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A Treatise on Social Theory

A Treatise on Social Theory

Volume 2. Substantive Social Theory


  • Date Published: February 1989
  • availability: Available
  • format: Paperback
  • isbn: 9780521369831

£ 45.99

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About the Authors
  • 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.

    • Completes the trilogy, applying original social theory to concrete case of twentieth-century English society
    • Volumes I and II widely praised as 'remarkable', 'magisterial' and 'a bravura performance'
    • Well-known and highly respected author, Runciman known not only for social theory but also for leading the Commission on Social Justice, and chairing The Royal Commission on Criminal Justice
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    Reviews & endorsements

    'This is a masterpiece: in its scope and its command of historical and ethnographic detail, it is reminiscent of Economy and Society; in its systematization more gripping.' David Lockwood

    'It is an astonishing bravura performance … I have not come across another approach to comparative history which has impressed me so much.' Eric Hobsbawm

    'This is an important and remarkable book. It is extremely ambitious offering nothing less than a general theory of human society, and the confrontation of that theory with the historical material. The quality of the material is commensurate with the ambition.' Ernest Gellner

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    Product details

    • Date Published: February 1989
    • format: Paperback
    • isbn: 9780521369831
    • length: 508 pages
    • dimensions: 229 x 29 x 152 mm
    • weight: 0.74kg
    • availability: Available
  • Table of Contents

    1. Introduction: the case of twentieth-century England
    2. The case reported
    3. The case explained
    4. The case described
    5. The case evaluated.

  • Author

    W. G. Runciman, Trinity College, Cambridge

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