The New Press Finally, I shall make explicit a simplified model of how societies as a whole work and how to approach the study of contemporary social change in the most useful, comparative, and historical way. Ethnicity and Race Stephen E. Guns, Germs, and Steel. Although industrial societies have been a great success, they have created a set of recurring and as yet unsolved problems.
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Preface [Page ix] Upon deciding to revise the first version of this book, originally published in , I thought it would be a simple matter of adding a few pages about changes since then. I was completely wrong. Not only has the world changed much more than most of us realize, but knowledge about certain aspects of the distant past have also been seriously revised by new research. Living from day to day, few of us see clearly how quickly things are changing unless we step back and compare the present with what it was like 10, 20, or 30 years ago.
When I was in high school and college I used to speak with my aged grandfather who had been born in Russia in When he was growing up there were no airplanes, no radios, no televisions, no cars, and the political order of the world, dominated by a few European empires, seemed fixed and eternal. By the time he died, everything had changed, and he used to tell me that I would see even greater changes.
Immense changes have occurred both in the global political landscape and with the technologies that seem so routine to young people that they cannot imagine a world without Facebook, downloading music, texting, cheap jet travel, or stores where almost everything manufactured seems to come from China or some other part of Asia. When I was in college there was no Islamic terrorism, the Soviet Union seemed to be an unshakable rival of the United States for world domination, and making long-distance, expensive telephone calls on black dial phones tied to fixed landlines was the only way to communicate quickly with faraway friends.
There was no such thing as AIDS, and it was still illegal in many American states to openly sell contraceptives. The American South was racially segregated by law, and some European countries like France and Portugal were still fighting wars in Africa to keep control of their colonies. However, doing so made me realize that understanding how and why things change is more important than ever.
To speak about how and why societies change is to wander into issues from the most trivial and minute to the most deeply philosophical and abstract. Why do hairstyles change from one generation to the next? Why were far fewer children in the United States named Robert or Mary in the early s than in the s?
Why are Japanese children more polite, on average, than American ones? Why did the ancient Egyptians not become monotheists like their neighbors in Israel several thousand years ago? Is the fact that Celtic speakers used to inhabit most of western and central Europe but now live only in a few fringes on the European Atlantic coastline meaningful, and if so, what does it tell us about how societies change?
Does the difference between family patterns in Africa and China account for the great differences that exist between these two parts of the world? As it happens, all of these questions, from the most profound, such as those concerning issues of religious meaning and fundamental social survival, to the most trivial, such as the one about hair styles, are of some interest.
I am sorry to warn the reader that I cannot answer all of them in this book. I do, however, hope to give the reader a useful way of thinking about why some things change and others do not. The framework for the study of social change that I am presenting is based on a few evolutionary principles.
I shall emphasize the fact that societies have to adapt to changing conditions, and that some forms of change help, whereas others impede survival. By looking at the major sorts of change that have taken place over the past 10, years or so, I am going to illustrate the basic model with which I am working. This approach may preclude the detailed examination of any single society, but it opens the way to understanding broad patterns of change.
After explaining how states and agriculture created what we have come to know as the classical civilizations, I shall spend some time showing why in one somewhat marginal agrarian civilization, in western Europe, there were changes so great that they transformed Europe and then the entire world, ending the agrarian age and bringing us into the modern industrial era.
Then I shall explore the essential features of modern industrial societies in the past two centuries that came out of that great European transformation. Although industrial societies have been a great success, they have created a set of recurring and as yet unsolved problems.
In fact, in the s we are in the early stages of a kind of crisis that has periodically occurred in the past. Such crises are a major impetus for further social change, and no student of how societies change can afford to ignore them. I shall show that [Page xi]by understanding past waves of change we can gain a better understanding of contemporary problems, and even make somewhat of a reasonable guess about how things might turn out over the next few decades.
Finally, I shall make explicit a simplified model of how societies as a whole work and how to approach the study of contemporary social change in the most useful, comparative, and historical way. Throughout the book my approach is what social scientists call macrons opposed to microscopic. That is, I am only looking at the ways in which big political structures, major ideas, and the most important ecological and social pressures have changed societies.
To be sure, in order to discuss macroscopic change, it is necessary to have in mind certain assumptions about how individuals behave. I believe that our ordinary notions about how most people try to survive, to obtain some pleasure, to socialize, to reproduce, and to find some meaning in what they do work very well to account for why societies hold together and continue to exist.
Neither basic human physiology nor psychology has changed greatly in this respect for thousands of years. What has changed, however, and what this book discusses is why, despite the essential psychological and biological similarity of humans today and those of say, 5, or 10, years ago or more, almost all aspects of our lives except for our basic physical functions are so different from what they once were. Despite the basic similarity of all human beings on earth today we are all one species and interbreed perfectly well , why are there such huge differences in economic, social, and political behavior in various parts of the globe?
I am convinced that getting closer to an answer to these questions is one of the main purposes of studying social change. Those with a wide range of historical and comparative facts at their command can begin to explain why there are such differences and why societies evolve in different ways.
They can objectively examine what new ideas work best as societies continue to adapt and change, and this is better than relying on pure ideology or prejudice.
Traveling around the globe and across thousands of years to visit people as different from each other as 20th-century but pre-state highland warriors in New Guinea, pyramid-building ancient Egyptians, Imperial Chinese bureaucrats from the Ming dynasty, 17th-century European merchants, and contemporary Americans may seem daunting. To try this in so few pages may appear foolhardy. But when all this information is connected and fitted into a comprehensible model of how and why societies change, it makes sense.
Furthermore, there is no other way to begin thinking about what all human societies have in common and what distinguishes them from each other.
This book, then, is meant to get students started in the right way to understand their society by comparing it to others, both contemporary and historical. It tries to convey the crucial fact that change is not just something that happened in the past, but that it will continue, and that it is necessary to evaluate social transformations as they occur because not all of them yield positive results.
While addressing these questions, the book also seeks to broaden somewhat the knowledge that students have about the many types of human societies that have existed. I hope that this short book will make some of its readers curious and inspire them to learn more of this fascinating and important history on their own.
Dedication [Page xiii] To Tim McDaniel who was a great social historian and friend from whom I learned a lot about social change [Page xiv] Bibliography [Page ] There are no conventional footnote references in this text. The arguments are too general, and often too obviously summaries of well-known positions taken by whole schools of social thought, to warrant a cumbersome scholarly apparatus. Nevertheless, I think it important to point out that the ideas I have expressed are summations of many other works.
The ones listed here are those that I have already cited at the end of each chapter. Anderson, Benedict R. London: Verso, Accessed from website of Emmanuel Saez at the University of California, Berkeley, where it was posted in January Is Democracy Exportable? Baylin, Bernard.
The Ideological Origins of the American Revolution. Bell, Daniel A. Beyond Liberal Democracy. Berlin, Isaiah. Four Essays on Liberty. London: Oxford University Press, Bloch, Marc. French Rural History. Berkeley: University of California Press, Bohannan, Paul. Justice and Judgment Among the Tiv. Brubaker, Rogers. Nationalism Reframed. Empires in World History. Cartledge, Paul. Yanomamo: The Fierce People. The Rape of Nanking. New York: Basic Books, Chirot, Daniel.
Social Change in the Modern Era. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich, New York: Routledge, Chirot, Daniel, and ClarkMcCauley. Why Not Kill Them All? Christiansen, Morton, and SimonKirby, eds. Language Evolution. The World Factbook. Published yearly, New York: Skyhorse Publishing. New York: Minerva, Cook, Noble David. The Black Book of Communism. Degler, Carl N. New York: Oxford University Press, Guns, Germs, and Steel. New York: W.
Norton, The Lost Chronicles of the Maya Kings. Dumont, Louis. Chicago: University of Chicago Press,
How Societies Change
How Societies Change (Sociology for a New Century)
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