Ken Wilber does probably the best job of explaining and applying the "ontogeny recapitualtes phylogeny" concept. He describes eight stages in the evolution of individual consciousness and shows how at least the lower five stages relate to the development of society as a whole throughout history. For example, the "mythic mebership stage" involves classifying oneself and others as members of groups. As a child's development goes along, he or she seeks out what social groups he or she belongs to and what one he or she doesn't belong to. Then the child enters the mindset of asserting the superiority of the group s/he belongs to while antagonizing the groups s/he is not a part of. At this stage one's identity is defined as whatever group lables are applied to oneself.
One needs only to turn on the news to see whole nations collectively at the "mythic membership" level. I would explain the other levels, but I'd end up typing for a long time and lessening my chances of getting a decent night's sleep tonight.