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Social Structures

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Overview

Social Structures is a book that examines how structural forms spontaneously arise from social relationships. Offering major insights into the building blocks of social life, it identifies which locally emergent structures have the capacity to grow into larger ones and shows how structural tendencies associated with smaller structures shape and constrain patterns of larger structures. The book then investigates the role such structures have played in the emergence of the modern nation-state.

Bringing together the latest findings in sociology, anthropology, political science, and history, John Levi Martin traces how sets of interpersonal relationships become ordered in different ways to form structures. He looks at a range of social structures, from smaller ones like families and street gangs to larger ones such as communes and, ultimately, nation-states. He finds that the relationships best suited to forming larger structures are those that thrive in conditions of inequality; that are incomplete and as sparse as possible, and thereby avoid the problem of completion in which interacting members are required to establish too many relationships; and that abhor transitivity rather than assuming it. Social Structures argues that these "patronage" relationships, which often serve as means of loose coordination in the absence of strong states, are nevertheless the scaffolding of the social structures most distinctive to the modern state, namely the command army and the political party.

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Editorial Reviews

Choice
Martin provides an accessible and workable perspective as he examines the array of social structures, from the smaller, such as cliques or family, to the larger construct of nation. . . . In short, this is an excellent book, substantive in supporting Martin's claims as well as provocative in terms of generating further inquiry. Readers will find Martin's perspective both intriguing and well supported.
Science
While his interest in structures has a venerable lineage, Martin's approach is highly distinctive. . . . The book is without doubt an eclectic, ambitious, provocative, sophisticated, and instructive undertaking. . . . Social Structures deserves a wide readership and its ideas a sympathetic hearing.
Sociologica - Omar Lizardo
[R]ather than giving the impression of being the beginning of a new, exciting research program, Social Structures rather feels like a well-deserving closing chapter for the project of a specifically 'sociological' form of structuralist explanation.
American Journal of Sociology - Paul DiMaggio
Social Structures is illuminating—good to think with and fun to argue with. It belongs on a short shelf of important contributions to structural theories of society.
From the Publisher
Winner of the 2010 Theory Prize, American Sociological Association

"While his interest in structures has a venerable lineage, Martin's approach is highly distinctive. . . . The book is without doubt an eclectic, ambitious, provocative, sophisticated, and instructive undertaking. . . . Social Structures deserves a wide readership and its ideas a sympathetic hearing."Science

"Martin provides an accessible and workable perspective as he examines the array of social structures, from the smaller, such as cliques or family, to the larger construct of nation. . . . In short, this is an excellent book, substantive in supporting Martin's claims as well as provocative in terms of generating further inquiry. Readers will find Martin's perspective both intriguing and well supported."Choice

"[R]ather than giving the impression of being the beginning of a new, exciting research program, Social Structures rather feels like a well-deserving closing chapter for the project of a specifically 'sociological' form of structuralist explanation."—Omar Lizardo, Sociologica

"Social Structures is illuminating—good to think with and fun to argue with. It belongs on a short shelf of important contributions to structural theories of society."—Paul DiMaggio, American Journal of Sociology

Sociologica
[R]ather than giving the impression of being the beginning of a new, exciting research program, Social Structures rather feels like a well-deserving closing chapter for the project of a specifically 'sociological' form of structuralist explanation.
— Omar Lizardo
American Journal of Sociology
Social Structures is illuminating—good to think with and fun to argue with. It belongs on a short shelf of important contributions to structural theories of society.
— Paul DiMaggio
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780691150123
  • Publisher: Princeton University Press
  • Publication date: 3/27/2011
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 408
  • Sales rank: 996,742
  • Product dimensions: 6.10 (w) x 9.20 (h) x 1.10 (d)

Meet the Author

John Levi Martin is professor of sociology at the University of Chicago.

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Table of Contents

Acknowledgments vii
Preface: From Big Structures to Small ix
Chapter 1: Introduction: Social Action and Structures 1
Chapter 2: From a Small Circle of Friends to a Long Line of Rivals 26
Chapter 3: The Preservation of Equality through Exchange Structures 72
Chapter 4: The Institutionalization of Inequality: Pecking Orders 104
Chapter 5: The Escape from Comparability and the Genesis of Influence Structures 151
Chapter 6: The Short Cut to Structure with Patronage Pyramids 189
Chapter 7: The Institution of Transitivity and the Production of Command Structures 232
Chapter 8: From Pyramid to Party 283
Chapter 9: From Structures to Institutions 321
References 343
Index 383

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