups, invading warrior bands (Vikings, Mongols, etc.), warrior bands that protect autocrats, militias, guerillas. and other groups that command lethal force (Navy Seals, Texas Rangers, “special ops,” Mexican and other cartels, local police forces, etc.), street gangs, the mafia, and more.

     Structure of government    Patterns of movement change as cities and regions are conquered and incorporated into empires with one-person autocrats (emperors, pharaohs, monarchs, dictators), who are protected from rivals by warrior classes who also enforce the autocrat’s dictates and tax collection on large populations. All governments seem to have a similar structure.

​     Promiscuity to fidelity    Patterns of movement differ in sexual relationships, from promiscuity with many brief partners to exclusive permanent bonds between two partners, as well as in-between patterns.

     From extended to nuclear families    Patterns of movement changed as extended families (parents, children, and one or more relatives, who live together and share in childcare, eldercare, food preparation/preservation, and small home-based industries).


nuclear families (parents and children only, who all leave the home to their individual bureaucratic destinations for schooling, jobs, food, clothing, and other needs).

     America’s ladder of opportunity   A nation of immigrants, recent or descendants, start out in ethnic enclaves with strong group identities and move from poverty to higher-income levels and assimilate, in varying degrees, into mass society and individualism. Their path is from decentralization to centralization. 

     The homeless    In our society of material wealth, we tend to think that all the homeless need is housing. It does not work. The homeless have lost their social support networks. Veterans, ex-prisoners, new immigrants, the mentally ill, addicts, and post-schooling youth have all lost their families and former relationships, and struggle to find new support networks.  

​Are we decentralizing now?   

     Shrinking population. Declining standard of living. Grandparents moving in. Nursing homes closing. Smaller homes. Living with more people. More private and home schooling. Trade schools booming. Doom? We are an adaptive species. 

     Decentralizing can be measured by how many resources (skills, manufacturing, raw materials, food supply, education), how many relationships (grandparents, relatives, work and trading partners, leaders), and how much rule-making are brought within smaller spaces.

Toward a world history mapping project?

     We do not intend to replace any research, but perhaps to provide a platform where relevant research can be entered, to help define movement patterns at particular times and places in history.

Organization of this work


Part I      Overview of human history and prehistory in terms of movement patterns and our methodology with movement patterns.

Part II     The three basic movement patterns that occur in vertebrates.

Part III   The three basic divisions of labor that involve humans moving in different patterns.

Part IV    Special topics:  bureaucracy, schooling, freedom & tyranny, loneliness & depression,

                 wealth & slavery, the future of civilization.

Bios: Skip Schloming, Ph.D., Lenore Monello Schloming, M.A.

     Our intellectual careers began in academia and took unexpected turns. We met and married while graduate students in sociology at Brandeis University during the tumultuous Sixties -- anti-war, anti-establishment, pro-civil-rights, and hippie communalism. Based of direct observation of various animals and the work of Konrad Lorenz, Lenore developed a typology of movement patterns among humans and other vertebrate animals. Skip linked his dissertation to Lenore's typology by focusing on how three basic types of division of labor involve movement patterns approximating Lenore's typology. Skip completed his dissertation “Centralization and Decentralization” and received his Ph.D. in 1974. Lenore completed her dissertation “The Geometry of Social Life,” had it reviewed – and received twin sons. Skip's mentors and advisors were noted conservative sociologist Robert A. Nisbet at UC Riverside and noted socialist sociologist Lewis A. Coser at Brandeis.

     Our doctoral research and the 1970s oil crisis led us to 60 acres in rural Maine where we homesteaded for ten years, built a home, workshop, and barn, and operated a small private elementary school. Skip wrote one-act musicals for our young students and subsequently wrote the book and lyrics for a full-length adult musical, a fantasy satire based on the Emperor’s New Clothes: “That Emperor’s Fool, A Musical About Nothing,”

     From our marriage onward, we managed rental housing in Cambridge and Somerville, Massachusetts, owned by Lenore’s parents and eventually by us. This property brought us back to Cambridge in 1989.

     In 1996, we became the president (Lenore) and executive director (Skip) of the Small Property Owners Association, a group of small landlords who had suffered for 25 years under Cambridge’s stringent rent control system. It launched a statewide referendum in 1994 that ended rent control in Boston, Cambridge, and Brookline by popular vote in this very liberal state. For 23 years as this group’s heads, we drafted over 200 monthly newsletters, critical of nearly every aspect of landlord-tenant law in Massachusetts. We are now drafting a work "Rents in America: Why Rental Housing Policy Fails"

     Throughout our ventures, our doctoral work remained salient. We have lately developed our ideas more fully. This website-in-progress reflects an urgency to get our ideas to scholars and the public before we die. We plan to fill it out further.

Our writings include:

     The Small Landlord Letter, on the role of small landlords, who provide affordable housing for America's moderate- and low-income tenants, many of them minorities and people of color, yet small landlords are being forced out of the rental market by ill-conceived regulation (

     Wild to Civilized, human movement patterns from the prehistoric African wilderness to today’s global industrial civilization, based on our doctoral dissertations in sociology (

      That Emperor’s Fool, a musical for all ages, a fantasy satire based on the Emperor’s New Clothes, ready for premiere production (

      In progress: Rents in America: Why Rental Housing Policy Fails, based on experience in Boston, Cambridge, and Massachusetts, and on nationwide laws usually drafted by legal services lawyers, the free lawyers for tenants, in conjunction with local tenant activists, all of them the socialist legal-services lawyers in every U.S. state and territory, funded by tax dollars.


​​Questions or comments:

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