A Treatise on Social Theory, Volume 2

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Cambridge University Press, Feb 2, 1989 - Social Science - 508 pages
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This second of three volumes sets out a general account of the structure and evolution of human societies. The author argues first that societies are to be defined as sets of roles whose incumbents are competitors for access to, or control of, the means of production, persuasion and coercion; and second, that the process by which societies evolve is one of competitive selection of the practices by which roles are defined analagous, but not reducible, to natural selection. He illustrates and tests these theses with evidence drawn from the whole range of societies documented in the historical and ethnographic record. The result is an original, powerful and far-reaching reformulation of evolutionary sociological theory which will make it possible to do for the classification and analysis of societies what Darwin and his successors have done for the classification and analysis of species.
  

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User Review  - thcson - LibraryThing

This is clearly the most detailed study of social science methodology that I've come across. The author begins by differentiating three senses of understanding in social science: reporting (what's ... Read full review

Contents

The dimensions of social structure
12
Mobility of persons and roles
27
Intersocietal comparisons and principles of taxonomy
48
Social relations
61
Functional differentiation and the accretion of power
76
Systactic identity and collective consciousness
97
Pervasive roles and central institutions
113
Reproduction polarization and compression
138
Intersocietal relations
266
Conclusion
283
Regressions and catastrophes
310
Rebellions reforms and revolutions
340
Test cases 1
367
Test cases 2
386
Test cases 3
411
Hegemony and decline
433

Contradictions and constraints
172
Functional alternatives 2
208
Functional alternatives 3
244

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About the author (1989)

W. G. Runciman has been a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1971 and of the British Academy, as whose President he served from 2001 2004, since 1975. He holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh, London, Oxford and York. He is an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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