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The Theory of Cultural and Social Selection

£21.99

  • Date Published: November 2009
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521136143

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About the Authors
  • In The Theory of Cultural and Social Selection, W. G. Runciman presents an original and wide-ranging account of the fundamental process by which human cultures and societies come to be of the different kinds that they are. Drawing on and extending recent advances in neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory, Runciman argues that collective human behaviour should be analyzed as the acting-out of information transmitted at the three separate but interacting levels of heritable variation and competitive selection - the biological, the cultural, and the social. The implications which this carries for a reformulation of the traditional agenda of comparative and historical sociology are explored with the help of selected examples, and located within the context of current debates about sociological theory and practice. The Theory of Cultural and Social Selection is a succinct and highly imaginative contribution to one of the great intellectual debates of our times, from one of the world's leading social theorists.

    • A concise discussion of one of the fundamental debates of our time, from one of the world's leading social theorists
    • Takes neo-Darwinian evolutionary theory into a sociological framework in a way that has not previously been done in such depth
    • Endeavours to break down resistance to neo-Darwinian theory from sociologists and anthropologists
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'Runciman's puzzle is how to bring together different levels of change and differentiation in human existence - from the biological to the social - under a single analytic framework, one that rests firmly on a Darwinian logic of selection. … Runciman … deal[s] ultimately with human freedom or lack of it. Our choices in life are constrained, on the one hand by the physical facts of our place in the natural world given our universal evolutionary heritage, and on the other hand by locally varying institutional facts that determine how our behaviour will be interpreted and judged by those around us. Fires and billboards made from dollar bills put the distinctions suggested by Runciman … into sharp relief by exploiting physical properties of artefacts while rejecting their institutional properties. ' The Times Literary Supplement

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    Product details

    • Date Published: November 2009
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521136143
    • length: 266 pages
    • dimensions: 227 x 152 x 14 mm
    • weight: 0.44kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    Preface
    Prologue. The Darwinian legacy
    1. The neo-Darwinian paradigm
    2. Natural selection and evoked behaviour
    3. Cultural selection and acquired behaviour
    4. Social selection and imposed behaviour
    5. Selectionist theory as narrative history
    Epilogue. Sociology in a post-Darwinian world.

  • Instructors have used or reviewed this title for the following courses

    • Social Change and Modernization
    • Sociology of Popular Culture
  • Author

    W. G. Runciman, University of Cambridge
    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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