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The Theory of Cultural and Social Selection / Edition 1

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Overview

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

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
"Runciman's puzzle is how to bring together different levels of change and differentiation in human existence - from the biological to the social - under a single analytic framework, one that rests firmly on a Darwinian logic of selection.... With a remarkable depth and insight, Runciman can give penetrating answers to the 'why' questions." - The Times Literary Supplement
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780521136143
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press
  • Publication date: 12/31/2009
  • Edition number: 1
  • Pages: 266
  • Product dimensions: 6.00 (w) x 8.90 (h) x 0.60 (d)

Meet the Author

W. G. Runciman has been a Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1971 and of the British Academy, as whose President he served from 2001–2004, since 1975. He holds honorary degrees from the Universities of Edinburgh, London, Oxford and York. He is an Honorary Fellow of Nuffield College, Oxford and a Foreign Honorary Member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences.

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Table of Contents

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

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