Sociology Social Change
by
Kevin T. Leicht
  • LAST MODIFIED: 30 September 2013
  • DOI: 10.1093/obo/9780199756384-0047

Introduction

Social change is the significant alteration of social structure and cultural patterns through time. Social structure refers to persistent networks of social relationships where interaction between people or groups has become routine and repetitive. Culture refers to shared ways of living and thinking that include symbols and language (verbal and nonverbal); knowledge, beliefs, and values (what is “good” and “bad”); norms (how people are expected to behave); and techniques, ranging from common folk recipes to sophisticated technologies and material objects. Sociology began in the late 19th century as an attempt to understand the emergence of the modern world. The earliest sociological thinkers—August Comte, Herbert Spencer, Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, and Max Weber—all tried to understand the human implications of two great transformations that produced the modern world: urbanization and industrialization. They shared a vision that the study of human societies and change could be understood in a general way, rather than as the accumulation of the accidents of history. Like other foci of study in sociology, the study of social change has macro and micro components, and they have waxed and waned in popularity over the course of the 20th century. Work prior to World War II focused almost exclusively on macro components and causes of social change, but work after World War II, in the 1950s and 1960s, focused on micro/social-psychological sources of social change. More recently, there has been considerable movement toward reconciling agency and structure in explanations of social change.

General Overviews

To a great extent the classical founders of sociology (Marx, Weber, Durkheim, and others) were students of social change. This bibliography focuses on classic 20th-century works that have shaped the study of social change and have broad influence. This is also (at best) a partial list. Ogburn 1922 represents pre–World War II American thinking on the relationship between social structure and culture in producing social change. Smelser 1962 builds on Ogburn’s observation that social change is driven by cultural and structural contradictions. Olson 1965 and Tilly 1978 address reasons why social change via collective action is difficult and unpredictable, even in the face of obvious injustice and oppression. Lenski 1966 provides a comprehensive, theoretical synthesis of the development and maintenance of social stratification. Bell 1973 and Habermas 1975 foresee the end of Fordist industrial production and the economic and cultural developments that would be labeled “post-industrial society,” and Huntington 1997 views cultural differences or “civilizations” as one key to understanding late-20th-century global conflict and change.

  • Bell, Daniel. 1973. The coming of post-industrial society: A venture in social forecasting. New York: Basic Books.

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    One of the first books to address the consequences of the decline of manufacturing in most of the developed world, predicting a world of symbolic analysts who would trade information and intellectual capital with one another. The relative rosy picture has been transcended by other analyses, but the basic premise that industrial production as the primary economic engine of the developed world was ending was prophetic.

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    • Habermas, Jürgen. 1975. Legitimation crisis. Translated by Thomas McCarthy. Boston: Beacon.

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      A wide-ranging and widely cited discussion of the growing problem of legitimating market capitalism and the political institutions that defend it against an increasingly reflexive and skeptical public. Predates and foresees many of the crises of inequality, opportunity, and participation that would manifest themselves in the 1980s and beyond. First published in as Legitimationsprobleme im Spätkapitalismus (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp Verlag).

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      • Huntington, Samuel P. 1997. The clash of civilizations and the remaking of World order. New York: Touchstone.

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        The culmination of Huntington’s lifetime of scholarship, addresses directly the cultural origins of conflict and change and forecasts continued conflict between peoples from different parts of the world, or “civilizations.” The perspective has been much criticized, but it has formed the basis for contemporary work on cultural differences in societal values and public goods.

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        • Lenski, Gerhard. 1966. Power and privilege: A theory of social stratification. New York: McGraw-Hill.

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          One of the most cited general works on social change. Lenski lays out a social evolutionary theory of the development of the division of labor and modern social stratification systems. He attempts to develop a synthesis between “conflict” and functionalist explanations for the development and evolution of societies, and the overall theoretical perspective is still used and cited in contemporary work on social change and development.

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          • Ogburn, William F. 1922. Social change with respect to culture and original nature. New York: B. W. Huebsch.

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            Ogburn first introduces the concept of “cultural lag” in his analysis of social change and contemporary societies. While the idea has been much debated (especially among scholars of contemporary families) the idea that cultural practices change much more slowly than technology and organizations has become a key starting observation for students of social change.

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            • Olson, Mancur. 1965. The logic of collective action. Cambridge, MA: Harvard Univ. Press.

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              This work provides the first introduction to the free rider problem as it applies to social movement activity and collective action generally. The free rider problem is one of several keys for understanding why protest and rebellion are not more widespread in the face of injustice and discrimination.

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              • Smelser, Neil. 1962. Theory of collective behavior. New York: Free Press.

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                One of the first early-1960s attempts to explain collective behavior from a primarily functionalist perspective. Describes social change as resulting from the culmination of social contradictions addressed by social movements in a value-added fashion.

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                • Tilly, Charles. 1978. From mobilization to revolution. Reading, MA: Addison-Wesley.

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                  One of the first postwar attempts to develop a comprehensive theory of collective action that incorporates violence and repression in the analysis. Tilly attempts to explain every type of collective action from political protests to revolutions, and the book contains an extensive data analysis of strikes in Western countries.

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                  Textbooks

                  Textbooks that focus squarely on the topic of social change are relatively rare, but there are five contemporary texts worth mentioning. All attempt to provide a reasonably comprehensive overview of social change, the theoretical perspectives driving it, and the topics that researchers on social change have historically addressed. Vago 2003 is the oldest and constitutes the standard social change text from which the others build. Noble 2000 is the most explicitly theoretical. Sanderson and Alderson 2005 applies an explicit social evolutionary perspective throughout the text. Harper and Leicht 2011 is more empirical and comparative, and Weinstein 2010 is the newest, focusing on explicit comparisons between developed, developing, and less developed countries.

                  • Harper, Charles L., and Kevin T. Leicht. 2011. Exploring social change: America and the world. 6th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                    This book takes a comparative perspective, comparing social and economic trends in the United States to the rest of the industrialized world. The focus of the book is on incorporating the latest research in ways that are accessible to student readers.

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                    • Noble, Trevor. 2000. Social theory and social change. Basingstoke, UK: Palgrave Macmillan.

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                      This book takes an explicitly theoretical perspective, focusing on a wide and interdisciplinary group of social theorists from Adam Smith to Baudrillard to display the relevance of contemporary and classical social theory in explaining contemporary social change. The explicitly theoretical focus of each chapter is unique among social change textbooks.

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                      • Sanderson, Stephen K., and Arthur S. Alderson. 2005. World societies: The evolution of social life. Boston: Pearson Education.

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                        Takes a human and social evolutionary perspective toward social change, explaining the development of human societies over the past ten thousand years using general concepts developed by Gerhard Lenski and others. This book is a successor to Sanderson’s successful Macrosociology textbook series, and is especially good at explaining the rise of the modern world in an accessible way to students.

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                        • Vago, Steven. 2003. Social change. 5th ed. Upper Saddle River, NJ: Pearson Prentice Hall.

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                          Vago’s text is the oldest one dealing explicitly with social change that is still available in print. This text is very comprehensive and focuses on theoretical perspectives for explaining social change.

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                          • Weinstein, Jay. 2010. Social change. 3d ed. Lanham, MD: Rowman and Littlefield.

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                            This text focuses most specifically on social scientific perspectives for understanding change, with explicit comparisons between developed, developing, and less developed countries. The book is especially good at explaining demographic change.

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                            Handbooks

                            There are no handbooks that explicitly address social change as a topic. But there are a few that deal with specific dimensions of social change, and with issues addressed by scholars and textbook writers on social change. Hage and Meeus 2009 deals specifically with scientific innovation. Boix and Stokes 2009 takes a comprehensive look at the field of comparative politics from a political science perspective. Dryzek, et al. 2011 focuses on the latest research on a specific social problem, climate change. Bhagat and Steers 2011 addresses how different cultural practices interact with the global organization of work and working life.

                            • Bhagat, Rabi S., and Richard M. Steers. 2011. Cambridge handbook of culture, organization, and work. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                              This handbook focuses on the role of globalization and cultural differences on changes in the organization of work and working life. Since work is a major feature of modern life all over the world, the interconnectedness of financial decisions and the spread of human resource ideas affect the working lives and life chances of more people than ever before.

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                              • Boix, Carles, and Susan C. Stokes. 2009. The Oxford handbook of comparative politics. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199566020.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                Provides a comprehensive approach to comparative politics and social change, focusing largely on contributions from political scientists. Topics covered include the foundations of political order, party emergence, key research methodologies, and changes in the macropolitical economy.

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                                • Dryzek, John S., Richard B. Norgaard, and David Schlosberg. 2011. The Oxford handbook of climate change and society. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                  Takes a multidisciplinary approach to a single pending social problem: what to do about climate change and how societies respond to it. It represents the growing concerns with the natural and built environment that is occurring in social science generally, and in sociology in particular.

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                                  • Hage, Jerald, and Marius Meeus. 2009. Innovation, science and institutional change: A research handbook. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                    Deals explicitly with the study of scientific innovation from a multidisciplinary perspective. Economists, sociologists, political scientists, and organizational theorists each address different dimensions of product and process innovation, including the cultural and social contexts in which innovativeness flourishes.

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                                    Data Sources

                                    There are a wide variety of data sources for studying social change. This bibliography includes only the largest and most-used data sources that have the potential to produce international comparisons. Human Relations Area Files, based at Yale University, is by far the oldest source, providing information based on compiled anthropological observations. The Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research is the most comprehensive social science data archive and a good place to start when looking for social change data. The General Social Survey has collected a wide variety of individual-level survey data on changing attitudes and behaviors. UNDATA provides national-level data on over 197 countries, with widely varying levels of missing data.

                                    • General Social Survey.

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                                      The purpose of the GSS is to measure social and political changes in life chances, attitudes, and beliefs across as many nations and cultures as possible.

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                                      • Human Relations Area Files.

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                                        A multifaceted and somewhat controversial data source on all known cultures, measuring everything from gender relationships, violence, and mating patterns to technological sophistication and forms of governance. Started in the 1930s by cultural anthropologists at Yale University, it is an interesting and valuable source for cross-cultural data on hard-to-measure social science phenomena.

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                                        • Inter-university Consortium for Political and Social Research.

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                                          A consortium of dues-paying member universities and organizations supports this massive archive of every conceivable type of social science data imaginable. When looking for data on social change and a wide variety of topics, this is the first place new researchers should probably go. The ICPSR is located at the Institute for Social Research at the University of Michigan.

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                                          • UNDATA.

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                                            UNDATA is a data portal to data collected by the United Nations on a wide variety of topics, from global greenhouse gas emissions to fertility rates and access to qualified medical care. The most widely used of these data sets are tied to the Human Development Index program, which goes back to 1980 and before.

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                                            Journals

                                            There are no social scientific journals exclusively oriented to research on social change. While social change researchers have been relatively successful at publishing in sociology’s general interest journals, there are a few journals devoted to specific areas of social change. Social Change addresses economic and social change on the Indian continent. The Journal of Organizational Transformation and Change examines the effects of larger social change on organizations, and the Journal of Social Change also has an organizational focus.

                                            • Journal Of Organizational Transformation and Social Change. 2004–.

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                                              A journal that examines the implications of societal level change for organizations of all kinds, including public sector organizations and philanthropies. In particular, the journal attempts to focus on the interface between organizations, structure, and culture, with implications for human resources, strategic management, and organizational theory.

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                                              • Journal of Social Change.

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                                                A journal focusing on interdisciplinary research in social change that improves the human condition and moves people, groups, organizations, cultures, and society toward a more positive future. Presents research on the shaping of organizational theory, through more traditional areas like human resource development and management systems.

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                                                • Social Change. 1985–.

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                                                  Social Change has been published since 1985 and focuses exclusively on Indian economic development and cultural issues. It contains articles by a significant number of indigenous Indian authors and scholars writing about contemporary problems of social change facing the Indian continent.

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                                                  The Causes and Patterns of Social Change

                                                  Explanations for the causes and patterns of change fall into two general categories: those that emphasize materialistic factors (such as economic production and technology) and those that emphasize idealistic factors (such as values, ideologies, and beliefs). General patterns of change generally talk about linear, nonrepetitive patterns; cyclical and repetitive patterns; and dialectical patterns of change.

                                                  Materialist Perspectives

                                                  Materialist perspectives argue that new technologies and modes of economic production produce changes in social interaction, social organization, and, ultimately, cultural values, beliefs, and norms. The most influential classic thinker to adopt this argument was Karl Marx. Other thinkers have emphasized material factors as causes of change (Ogburn 1922, cited under General Overviews; Diamond 1997; Castells 1996; Conley 2009). For instance, William Ogburn in the 1930s wrote extensively about the technological causes of social change in America. He argued that the advent of the automobile had changed American society in many ways: by increasing geographic mobility, by accelerating the growth of suburbs, and by changing courtship customs (by removing them from the direct supervision of adults). Ogburn’s general argument is that material culture (technology) changes more rapidly than nonmaterial aspects of culture (ideas, values, norms, ideologies). This “cultural lag” is a source of tension. As a generalization, this is debatable, but it is true that humans are often more willing to adopt new techniques and tools than to change their cultural values and traditions.

                                                  • Castells, Manuel. 1996. The Rise of the Network Society. Oxford and Malden, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                    Argues that network forms of organization have deterritorialized social interaction and rendered the distance between developed and less developed nations obsolete. This book comes with an extensive amount of useful descriptive data on social exchange and networking.

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                                                    • Conley, Dalton. 2009. Elsewhere USA: How we got from the company man, family dinners, and the affluent society to the home office, Blackberry moms, and economic anxiety. New York: Pantheon.

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                                                      Argues that the technologies we have adopted allow us to be multiple places at once, and that this ability to be multiply present in different locations undermines our connections with each other on a face-to-face basis. In addition, these technologies allow for a blurring of work, family, labor, and leisure in ways that render life more stressful and less satisfying.

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                                                      • Diamond, Jared. 1997. Guns, germs and steel: The fates of human societies. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                                                        Develops an analysis of the development of human societies based on ecological exposure to contingencies in the natural environment and necessities in responding to varied natural environments. The analysis represents an interdisciplinary interface between geography, evolutionary sociology, and physiology to account for the development of human societies.

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                                                        Idealist Explanations

                                                        Some analysts have seen ideas, values, and ideologies as causes of change. These are termed ideational aspects of culture, to distinguish them from the material aspects of culture discussed in the previous section. Ideas here include both knowledge and beliefs; values are assumptions about what is desirable and undesirable; and ideology means a more or less organized combination of beliefs and values that serves to justify or legitimize forms of human action (e.g., democracy, capitalism, socialism). Perhaps the classic thinker in sociology who argued most persuasively that ideational culture can have a causal role in social change was Max Weber (b. 1864–d. 1920). Boli and Thomas 1999 contends that the collapse of communism and the growing communications and connections among peoples of the world is producing a cosmopolitan world culture centered on freedom, self-determination, personal growth, environmental protection, market economics, and rights for women and marginalized groups. This global culture is spread via nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) that scrutinize the living arrangements of the world’s peoples and pressure governments and international organizations to improve them. This process is occurring at the same time as recurrent calls for nationalism, cultural self-determination, the international growth in racial and ethnic hatred, and fundamentalism act as reactions to the encroachments of “global culture.” The ideas of freedom, self-determination, and citizenship (Patterson 1991) helped to stimulate and justify the revolt of non-Western colonies against their European rulers in the 20th century. And certainly the positive value attached to material growth and security drives the desire for social and economic development in developing nations. More specific ideological systems have had an enormous effect on shaping the direction of social change in the contemporary world. Nationalism, the ideology of a particular identity and community of a people based on shared history, culture, and language, has been, and remains, a potent force for conflict and change. Consider the historic changing and conflictive relations between the English and the Irish, French and English Canadians, Germans and French, the Basque separatists and the Spanish, the Chinese and Tibetans, or the problems of the contemporary Palestinians or the Kurdish peoples in the Middle East. It is impossible to understand the changing relationships between these groups and their states fully in terms of material and economic factors alone without considering the powerful role of nationalist ideas, cultures, and myths (Gellner and Breully 2009).

                                                        • Boli, John, and George M. Thomas, eds. 1999. Constructing world culture: International nongovernmental organizations since 1875. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                          An edited collection the builds on the insights from Thomas and Boli’s (1997) American Sociological Review article, “World Culture in the World Polity: A Century of International Non-Governmental Organization,” to document the impact of international nongovernmental organizations on national and local cultures and governments. These nongovernmental organizations help to spread a global culture that transcends and puts institutional pressure and publicity on previously local and private arrangements.

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                                                          • Gellner, Earnest. 2009. Nations and nationalism. 2d ed. Introduction by John Breully. Ithaca, NY: Cornell Univ. Press.

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                                                            Describes the growth of nationalism as coterminous with the shift from agrarian to industrial societies, after which it takes on an autonomous existence. Nationalism requires the creation of a high culture that is juxtaposed to cultures of minorities.

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                                                            • Patterson, Orlando. 1991. Freedom in the making of Western culture. New York: Basic Books.

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                                                              Patterson traces the development of freedom as an abstract concept to the development of slavery and other forms of indentured servitude. The evolution of freedom is traced through Greek, Roman, and Christian societies, and the inability of freedom to gain traction in Eastern cultures during the same historical periods is discussed.

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                                                              Patterns of Change

                                                              Theories explaining patterns of change can be grouped into three categories: (1) Linear Models, (2) Cyclical Models, and (3) Dialectical Models.

                                                              Linear Models

                                                              Linear models assert that change is cumulative, nonrepetitive, developmental, and usually permanent. Change never returns to the same point. Linear models can depict change in two stages or in terms of a process that has intermediate stages. The classic thinkers in sociology and anthropology concocted many two-stage theories of change, which are essentially like “before-and-after” snapshots of large-scale change in society. Examples include Robert Redfield’s theory about the transition from “folk” to “urban” societies, Durkheim’s theory of the transition from “mechanical” to “organic” solidarity, and Ferdinand Tönnies’s theory of change from Gemeinschaft to Gesellschaft. These theories differ in the factors that they emphasize, but all view the broad historical pattern of change in human societies as involving the transition from small, undifferentiated societies with a homogeneous culture to large societies with a high degree of structural differentiation and a heterogeneous culture. Each, in some sense, depicts the evolution from preliterate to modern societies. This is what social scientists used to refer to as social evolution, from the assumption that some sort of master change processes were at work in all societies through time. But recent developments in the concept of social evolution emphasize the accumulation of complex contingencies (e.g., the generation of novel forms and their transmission and selection over time) that is closer to the biological meaning of the term evolution (see Lenski 1966, cited under General Overviews). Cities are larger and more densely settled communities than rural villages or towns, and Weber 1968 noted that cities have three distinctive characteristics: (1) a larger and more important marketplace where dwellers buy or barter essential goods and services; (2) a center of political and administrative authority that regulates the market and city life. and often that of the surrounding countryside as well; and (3) a defined urban community (administered by authorities) of dwellers having the status, rights, and duties of citizenship. Theories of change focusing on cities can be found in Sjoberg 1960, Tabb and Sawers 1984, and, more recently, Sassen 1991.

                                                              • Sassen, Saskia. 1991. The global city: New York, London and Tokyo. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                Documents the emergence of New York, London, and Tokyo as global cities as business elites and governments develop cross-border network ties that transcend national borders. Argues that the key to understanding globalization is the rise of new global cities like the three studied here.

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                                                                • Sjoberg, Gideon. 1960. The preindustrial city: Past and present. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                  Discusses the independent development of preindustrial cities around the world and adds to that the developments that lead to the creation of urban-based industrial economies. Also discusses cultural and societal factors that have led to urban decline historically.

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                                                                  • Tabb, William K., and Larry Sawers, eds. 1984. Marxism and the metropolis: New perspectives in urban political economy. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                    One of the earliest works of Marxist urban sociology, Tabb and Sawers draw attention to cities in the United States, Cuba, the USSR, and China. Includes a detailed examination of urban elites and commodification of space as a significant explanatory concept of urban political economy.

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                                                                    • Weber, Max. 1968. Economy and society. Totowa, NJ: Bedminister.

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                                                                      Max Weber’s comprehensive treatment of the origins and development of social organization. In addition to discussing cities, Weber’s work addresses religious orientations, modes of legitimate domination, and the multiple bases for social stratification that modern societies produce. Central to the development and rationalization of the world are cities as the center of human interaction, administrative authority, and social control. First published 1961.

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                                                                      Cyclical Models

                                                                      Another conception of the long-term pattern or direction of change is that it is cyclical or repetitive (Moore 1974, p. 44). Within sociology, the most influential cyclical theorist was Pitirim Sorokin (b. 1889–d. 1968), who argued that the “master cycles” of history were oscillations between periods dominated by idealism and periods dominated by hedonism and materialism, interspersed by periods of transition that creatively blended the two dominant cultural frameworks. In the Western historical context, Sorokin 1937 argued that medieval Europe was an epoch dominated by idealism, the Renaissance and Reformation were transition periods, and contemporary Western societies are dominated by materialism and hedonism. Sorokin anticipated the ultimate collapse of Western materialism and a return to a more idealistic culture. As one can see, these classic cyclical theories are rather pessimistic: They do not urge one to look for much long-range significant change, much less any improvement in the human condition. Others focus on longer cycles of global change. Numerous analysts have noted a periodicity in the outbreak of major wars in Western history over the last two hundred years and wondered about it. And some economists (mainly European) have argued that there are “long-wave” cycles of expansion and contraction in the world economy, termed Kondratieff cycles, with peaks between forty-five and sixty years apart.

                                                                      • Moore, Wilbert E. 1974. Social change. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                                                                        Provides a cyclical theory of social change that predicts regular cycles of growth, decline, decadence, and replacement. Uses the functionalist perspective Moore made famous in his study, with Kingsley Davis, of social stratification.

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                                                                        • Sorokin, Pitirim. 1937. Social and cultural dynamics. New York and Chicago: American Book Company.

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                                                                          In Sorokin’s long and detailed analysis, societies move between sensate (materialist) and ideational culture. Western culture, in Sorokin’s time, was viewed as stuck between these two extremes, so that poor social integration between cultural elements was likely to produce ongoing crises.

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                                                                          Dialectical Models

                                                                          Dialectical models of change are more complex than either purely linear or cyclical ones. They assume that social life has inherent stresses or “contradictions” that develop because every social development, even a successful one, taken to its ultimate conclusion, carries within it the seeds of its own destruction (or at least its own modification). Significant change takes place as an attempt to resolve the accumulation of intolerable contradictions. Because such resolutions produce new social and cultural forms, they do not merely repeat the past, and they contain predictable cycles in the accumulation of contradictions and their resolution. Dialectical models contain, therefore, elements of both linear and cyclical change. Wallerstein 1974 argues that the modern world system and the demise of feudalism were produced by the resolution of (at least) three contradictory modes of political and economic organization. First was the contradiction between the older subsistence agriculture with its serfs and the newer commercialized cash crop agriculture with wageworkers. Second was the contradiction between the older decentralized craft production and the newer centralized factory system. Third was the contradiction between the small market system of local trade and the vast expansion of markets that attended the colonial expansion into the non-European world. According to Daniel Chirot, who is an articulate contemporary advocate of a macroscopic cyclical theory of social change, “The key to a sensible theoretical approach to change is the recognition that there exist long periods of history in which the essential forces at work quite similar” (Chirot 1986, p. 292). Chirot argues that these cycles can be compared with one another, but that change is not simply the same old thing over and over again. Even within any specific historical era, such cycles are not actually unvarying. New eras, he argues in Chirot 1986, have different sets of cycles and mainsprings of change and require different models of cycles (p. 282). Repetitive cycles are embedded in longer-range historical eras that are not repetitive.

                                                                          • Chirot, Daniel. 1986. Social change in the modern era. San Diego, CA: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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                                                                            Chirot argues that social change in the modern era is driven by cycles that are tied to punctuation points where rapid social change occurs, followed by periods of relative stasis. These cyclical changes do produce a type of development or growth, but that growth occurs in a regular cyclical pattern. He argues that agents of change are both cultural and economic.

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                                                                            • Wallerstein, Immanuel. 1974. The modern world system. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                              In this classic of world systems theory, Wallerstein lays out the contradictions that drive capitalism toward a global world system. The ability of capitalism to expand globally depends on reconciling the tensions between subsistence and commercial agriculture, small craft production and the factory system, and local trade versus global trade across continents.

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                                                                              Social Theory and Social Change

                                                                              There are three broad theoretical perspectives in contemporary American sociology, and all three are intimately tied to theorizing about social change. These are Functionalism, Conflict Theory, and a cluster of related perspectives that fall under the rubric of “Interpretive Theories.” They embody three different images of society and social change and provide different answers to the most basic sociological questions. These questions boil down to one question: What factors determine the structure of society and the nature of change? One answer is that society and change are shaped by the necessities of survival (the functionalist answer). Another is that society and change are shaped by conflict among groups and classes within society over the control of valued and scarce resources (the conflict theory answer). A third answer is that the social interaction processes between people and groups result in the creation and ongoing negotiation and revision of the meanings, symbols, and social definitions that constitute both society and change (the interpretive answer).

                                                                              Functionalism

                                                                              After the 1960s, when functionalism (especially in its Parsonian variety) came under strong attack, there was (in the 1980s) a revival in neofunctionalist theorizing in sociology, both in America and in Europe (Luhmann 1982, Alexander 1985). In America, the most articulate spokesman for this has been Jeffrey Alexander, who builds on Parsons but argues for a functionalism that is more multidimensional in both macro and micro levels. He rejects much of the optimism about modernity and accepts conflict and dissensus as being as “natural” as equilibrium and consensus (Alexander 1985). He specifically argues that cultures and cultural intermingling provide societies and people with a myriad of solutions to conflict and dissensus, and that these “tool kits” (ala Swidler) of interchangeable parts allow for navigation through a social world fraught with conflict and dissensus. Societies adapt and change for the same reasons that cultures adapt and change, and changes contribute to collective survival and provide meaning for past and current events. The merger of cultural and functionalist explanations is one of the new attempts to produce a functionalist synthesis. (See also Alexander 2006).

                                                                              • Alexander, Jeffrey C. 1985. Neofunctionalism. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                Alexander’s most broad-reaching attempt to develop a post-Parsonian functionalist sociology, one that focuses on culture as the determinant of much social phenomenon and a locus of change. Alexander replaces the static structuralism of Parsonian analysis with a more fluid understanding of the dispersion and usage of cultural meaning as the glue that holds societies together (and breaks them apart).

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                                                                                • Alexander, Jeffrey C. 2006. The civil sphere. Oxford: Oxford Univ. Press.

                                                                                  DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780195162509.001.0001Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                  Alexander’s attempt to provide a grounding for democratic politics and civil society in an age of multiculturalism, extremism, and gridlock. Classical sociological theory is reconstituted in terms of contests over admission to the civil sphere, the cultural area of social life where dialogue and decision making are possible.

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                                                                                  • Luhmann, Niklas. 1982. The differentiation of society. Translated by Stephen Holmes and Charles Larmore. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                    Develops a post-Parsonian systems theory of society that views social systems as networks of symbolic communication. However, rather than viewing systems as metaphors (as Parsons would have), Luhmann believed that communications systems existed in the ontological world and gave rise to communicative acts by individual members.

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                                                                                    Conflict Theory

                                                                                    In general, conflict theories of change argue that the inherent scarcity of certain goods and values is the source of strains and contradictions in social systems. Thus inequality is the source of conflict, and the struggles of actors and groups in society to control scarce resources are viewed as the engines of change. For classical Marxist theory, conflict is rooted in economic inequality. The basic elements of Marxian theory as a materialist causal explanation were described earlier, under Materialist Perspectives, and they will not be repeated here, but it is important to mention the three ways that contemporary conflict theories differ from classical Marxist thought: in (1) the sources of conflict, (2) the role of culture, and (3) the inevitability of revolutionary change (see Collins 1975, Block 1987, Giddens 1995).

                                                                                    • Block, Fred. 1987. Revising state theory. Philadelphia: Temple Univ. Press.

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                                                                                      Argues for a Neo-Marxist-based political economy that abandons instrumentalism and corporate liberalism in favor of developing a more Weberian conception of the state as the guarantor of capital accumulation.

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                                                                                      • Collins, Randall. 1975. Conflict sociology: Toward an explanatory science. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                        A comprehensive treatment of conflict sociology as it stood in the mid-1970s. Builds on and transcends the discussion of Marx, but talks about the contributions to conflict theory made by Weber, Durkheim, and Goffman as well.

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                                                                                        • Giddens, Anthony. 1995. A contemporary critique of historical materialism. 2d ed. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                          Argues for the current relevance of Weber’s critique of Marxist historical materialism. Especially noted for the observation that classes, as sociologists understand them, are a creation of modern capitalism, and that class analysis is therefore not possible in preindustrial societies.

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                                                                                          Interpretive Theories

                                                                                          Interpretive theories argue that society and culture are created through the evolution of meaning. Human society is fundamentally an ongoing process rather than an entity or “structure” (Blumer 1969). As they interact, humans constantly negotiate order, structure, and cultural meanings among themselves. Negotiated order in this sense may include the reaffirmation, defense, rearrangement, change, or destruction of existing social arrangements and cultural meanings (Strauss 1978). Randall Collins’s theory of interaction ritual chains represents a major step toward doing this (Collins 2004). To Collins, stability and persistence in social life results from the continual layering of individual interactions connecting people to networks connected by common symbols. These network connections define boundaries between insiders and outsiders via repeated interaction rituals and chains of interactions. But, and this is Collins’s key point, social status is completely situational and tied to specific circumstances and situations. Individuals removed from their “pockets of solidarity” (networks of common rituals) are often uncomfortable and unable to assert or rely on social status markers they are used to (think of upper-class, white-collar criminals serving prison sentences). A key variant of interpretive theories are framing perspectives of change (Melucci 1996). More than other interpretive theories, framing perspectives focus (in part) on the creation of collective identities as a key link in the change process. At some point, a group of people must define themselves as “us” (a group with grievances) against a protest target or source of those grievances (“them”). The actual change process begins through the normal, day-to-day interactions between existing (ever-changing) social structure, dominant cultural themes and counterthemes, and individual attitudes and predispositions. Most of the time, these interactions are nonproblematic and taken for granted by the actors themselves. But through the process of interaction and information exchange, people develop identity frames and injustice frames. These frames have three components: (1) a common identity as an identifiable subgroup with a set of common interests (environmentalists, pro-life activists, and so forth), (2) a common definition of the current situation as unjust and in need of change, and (3) a common definition of who is responsible and what should be done to remedy the current situation. The convergence of these components, as part of creating a collective identity, is very difficult to achieve, and many forms of potential activism to promote change never get past these basic framing issues. Movement frames that resonate with broad cultural themes (“equality of opportunity,” “protection of children,” etc.) have an easier time pressing their claims and producing social change. Movement frames that require fundamental redefinitions make it more difficult (but not impossible) to produce change.

                                                                                          • Blumer, Herbert. 1969. Symbolic interactionism: Perspective and method. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                                                                                            Blumer’s classic statement in the symbolic interactionist genre as one of its cofounders. He argues that social order and change are created through the production of meaning in face-to-face interaction. That which is called “social structure” is just a by-product of ongoing, face-to-face interactions where meaning is created and reinforced.

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                                                                                            • Collins, Randall. 2004. Interaction ritual chains. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                              Argues for a radical microsociology that sees all significant social trends as spreading through interaction ritual chains, continuous networks of interaction between people in one’s immediate surroundings. People gravitate toward interactions that generate positive emotional energy and away from interactions that drain emotional energy.

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                                                                                              • Melucci, Alberto. 1996. Challenging codes: Collective action in the Information Age. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511520891Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                Argues that the key, critical, and often decisive element in the creation of effective collective action is the development of a collective identity and narrative to go with it. The Information Age makes it more difficult to construct such identities because the universe of common experiences is more limited.

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                                                                                                • Strauss, Anselm L. 1978. Negotiations: Varieties, contexts, processes, and social order. San Francisco: Jossey Bass.

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                                                                                                  One of Strauss’s older treatises, in which he argues that negotiations are the key to understanding ongoing social order and social change. What we call “order” is the result of negotiations and is continually challenged by further negotiations in face-to-face interaction.

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                                                                                                  Reconciling Agency and Structure

                                                                                                  Relatively recent work has attempted to recognize that individuals are the acting units in societies, even if macrostructural processes affect how they think, feel, and act. The most convincing and comprehensive statement in this vein is by James S. Coleman (Coleman 1990). First, there are two levels of social reality: (1) individual actors or agents as concrete members of communities, groups, or movements; and (2) structures made up of abstract “wholes” such as organizations, institutions, societies, cultures, socioeconomic classes, and systems. Inherent in any set of structural arrangements is the potential for change.

                                                                                                  • Coleman, James S. 1990. Foundations of social theory. Cambridge, MA: Belknap.

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                                                                                                    Coleman argues that the means of reconciling macro- and microlevel explanations of social order and change is to develop explanatory theories that incentivize individual behavior in ways that help explain aggregated results. Coleman’s work is also the definitive starting point for understanding rational choice theories as they apply to sociology.

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                                                                                                    Structural Trends and Modernity

                                                                                                    Structural trends have to do with changes in our relationships with other people in society and in the organizations and communities in which we participate. In addition to the traditional sociological focus on the growing scale of social life, differentiation and specialization, technological complexity and sophistication, and interconnectedness, current writing focuses on the role of social networks and managed risks as key components of new millennial modernity. But since the 1980s, an interesting countertrend has emerged, a trend identified by the term network society (Castells 1996, Conley 2009, both cited under Materialist Perspectives). Because of the Internet, cell phones, pagers, overnight package delivery, and standardized (and relatively cheap) computer software, social life is increasingly governed by webs of interaction that do not fit the description of a traditional bureaucracy. In place of a pyramid structure, narrowly defined roles, and extensive lines of authority running from the bottom of the organization to the top, decisions are made by teams of participants who collaborate on specific projects, often never meeting face-to-face, in environments where there are no clear “bosses” or “leaders.” The networking tools available allow for instant feedback on tasks performed in distant places around the world, and also for extensive and direct surveillance of these activities. The increased focus on technological sophistication and complexity is tied to managing risks (Giddens 1990 and Beck 1992). More of the world’s peoples think about risks associated with modern social life. Clearly, certain dimensions of social life have become less risky; the statistics in this book point to longer life expectancy, more consumer choices, better and longer educations, and safer transportation, just to name a few. But modern society creates new risks that were unimaginable in earlier times—nuclear and environmental disasters, engineering failures, natural disasters aggravated by human design failures (the death toll from the recent tsunami in Southeast Asia, more than two hundred thousand, was aggravated by human design failures), terrorism, new forms of crime, and new (and frightening) possibilities for social control. The collective management of these risks occupies a good deal of our time and energy whether we realize it or not (witness the growing employment and technological investments that go into providing security at airports, metal detectors, security personnel, dogs that can sniff explosives and drugs, etc.).

                                                                                                    • Beck, Ulrich. 1992. Risk society: Towards a new modernity. London and Newbury Park, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                      Argues that modernity contains within it a series of manufactured risks, most of which require that we depend on experts and expert systems. This dependence on modern technological systems alters our relationships to risk and our relationship to the natural environment.

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                                                                                                      • Giddens, Anthony. 1990. The consequences of modernity. Stanford, CA: Stanford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                        Argues that modern life is characterized by manufactured risks of our own making, a social world characterized by negotiation and voluntarism, and the simultaneous connection of the local and global, which he refers to as “time-space distantiation.” Modernity provides a long list of benefits while destroying traditions at a rapid rate. Traditions now must be justified in a context of rational dialogue.

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                                                                                                        Changing Cultural Themes

                                                                                                        Different observers have drawn remarkably similar conclusions about some important themes in American culture (Bellah, et al. 1985; Putnam 2000; Skocpol 2003; Conley 2009, cited under Materialist Perspectives). One cultural theme is growing cultural complexity and diversity itself, related to the growth of structural complexity mentioned earlier (e.g., in media sources, occupations). A second, more recent cultural theme is an increasing toleration of cultural diversity (including multiculturalism). A third cultural theme is an increasing concern with individual self-gratification. During the 1970s, many observers argued that individualism produced a more unrestrained self-concern. Christopher Lasch (in Lasch 1979) invented the term “culture of narcissism” in what was called the “me decade.” Ulrich Beck described the increasing concern with individual self-gratification as reflexive modernity (Beck 1992 cited under Structural Trends and Modernity). People around the world are, slowly but surely, increasingly free to pursue their own personal life agendas without the set of structural constraints that bind people to traditional social roles. People are increasingly aware of how others in distant places and cultures live, and they are connected via communications networks, international trade, and cultural exchanges with people whose ways of life they are free to adopt. This is a new dimension of self-gratification that goes beyond concerns about selfishness and antisocial behavior. A fourth persisting cultural theme is a belief in the effectiveness of scientific and empirical knowledge (empirical rationality). Areas of social life governed by traditional knowledge continue to contract, while those governed by empirical, natural, rational, and technical knowledge expand. Thus, for guidance about childbearing and family problems, one is more likely to turn to the empirical knowledge of child psychologists and family therapists. For economic and business decisions, one is less likely to use traditional wisdom and more likely to turn to those having empirical knowledge of the working of economic and organizational systems, such as investment counselors, economists, and trained managers. Public trust in science and technology persists today, but it is probably lower than in the 1950s, when there was little recognition of their costs. Evidence from the 1980s and 1990s suggests that, in spite of some awareness of problems caused by science and technology, there still is a pervasive faith in science and technological fixes. Its influence persists, but Americans are deeply ambivalent about science. A fifth well-documented cultural theme is a pervasive decreasing trust in national leaders and social institutions. The intense public cynicism of recent decades might signify a full-blown “legitimacy crisis,” a complete loss of faith in the credibility of the American system that may have drastic consequences (Phillips 2008).

                                                                                                        • Bellah, Robert N., Richard Masden, William M. Sullivan, Ann Swidler, and Steven M. Tipton. 1985. Habits of the heart: Individualism and commitment in American life. Berkeley: Univ. of California Press.

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                                                                                                          Argues that Americans have become more self-referrential, describing their lives in personal terms rather than the pursuit of collective goals. Bellah and colleagues tie this trend to the development of suburbanization and the decline of cities as loci of collective identification.

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                                                                                                          • Lasch, Christopher. 1979. The culture of narcissism: American life in an age of diminishing expectations. Free Press.

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                                                                                                            Argues that Americans, and especially American young people, have become more self-centered as the ability of the US economy to produce continual economic growth diminishes. The growing view of the self as a personal project leaves collective and community life impoverished.

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                                                                                                            • Phillips, Kevin. 2008. Bad money: Reckless finance, failed politics, and the global crisis of American capitalism. New York: Viking.

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                                                                                                              Argues that the US political system, since the rise of the neoconservatives in the late 1970s and early 1980s, set the stage for a global legitimacy crisis of an economic system that produces ever-larger levels of inequality and diminishing returns for all but the top 5–10 percent of taxpayers. The legitimation crisis results from the inability of voters to see any relationship between who is elected and how the system works.

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                                                                                                              • Putnam, Robert D. 2000. Bowling alone: The collapse and revival of American community. New York: Simon & Schuster.

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                                                                                                                Putnam assembles an impressive array of data to document the widespread decline in social ties and social capital across large sections of the United States. The book also shows that the presence of social capital is tied to numerous measures of individual and collective well-being.

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                                                                                                                • Skocpol, Theda. 2003. Diminished democracy: From membership to management in American civic life. Norman: Univ. of Oklahoma Press.

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                                                                                                                  Argues that a vigorous, participative civic life, which is necessary for nourishing democracy, has been replaced by political parties and candidate selection processes that treat the public as passive, dependent, and uninterested. Critical mediating organizations at the community level have lost membership and have been sidestepped in a national, massified process that treats political candidates as personalities to be sold rather than as representatives of vigorous policy debate.

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                                                                                                                  Countertrends and Reactions to Modernity

                                                                                                                  Researchers and scholars have also identified countertrends that reflect reactions to modernity and the broader changes outlined above. Social movements react to modernity in American social life in two ways. Some seek to reaffirm past cultural traditions. Perhaps the most widespread and visible of such movements is the revitalization and growth of Christian fundamentalism from the late 1970s onward. In the mid-1990s, research by Robert Wuthnow (Wuthnow 1994) found growing numbers of Americans who regularly participate in small groups. Four of ten Americans regularly participated in some kind of small group, such as Bible study groups, twelve-step groups, singles groups, book discussion clubs, sports or hobby groups, or political or civic groups. Other kinds of reactions seek not to restore tradition but to promote a new stage of cultural and social development beyond modernity. The New Age movement consists of diverse cultural groups that connect people interested in such things as greater “wholeness” and integrated lifestyles, attention to nonrational and inner experience, mysticism, astrology, spiritualism, reincarnation, cosmic consciousness, alternative healing and vegetarianism, ecology, and voluntary simplicity (Grigsby 2004). New Agers celebrate the emergence of a new social and cultural pattern (or “new paradigm”) that is subtly but radically transforming and “resacralizing” the modern world (Ritzer 2004). A similar intellectual movement more directly attacks modern society and culture. Postmodernism began among philosophers and literary critics after the 1960s and became a powerful theme among intellectuals (Baudrillard 1975). Postmodernists argue that modern technological society devitalizes life and robs humans of the subjective dimensions of experience found in myth, art, emotion, ritual, and community. Modernism is viewed as a seamless web in which capitalism, science, technology, and bureaucracy have become instruments of social control by elites. Recently, however, the increasing difficulties of corporate elites in managing society, the growth of widespread alienation and cynicism about the system, and the revival of interest in fantasy and myth are recognized as signaling the decline of the modern system. In the emerging postmodern era, reality is being transformed so that people are reclaiming their subjective lives. Some argue that this desire for free subjective experience will itself generate new forms of repression and consumerism as it is subverted by corporations and the electronic media. Others argue that postmodernism is a road to political ineffectiveness that masks horrible repression as people spend more time “finding themselves” and “contesting meanings,” leaving the world of politics and economics to wealthy and powerful elites (Sanbonmatsu 2004).

                                                                                                                  • Baudrillard, Jean. 1975. The mirror of production. Saint Louis, MO: Telos.

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                                                                                                                    A systematic critique of Marxism, claiming that Marx’s focus on production does not provide a basis for radical transformative social action. A classic in the postmodern genre, this book argues that the ethics and values of mass production have conquered modern culture and are now reflected in people’s everyday lives, and that production and its political-economic metaphors need to be transcended for true liberation to occur.

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                                                                                                                    • Grigsby, Mary. 2004. Buying time and getting by: The voluntary simplicity movement. Albany: State Univ. of New York Press.

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                                                                                                                      A systematic study of the voluntary simplicity movement, an attempt by ordinary citizens to return to simpler ways of living by consuming less, producing one’s own food, and buying local products. A thorough study of an antimodernist trend.

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                                                                                                                      • Ritzer, George. 2004. Enchanting a disenchanted world: Revolutionizing the means of consumption. 2d ed. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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                                                                                                                        This book is an extension of Ritzer’s well-known McDonaldization thesis. He argues that rampant, standardized consumption has played a role in depriving the modern world of spontaneity and spiritual value. He advocates for a return to localized consumption and an ethic of environmentally friendly consumption as a way forward.

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                                                                                                                        • Sanbonmatsu, John. 2004. The postmodern prince: Critical theory, left strategy and the making of a new political project. New York: Monthly Review Press.

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                                                                                                                          Sanbonmatsu sets as his project recovering the political effectiveness of the Left, pointing to the deficiencies of Marxist political economy that let to the rise of postmodernism. He then lays out a critique of postmodernism as the product of a commodified academy and a license for political ineptitude. He calls for a return to the original values of the Left and the projects that transcended expressivism and identity.

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                                                                                                                          • Wuthnow, Robert. 1994. Sharing the journey: Support groups and America’s new quest for community. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                            A systematic study of support groups as the new set of community ties that bind people together in the late-20th-century United States. Wuthnow argues that support groups have, in many cases, replaced churches and established neighborhood groups as a locus of collective identification.

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                                                                                                                            Social Movements

                                                                                                                            Social movements can be distinguished from other social forms because they (1) exist outside the institutional framework of everyday life, and (2) are in some way oriented toward a degree of social change. Individual explanations of social movements focus on the psychological characteristics of individuals. These explanations are basically collective psychology perspectives that argue that the emergence of social movements is caused by the shared dispositions of individual participants. Microsocial explanations focus on the small-scale (micro) level, as opposed to the large-scale (macro) level. The focus is often social-psychological, because these perspectives examine the relationship and interaction between individuals and group or social settings and conditions. There are a variety of microlevel theories about the origins of social movements, but only three perspectives will be described here: (1) relative deprivation, (2) status strains, and (3) microstructural mobilization contexts. First, the factor that has shown the strongest connection with movement activism is the existence of interpersonal ties between movement “recruits” and participants. This is a most recent explanation for the recruitment of new members into terrorist groups (see Sageman 2004). In Marc Sageman’s study of terrorist networks, the most pervasive determinant of joining a militant terrorist group was not social and economic deprivation but having existing interpersonal ties with current and existing members. Second, there is a well-documented connection between membership in organizations and movement activism. The more organizations one belongs to, the more one is likely to participate in social movements. There is long-standing evidence that organizational membership increases feelings of personal efficacy, and it may be that members of organizations are simply more optimistic about whether movement activism is worth the effort (McAdam, et al. 1996). The third micromobilization context that affects individual movement activism is the biographical availability of individuals. In addition to the structural pull of interpersonal networks and organizational membership, the circumstances of a person’s life may facilitate or impede movement participation and activism. To put it quite simply, many people have relationships and obligations, such as full-time employment, marriage, and family responsibilities, that increase the costs and risks of movement participation and constrain movement activism (McAdam, et al. 1996, p. 709). In sum, microsocial perspectives explain the origins of social movements by pointing to the ways that personal characteristics or circumstances and social factors interact to produce movement participation, activism, and mobilization. They may explain why individuals participate, but there are broader questions about the underlying grievances, organizing issues, and the timing of movement emergence that no microsocial perspective can deal with adequately.

                                                                                                                            • McAdam, Douglas, John D. McCarthy, and Mayer N. Zald. 1996. Comparative perspectives on social movements: Political opportunities, mobilizing structures, and cultural framings. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                              DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511803987Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                              Provides a comprehensive synthesis linking the work on political opportunity structures and social movements with framing perspectives on social movement interface with the larger culture. Argues that combinations of political opportunity structures and optimal framing by social movement actors lead to the effective pursuit of social change.

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                                                                                                                              • Sageman, Marc. 2004. Understanding terror networks. Philadelphia: Univ. of Pennsylvania Press.

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                                                                                                                                A sociologist and former analyst for the CIA describes terrorist networks as forming not from ideological commitment or marginality, but from network ties between individuals. Interrupting these ties interrupts the development of terrorist networks, as does the substitution of ties to terror networks with ties to those outside those networks.

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                                                                                                                                Conflict Perspectives

                                                                                                                                In the 1970s and 1980s, conflict approaches came to dominate the study of social movements by American scholars. Rather than emphasizing the grievances arising from structural strains, these perspectives argued that social movements arise at a particular point in time because of the changing availability of resources, organization, and opportunities for collective action (Jenkins 1985). So rather than viewing social movements as emerging from the spontaneous and amorphous mass discontent of collective behavior, conflict perspectives view social movements as special sorts of interest group collectivities that attempt to (1) gain benefits for individuals, (2) produce social reforms, and (3) gain entry into the established structures of society. This section examines (1) a conflict approach, termed resource mobilization theory; (2) what is called political process theory and newer variations; and (3) a European conflict approach called new movement theory. Political opportunity structures refer to the receptivity or vulnerability of the political system to organized protest by given challenging groups (McAdam, et al. 1996, cited under Social Movements). When political opportunity structures expand, there are waves of intense movement mobilization and effectiveness. More recently, McAdam, et al. 2001 attempted to transcend this neglect of ideas, culture, ideologies, and consciousness by developing a broader theory of contentious politics (see also Davis, et al. 2005). In this framework, political contention is dynamic and best analyzed “in motion” as different actors change their claims and identities while perceiving different opportunities and threats. In this formulation, social movement activity is part of a broader subset of contentious political activity that can range anywhere from getting petitions signed to ban gay marriage to carrying out and publicizing a political assassination. Opportunities and threats are not objective categories but depend on collective attribution that involves social movement members and leaders as well as actors outside of formal movement organizations (including public opinion). These threats lead to the appropriation or creation of mobilizing structures (not necessarily organizations) as vehicles for carrying out struggles. But the identities, actors, and actions are created and labeled as the action progresses, and innovative political action gains attention, adds new complexity to the field of interaction, and increases uncertainty among all parties in the conflict. Mobilization (and remobilization) occurs throughout different episodes of contention, and the episode is defined by the principals involved in the conflict.

                                                                                                                                • Davis, Gerald F., Doug McAdam, W. Richard Scott, and Mayer N. Zald, eds. 2005. Social movements and organizational theory. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                  DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511791000Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                  Attempts to tie the study of social movements to institutional theories of organizations. The authors point to different types of legitimation mechanisms that affect social movements, how social movement organizations come to resemble each other, and how responses to social movements become isomorphic as well.

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                                                                                                                                  • Jenkins, J. Craig. 1985. The politics of insurgency: The farm worker movement of the 1960s. New York: Columbia Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                    One of the first classic statements of resource mobilization perspectives on social movements. Jenkins argues that the relative success of the California farm workers’ movement launched by Cesar Chavez lies in the ability to take advantage of opportunities and to mobilize resources for collective action.

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                                                                                                                                    • McAdam, Doug, Sidney Tarrow, and Charles Tilly. 2001. Dynamics of contention. Cambridge, UK, and New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

                                                                                                                                      DOI: 10.1017/CBO9780511805431Save Citation »Export Citation »E-mail Citation »

                                                                                                                                      Attempts to build a comprehensive theory of what the authors call “contentious politics,” basically all forms of political competition, from elections to violent revolutions. The book discusses a series of mechanisms that combine to lead contentious politics either in peaceful directions or toward violence.

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                                                                                                                                      Revolutions

                                                                                                                                      Revolutions are broad social transformations that change many areas of social life accompanied by a sudden collapse or overthrow of the state. Four common ideas have shaped both popular and scholarly understanding of revolutions: (1) that increasing misery breeds revolt, (2) that revolutions result from the incompetence of the state to manage a variety of difficulties, (3) that they result from the circulation of subversive and radical ideas and ideologies, and (4) that they result from the difficulties of modernization (Goldstone 1986, pp. 1–2, cited under Natural History of Revolutions).

                                                                                                                                      The Natural History of Revolutions

                                                                                                                                      In the 1920s and 1930s, a number of historians and sociologists began to study the classic Western revolutions (e.g., in France, America, Russia) with the aim of discovering common patterns (Edwards 1927, Brinton 1965). They found a remarkable configuration of common elements in the natural histories of these revolutions: the desertion of intellectuals, attempted reforms, a political crisis, a period of dual role dominated by moderates, the triumph of the radicals, a reign of terror, and moderation and pragmatism. (1) The Desertion of Intellectuals. This phenomenon occurs for some time, even decades, prior to the revolution. Journalists, scholars, playwrights, poets, novelists, teachers, members of the clergy, and lawyers write condemnations of the regime and demand reforms. (2) Attempted Reforms. Reforms are often undertaken by the regime shortly before its collapse, but these are typically “too little, too late.” They are taken as a sign of weakness and encourage pressure for more radical reforms, which the regime is incapable of granting and still retaining control. (3) A Political Crisis. Defeat in war, state bankruptcy, general economic collapse, famine, withdrawal of loyalty by the military and police, and urban or rural riots and disorders (or some combination of these) precipitate a sudden collapse of the regime. (4) A Period of Dual Rule Dominated by Moderates. This phase typically follows the fall of the old regime. Moderate reformers, who seek constitutional reforms using many of the old organizational forms left over from the old regime, rule in coalition with more radical factions. Radical factions mobilize, establish centers of control, and struggle with moderates to control the state. (5) The Triumph of the Radicals. This is the most likely outcome of the postcollapse power struggle. Radicals are likely to succeed because, unlike the moderates, they are willing to take extreme measures both to deal with pressing problems and to secure their rule (Goldstone 1986, p. 4). (6) A Reign of Terror. An authoritarian period typically follows the triumph of the radicals, including the coercive suppression of competing political factions and movements, the reimposition of social order from the disorderly chaos of the revolution, and the implementation of the revolutionary “program.” (7) Moderation and Pragmatism. This balancing out eventually follows the prolonged reign of terror because the radicals may have been defeated or died. Moderates who come to power condemn the excesses of the rule of terror and are less concerned with protecting the rule of the new regime—by now an established fact—and more concerned with promoting economic progress and stable institutions (Goldstone 1986).

                                                                                                                                      • Brinton, Crane. 1965. The anatomy of revolution. Rev. and expanded ed. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall.

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                                                                                                                                        Argues that “reigns of terror” are central components of most revolutions. Radical factions within revolutionary groups seek to systematically purge the old regime and reduce commitment to it through violence and repression. First published 1938.

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                                                                                                                                        • Edwards, Lyford P. 1927. The natural history of revolution. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press.

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                                                                                                                                          Outlines the relationship between moderates and radicals in revolutionary dynamics, claiming that radicals usually triumph early because they offer the clearest alternatives over the old regime. Claims that revolutions are the outcome of otherwise repressed social change.

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                                                                                                                                          • Goldstone, Jack A., ed. 1986. Revolutions: Theoretical, comparative, and historical studies. San Diego: Harcourt Brace Jovanovich.

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                                                                                                                                            An attempt to explain the development of theories of revolutions, charting changes from natural histories through to structural theories of revolutions. Claims that general revolutionary conditions in the 20th century developed because the rise of educated and active populations outstripped political developments to incorporate them.

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                                                                                                                                            Theories of Rebellion and Political Violence

                                                                                                                                            In the 1950s and 1960s, many new or newly independent nations emerged in the Third World. Scholars trying to understand the causes of revolution and its connection to the process of modernization developed general theories of revolts and political violence tied to more general perspectives about social movements. They include (1) relative deprivation theories, (2) system disequilibrium theories, and (3) resource mobilization theories. Relative deprivation theories improve on the notion that “misery breeds revolt.” Gurr 1970 argues that “people generally accept high levels of oppression and misery if they expect such discomforts to be their natural lot in life. Only when they expect a better life, and have their expectations frustrated are they likely to develop feelings of resentment that breed rebellion and political violence” (Goldstone 1986, p. 5, cited under Natural History of Revolutions). System disequilibrium theories are specifications of functionalist theory applied to understanding rebellion and political violence. They focus not on popular discontent, but on the changing relations between social institutions. Smelser 1962 (cited under General Overviews) and Johnson 1966 argued that when the institutional subsystems of a society (its economy, political system, educational system, and so forth) change at similar rates, there is continuity, political stability, and the incremental processing of demands for social reform. But when the rate of change is very different among these institutional subsystems, the resulting disequilibrium and imbalance produces widespread disorientation, radical ideologies, and challenges to the legitimacy of the status quo. Huntington 1968 combined the relative deprivation and system-disequilibrium approaches to argue that modernization is the broadest cause of revolution in the contemporary world. This is because the economic and educational progress associated with modernization increases people’s desire to participate in politics faster than political institutions can accommodate these desires. Huntington more recently suggested that the deprivation and disequilibrium that accompanies modernization has produced a “clash of civilizations,” a hypothesis that cultural conflicts between modernity and premodern cultures is producing instability and conflict in the contemporary world (Huntington 1997, cited under General Overviews). Resource mobilization theories came to dominate the study of social movements in the 1960s and have been applied to the study of revolutions. Tilly 1978 (cited under General Overviews) argued that neither discontent nor disequilibrium will lead to revolution if the discontented remain unorganized and lack resources.

                                                                                                                                            • Gurr, Ted Robert. 1970. Why men rebel. Princeton, NJ: Princeton Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                              Argues that rebellion, and ultimately revolution, follow from relative rather than absolute deprivation. This is one of the first modern treatments to argue for rising expectations as a springboard for revolutionary organization and action.

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                                                                                                                                              • Huntington, Samuel. 1968. Political order in changing societies. New Haven, CT: Yale Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                Argues that modernization, and especially the disjunctures it creates between people’s expectations and evolving political realities, creates rising expectations that rapidly developing societies have a difficult time accommodating.

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                                                                                                                                                • Johnson, Chalmers. 1966. Revolutionary change. Boston: Little, Brown.

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                                                                                                                                                  Argues that revolutions result from rapid social and economic changes that produce system disequilibrium. A predecessor to Johnson’s later analyses of the problems of American empire as a generator of revolutions around the world.

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                                                                                                                                                  Structural Theories of Revolution

                                                                                                                                                  Scholars have turned from general theories of rebellion to a more careful examination of the comparative historical circumstances that are present when revolutions succeed. Skocpol’s argument (see Paige 1975, Trimberger 1978, Skocpol 1979, Goldstone 1986 [cited under Natural History of Revolutions], and Skocpol 1994) is quite straightforward. A social revolution succeeds because the state has been weakened by a variety of simultaneously occurring external and internal pressures that it is unable to contain and manage. These include (1) international competition and conflict with other states, (2) disaffection and obstruction of state policies by important social elites that control important material and ideological support for the regime, (3) insufficient loyalty of the military and state police, and (4) pressure from a variety of popular uprisings. The structural perspective provides the basis for understanding the conditions under which revolutions succeed, which is a more complex and theoretically interesting question than why rebellion occurs. The theory also provides an understanding of why some societies, particularly industrial democracies, seem almost revolution-proof. Developed industrial democracies not only manage international pressures but also exercise considerable control over the terms of competition and trade in the world economy. Industrial democracies have consensus-making processes that constrain conflicts, both within the regime and between the regime and powerful economic elites. Democratic rulers become adept at balancing the necessity to respect and reinforce elite privilege with the need to respond to popular grievances in ways that prevent the emergence of widespread disorders. There are adequate mechanisms of institutional incorporation and channels of mobility for opinion leaders (marginal elites without independent wealth) who are the potential organizers of rebellion. Popular grievances that become manifest in reform movements are not only accommodated, but, as discussed in the previous section (Theories of Rebellion and Political Violence), become an important basis for mobilizing popular support for the regime or administration. And a loyal military and elite opposition is available to suppress more radical challenges to the system. But not all revolution-proof states are modern parliamentary democracies. In the modern world there are examples of thoroughly undemocratic systems that seem resistant to revolutionary collapse, such as Singapore and the (Communist) People’s Republic of China (even after the institution of market reforms).

                                                                                                                                                  • Paige, Jeffery M. 1975. Agrarian revolution: Social movements and export agriculture in the underdeveloped world. New York: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                                                    Argues that the revolutionary potential of preindustrial societies rests with the flexibility of elites to bargain with peasants and others in a non-zero-sum fashion. Elites that control land and do not have other liquid assets aim for forms of indentured servitude to control nonelites. Elites with other liquid assets opt for various forms of free labor.

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                                                                                                                                                    • Skocpol, Theda. 1979. States and social revolutions: A comparative analysis of France, Russia and China. New York: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                      Possibly the most cited work on revolutions in the past fifty years, Skocpol argues forcefully for a nonagentic, structural theory of revolutions where combinations of structural factors not completely under regime control lead to radical changes in the political and social order. Uses the detailed examples of revolutions in Russia, China, and France to support the argument.

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                                                                                                                                                      • Skocpol, Theda. 1994. Social revolutions in the modern world. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                        These essays are the modern classic, comparative historical discussions of social revolutions. Skocpol’s distinctive model argues that revolutions are not the result of intentional actions to overthrow the state, but reflect a confluence of factors, including rebellion, that make weak states rife for overthrow.

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                                                                                                                                                        • Trimberger, Ellen Kay. 1978. Revolution from above: Military bureaucrats and development in Japan, Turkey, Egypt, and Peru. New Brunswick, NJ: Transaction.

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                                                                                                                                                          Outlines various conditions under which “revolutions from above” take place in rapidly developing societies. Claims that Marxist analyses of the state as superstructure do not adequately account for rent collection and clientelism that elites value and wish to control.

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                                                                                                                                                          Technology, Networks, Innovation, and Social Change

                                                                                                                                                          What social conditions make high rates of innovation likely? Sociologists and others have identified six structural conditions in societies that make innovation more likely. Ryan 1969, Mannheim 1950, Gouldner 1954, and Scott 1995 emphasize different dimensions or domains where these six structural conditions work. Generally, innovation is more likely when there are perceived internal inconsistencies (or “contradictions”) that produce social tensions. Innovation is more likely in societies having difficulties with adaptations to the physical environment. Ryan 1969, in particular, points out that innovation is more likely in societies that have broadly as opposed to narrowly defined social norms, rules, and role expectations. The question is not the integration (or consistency) of social rule and norms, but the degree of latitude they provide. Higher rates of innovation are more likely in societies, communities, or organizations that have higher rates of replacement and succession of people. Mannheim 1950 looks at this phenomena in terms of age cohorts in human populations, while Gouldner 1954 and Scott 1995 emphasize the role that succession and replacement play among organizations. Growth in population size and density is likely to stimulate innovation, as are social catastrophes and disasters. In anthropology, Spindler 1977 suggests that diffusion of innovations occurs when innovations are consistent with prevailing cultural values and beliefs, when the innovation is material, when people have friendly cross-cultural contacts, and when cultural contact involves connections with elites. Chapin 1928 and Ogburn 1922 (cited under General Overviews) also examined spreading innovations, and their early major contribution was to demonstrate that the rate of adoption for many innovations generally followed a sigmoid or S-shaped curve, starting out slowly, accelerating rapidly, and reaching a plateau when almost everyone who is going to adopt an innovation has done so.

                                                                                                                                                          • Chapin, F. Stuart. 1928. Cultural change. New York: Century.

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                                                                                                                                                            Argued extensively for a cyclical model of cultural change, where disequilibrium in social institutions led to rapid innovation. Cultural adaptations naturally go through a process of rapid change, stasis, decline, and crisis.

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                                                                                                                                                            • Gouldner, Alvin Ward. 1954. Patterns of industrial bureaucracy. Glencoe, IL: Free Press.

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                                                                                                                                                              One of the first post–World War II analysts to suggest that organizational change is created by cohort succession among organizational forms. Organizational change rarely occurs because organizations actually change. Instead, older organizational forms are replaced by new ones.

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                                                                                                                                                              • Mannheim, Karl. 1950. Freedom, power and democratic planning. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                Argues that the adoption of new innovations proceeds via the replacement of elites in a generational fashion. The inability of societies to change more quickly comes from the set ways and vested interests of established elites and older generations of leaders.

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                                                                                                                                                                • Ryan, Bryce. 1969. Social and cultural change. New York: Ronald.

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                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the adoption of innovations is more likely in societies where there are relatively loose cultural norms and linkages between people and institutions. Such societies are receptive to outside influences and can incorporate new ideas within existing frameworks.

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                                                                                                                                                                  • Scott, W. Richard. 1995. Institutions and organizations. Foundations for Organizational Science. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                                                                                    One of the fundamental pieces of institutional theory of organizations. Scott argues that organizations tend toward isomorphic patterns of development, and that much of what we call “organizational change” stems from forces outside of organizations proper.

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                                                                                                                                                                    • Spindler, Louise S. 1977. Cultural change and modernization. New York: Holt, Rinehart and Winston.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Argues that the adoption of innovations does not happen in a vacuum and does not happen just because an innovation may fix a technological problem. Instead, there are cultural characteristics that make the adaptation of innovations more likely. Provides case studies to support the basic premise.

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                                                                                                                                                                      Institutional Change and the Spread of Innovations

                                                                                                                                                                      Innovations often spread through institutional change (Powell and DiMaggio 1991). Institutional change is the systematic change in the functioning of organizations brought about by attempts to respond to a changing world. What differs across groups and organizations is the source of the information and pressure that produces isomorphic change. Coercive pressure is pressure exerted by the law and oversight agencies. In these cases, changes are made because an external force mandates change and will punish the organization or group if the suggested changes aren’t made. Normative pressure comes from professional networks of organizational and group actors. In these cases, networks of professionals decide among themselves the appropriate solution to a specific problem, and that solution spreads through those networks. Mimetic pressure comes from simply observing what other, similarly situated organizations do.

                                                                                                                                                                      • Powell, Walter W., and Paul DiMaggio. 1991. The new institutionalism in organizational analysis. Chicago: Univ. of Chicago Press

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                                                                                                                                                                        Argues that innovations spread through a process of isomorphic change. Rests on the idea that information regarding what organizations should be doing is communicated through mechanisms that are only tangentially associated with rational choices and economic communications via price and quantity.

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                                                                                                                                                                        Social Networks

                                                                                                                                                                        Life is relational. Social networks are actual social interaction contacts among people, in terms of their frequency, duration, emotional intensity, or reciprocities. They might involve physical contact, communication, influence, power, exchanges, or interpersonal support. They may be long-lasting or transitory. Studying networks can change the way societies look. Much social research studies the characteristics of individuals such as age, education, gender, social class, ethnicity, and so on, as if these were the fundamental building blocks of societies. But it is only because people participate in particular patterns of social networks that these things become salient. The same is true for entities like culture, groups, organizations, communities, and institutions. Each is really a shorthand label that refers abstractly to a pattern of network relationships that existed at some time in history (Collins 2004, cited under Interpretive Theories). A network conception of the social change has many advantages: It begins not by assuming abstract or idealized structures like societies, cultures, organizations, or markets, but with actual patterns of who has contact with whom, and with what regularity. Social networks are interconnected, open-ended, and seemingly infinite. Remarkably—when you think about it—they are the interpersonal mechanisms through which individuals are connected around the world, however directly or indirectly, and by which individuals, small groups, and big organizations are connected. Social networks exist among individuals (microlevel), but also among groups, organizations, communities, and nations (macrolevel). Research moves from describing the structure of these connections to their implications (see Burt 1982 and Marsden and Lin 1983).

                                                                                                                                                                        • Burt, Ronald. 1982. Toward a structural theory of action: Network models of social structure, perception, and action. New York: Academic Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                          A useful predecessor to Burt’s later work on structural holes. Here he lays out a variety of theoretical models for studying social networks, as well as methodologies for studying them. He claims that network structure (or lack thereof) helps to explains much of what we call “coordinated social action.”

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                                                                                                                                                                          • Marsden, Peter V., and Nan Lin, eds. 1983. Social structure and network analysis. Beverly Hills, CA: SAGE.

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                                                                                                                                                                            An edited volume that addresses multiple dimensions of social networks, including the ability of networks to create and modify social structure, influence public attitudes, and how social structure enables and constrains individual social actors.

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                                                                                                                                                                            Development and Globalization

                                                                                                                                                                            Global development and developmentalist theories and policies emerged when scholars became particularly concerned with world-scale change after World War II (Rostow 1952, cited under Dependency and World Systems Theory). Disenchantment and criticisms in the 1960s led to the development of dependency and world systems theory perspectives (see Gunter-Frank 1966, cited under Dependency and World Systems Theory, and Wallerstein 1974, cited under Dialectical Models). More recent perspectives talk about world-scale change or globalization that has emerged since the 1990s (Giddens 1990, cited under Structural Trends and Modernity; McMichael 1996 and Castells 1998, both cited under Globalization).

                                                                                                                                                                            Dependency Theory and World Systems Theory (WST)

                                                                                                                                                                            Dependency and world systems theories are radical and fundamental critiques of developmentalism (see Rostow 1952) that have historical roots in Marxist-Leninist notions about neocolonialism and colonial expansion. Dependency and WST thinkers believe that underdevelopment in the developing countries arose at the same time and by the same processes as did development in the richer developed countries. Dependency theorists such as Andre Gunder Frank argue that the intrusion of Western capitalism destroys the self-sufficiency of Third World economies, loots them of resources, and blocks the ripening of diversified capitalist development (Frank 1966). In sociology, the most comprehensive and systematic formulation of this alternative perspective was that of Immanuel Wallerstein and colleagues, who coined the term world systems theory (Wallerstein 1974, cited under Dialectical Models). Wallerstein’s analysis relies on a detailed interpretation of the long-term development of global markets, expanding the Marxist concept of class conflict to explain international economic and political conflict. Developmentalist thinking had political and ideological support for its growth after World War II. Likewise, there were sociopolitical circumstances surrounding the meteoric rise in popularity of dependency theory and world systems theory as alternative perspectives. Their popularity grew in the 1960s, when the moral and political optimism of the postwar period began to erode and America entered a period of pessimism and uncertainty.

                                                                                                                                                                            • Frank, Andre Gunder. 1966. The development of underdevelopment. Boston: New England Free Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                              The original piece, written by an economist, describes the developed and less developed world as all part of a piece, and also lays out the original description of dependency theory. The development of less developed countries was a deliberate outgrowth of policies pursued in the industrialized world.

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                                                                                                                                                                              • Rostow, Walter W. 1952. The process of economic growth. New York: W. W. Norton.

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                                                                                                                                                                                One of the classic, postwar developmentalist conceptions of how economies and cultures take off and prosper. Links development to the adoption of modernist values and the abandonment of traditional values that emphasize clans and families.

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                                                                                                                                                                                Globalization

                                                                                                                                                                                By the 1980s, a postdevelopment era, entailing a different understanding of global change, had begun, stimulated by a growing integration of nations around the world in the world market, the failure of many nations to manage development, and the increasing global management of development by big international banks, multinational agencies like the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund, and the United Nations. As one sociologist succinctly observed, “in circumstances of accelerating global integration, the nation-state has become too small for the big problems and too big for the small problems of life” (Giddens 1990 p. 65, cited under Structural Trends and Modernity). Castells 1998 points to several developments that are reflective of postdevelopment globalization. The increasing economic polarization between those nations and regions that are integrated into the new information economy and those that are not has led to the rise of the Fourth World, places and peoples that are completely left behind in the economics of the twenty-first century, and from whom the information economy asks nothing. The global information economy also has produced a global criminal economy (especially severe in Russia and Latin America), the size and global reach of which rivals Fortune 500 corporations and the gross national product of all but the most prosperous nations. At both the micro and macro levels, the idea of sustainable development has gained currency. It is used by both grassroots movements and global managers, such as those of the World Bank (McMichael 1996, p. 147–150).

                                                                                                                                                                                • Castells, Manual. 1998. End of millennium. Cambridge, MA: Blackwell.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  Argues that the world is becoming so interconnected that much of the original conception of “First World,” “less developed world,” and so on, is obsolete. The obsolescence is fueled by global interconnections that render people in all parts of the world relevant or superfluous to the global economy.

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                                                                                                                                                                                  • McMichael, Philip. 1996. Development and social change: A global perspective. Thousand Oaks, CA: Pine Forge.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    A comprehensive and concise treatise on the sociology of development. Contains a lot of historical detail on the role of hegemons in development, with specific reference to the United States.

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                                                                                                                                                                                    Ecology and Social Change

                                                                                                                                                                                    An ecological perspective focuses on the relationship between human social activity and the environmental capacity of the planet to support life. The current gradual diminishing of the rate of world population growth can be understood in terms of what demographers have called the demographic transition model (Humphrey and Buttel 1982), which is a relatively simple conceptual model of population change. Societies start with high fertility and mortality rates, transition to lower mortality with high fertility, and eventually stabilize population sizes with steady mortality and fertility rates. By the 1980s most scholars assumed (1) that developing countries would complete the demographic transition before irreversibly damaging the earth’s carrying capacity for human life, and (2) that the much slower growth rates among developed countries were no problem. But by the mid-1990s, that optimism had all but vanished, and neither of these assumptions continued to represent the consensus of scholarly opinion. Sen 1981 points to the role of responsive and unresponsive governments in preventing or spreading famine worldwide. Progress in braking world population growth stalled in the 1980s. Political authoritarianism and the absence of free markets and responsive governments are powerful forces that turn scarcity and hardships into famine.

                                                                                                                                                                                    • Humphrey, Craig R., and Fredrick R. Buttel. 1982. Environment, energy, and society. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      In addition to laying out demographic transition theory in an accessible way, this book addresses numerous ways that the natural environment, and human interactions with it, affect societies and cultures.

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                                                                                                                                                                                      • Sen, Amartya. 1981. Poverty and famines: An essay on entitlement and deprivation. New York: Oxford Univ. Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Claims that poverty and famines are almost all a direct result of ineffective governments. Natural disasters are compounded by governments that are unresponsive, corrupt, and rent seeking and this makes it difficult for aid agencies to respond effectively.

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                                                                                                                                                                                        Recent Debate on Global Sustainability

                                                                                                                                                                                        Finally, there is a continued, healthy, and ongoing debate among social scientists that returns to a mode of thinking addressed in the discussion of economic development in earlier chapters. This perspective is called ecological modernization, and it has drawn increasing interest from social scientists, along with its share of detractors, too (as is true of most new ideas at one time or another, see Mol 2001). Different strands of ecological modernization theory are hard to grasp, but the core concepts are not. At its core, ecological modernization theory claims that since 1980 or so, Western industrialized societies have turned away from undermining the sustainable environment and are starting to either (1) slow the rate of increase in environmental destruction or (2) actually turn the corner toward taxing the environment less than they did in the past. These changes are attributed to a series of social and institutional transformations, including a growing role for science and technology; the increasing importance of market dynamics and economic agents as carriers of economic restructuring and reform; the changing role of the nation-state as nation-states are increasingly turning to decentralized, locally based solutions to environmental problems with less top-down oversight, specific regulation, and control; modifications in the role of social movements from their traditional role as outside agitators on the periphery of power to central actors in the local and international provision and delivery of environmental reforms; and changes in discursive practices and emerging new ideologies that emphasize intergenerational solidarity and the search for a balance between ecological and environmental positions and complete neglect of the environment.

                                                                                                                                                                                        • Mol, Arthur P. J. 2001. Globalization and environmental reform: The ecological modernization of the global economy. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

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                                                                                                                                                                                          The most cited book on ecological modernization. Presents extensive evidence that there is a “J-curve” relationship between economic development and energy use, with late modernity slowly breaking the relationship between technology and extensive carbon energy use.

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