This book presents a novel and innovative approach to the study of social evolution using case studies from the Old and the New World, from prehistory to the present. This approach is based on examining social evolution through the evolution of social institutions. Evolution is defined as the process of structural change. Within this framework the society, or culture, is seen as a system composed of a vast number of social institutions that are constantly interacting and changing. As a result, the structure of society as a whole is also evolving and changing.The authors posit that the combination of evolving social institutions explains the non-linear character of social evolution and that every society develops along its own pathway and pace. Within this framework, society should be seen as the result of the compound effect of the interactions of social institutions specific to it. Further, the transformation of social institutions and relations between them is taking place not only within individual societies but also globally, as institutions may be trans-societal, and even institutions that operate in one society can arise as a reaction to trans-societal trends and demands. The book argues that it may be more productive to look at institutions even within a given society as being parts of trans-societal systems of institutions since, despite their interconnectedness, societies still have boundaries, which their members usually know and respect. Accordingly, the book is a must-read for researchers and scholars in various disciplines who are interested in a better understanding of the origins, history, successes and failures of social institutions.
Dmitri M. Bondarenko is Vice-Director for Research at the Institute for African Studies, Russian Academy of Sciences, Director of the International Center of Anthropology at the National Research University Higher School of Economics, and Professor in Social Anthropology at the Russian State Univesity for the Humanities (all in Moscow). Bondarenko has conducted fieldwork in a number of African countries (Tanzania, Nigeria, Benin, Rwanda, Zambia, and Uganda) and among people of African descent in Russia and the USA. Bondarenko is the author of various international publications. His major research interests include political anthropology, culture and history of Africa south of the Sahara, socio-cultural transformations and intercultural interaction with special focus on Africa and people of African descent worldwide.
Stephen A. Kowalewski is a Professor Emeritus based at the Laboratory of Archaeology, Department of Anthropology at the University of Georgia (USA). He has done archaeological field work in Arizona and Georgia, and carried out regional-scale archaeological settlement pattern surveys in Oaxaca, Mexico, covering the Valles Centrales, Peñoles, central Mixteca Alta, and the Coixtlahuaca valley. Kowalewski’s main research interests, reflected in numerous publications, include demography, human ecology, economic anthropology, regional analysis, social history, and most recently, the archaeology of social institutions.
David B. Small is a Professor of Archaeology at the Department of Sociology and Anthropology, Lehigh University in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania (USA). Holding a Ph.D. from Cambridge University, in 2015 he was a Fulbright Fellow at the Department of History and Classical Studies, University of Crete in Rethymno. He has conducted archaeological excavations in Central America, Israel, and Greece and published extensively on empirical and theoretical issues of social structure and evolution in ancient Greece, Mesoamerica, and Polynesia.
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