Sociology

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By W. G. Runciman

This moment of 3 volumes units out a common account of the constitution and evolution of human societies. the writer argues first that societies are to be outlined as units of roles whose incumbents are opponents for entry to, or regulate of, the technique of construction, persuasion and coercion; and moment, that the method through which societies evolve is one in every of aggressive collection of the practices during which roles are outlined analagous, yet now not reducible, to normal choice. He illustrates and assessments those theses with proof drawn from the full diversity of societies documented within the historic and ethnographic checklist. the result's an unique, strong and far-reaching reformulation of evolutionary sociological thought in order to give the chance to do for the category and research of societies what Darwin and his successors have performed for the type and research of species.

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There is, at the very most, a case for starting from a hypothetical fourfold division, if only because in any fairly large and complex society there are likely to be, first, a dominant elite of some kind; second, the auxiliary roles necessary for the exercise of that domination; third, a stratum of persons occupying the roles which guarantee the basic productive functions which keep the society in being; and fourth, an 'underclass' of outlaws, mendicants, vagabonds, captives, drop-outs, criminals and so forth whose roles are stigmatized by the ideology of those located above them.

The qualifications set out in this Section do have to be acknowledged in any attempt at depicting social structure in terms of the distribution of persons in their roles as points within threedimensional space, and they do restrict the scope of structural * Such figures are of course perfectly valid as one kind of representation of a frequency distribution: a triangle is then the model of a society with one role at the top of a single dimension of power and an evenly increasing proportion of less and less powerful roles down to a large group or category with no power at all at the bottom.

There are many familiar reasons why relative deprivation may not be felt to a sufficient extent and degree to generate systactic consciousness and thereby an organized attempt at collective mobility. Loyalties are divided, personal interests conflict, the same persons occupy sets of different roles, communication is imperfect and the hold of customary expectations is strong. f But the answers to these questions • The definition is taken from Runciman (1966), p. 10; cf. g. Boudon (1977). The term was originally coined by Stouffer et al.

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