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Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2013

Seth Abrutyn

Recent scholarship in neo-evolutionary sociology has rejected stage-models in favor of multilinear theories that shift the study of sociocultural change away from…

Abstract

Recent scholarship in neo-evolutionary sociology has rejected stage-models in favor of multilinear theories that shift the study of sociocultural change away from teleological arguments toward those that emphasize selection pressures and macrodynamics. The paper below adopts a neo-evolutionary frame to revisit one of the most epochal moments in human sociocultural evolution, the urban revolution (about 5,000 years ago in Mesopotamia, China, Egypt, and perhaps the Indus Valley) and the rise of the first political units. Shifting the analysis from conventional perspectives, this paper asks the question why the polity was the first autonomous institution besides kinship and what consequences did this have on the trajectory of the human societies, and more generally, human sociocultural evolution. By doing so, a slightly different historiography is presented in which institutional autonomy corresponds not with stages, but rather an historical “phasing” that emphasizes the role that institutional entrepreneurs have played in driving institutional evolution via structural opportunities and historical contingencies.

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Voices of Globalization
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-546-3

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Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Seth Abrutyn

A synthesis of the various strands of macro-sociology that is commensurate with a more robust theory of evolutionary institutionalism.

Abstract

Purpose

A synthesis of the various strands of macro-sociology that is commensurate with a more robust theory of evolutionary institutionalism.

Design/methodology/approach

Drawing from what may be conceived of as classical institutionalism and from neo-evolutionary sociology and other related traditions, this chapter endeavors to provide a general theory of evolutionary institutionalism as an overview of institutions and institutional autonomy (along with the underlying forces driving the process of autonomy), to present a theory of institutional evolution that delineates the relevant units of selection and evolution, the types of mechanisms that facilitate institutional evolution, and a typology of the sources of variation.

Findings

The chapter constitutes the attempt to provide a theoretical framework intended to engender an improved historical-comparative institutionalism inspired by the works of Max Weber and Herbert Spencer.

Research limitations/implications

The purpose of the theoretical framework presented should not be misconstrued as a general, “grand” theory for the discipline of the sociology as a whole, but rather understood as the model of a common vocabulary for sociologists interested in macro-sociology, institutions, and socio-cultural evolution designed to complement other available models.

Originality/value

As a synthesis, the originality of the theoretical framework presented lies in (1) elucidation of the idea that institutional autonomy as the “master” process of institutional evolution, (2) more precise delineation of the link between meso-level institutional entrepreneurs and institutional evolution, and (3) combination of a body of complementary – yet often loosely linked – bodies of scholarship.

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Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 20 October 2020

Seth Abrutyn and Omar Lizardo

Purpose – In recent decades, some sociologists have turned to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science to support, modify, and reconfigure existing social…

Abstract

Purpose – In recent decades, some sociologists have turned to evolutionary biology, neuroscience, and cognitive science to support, modify, and reconfigure existing social psychological theory. In this chapter, we build on this momentum by considering the relevance of current work in affective and cognitive neuroscience for understanding emotions and the self. Our principal aim is to enlarge the range of phenomena currently considered by sociologists who study emotion while showing how affective dynamics play an important role across most outcomes and processes of interest to social scientists.

Approach – We focus on the ways external social objects become essential to, and emotionally significant for, the self. To that end, we draw on ideas from phenomenology, pragmatism, classic symbolic interactionism, and dramaturgy. We show how basic affective systems graft on, build from, and extend current social psychological usages of emotions as well as the important sociological work being done on self, from both symbolic interactionist (SI) and identity theory (IT) perspectives. Finally, we turn to the promising directions in studying emotional biographies and various aspects related to embodiment.

Findings – Affective systems consist of brain networks whose connections deepen when activated, with interesting variations observable at the neural, individual, and social levels in which one or more system is more salient than others. Affective systems may come to saturate the construction and maintenance of an autobiography or collective biography, with consequences for self-projection, self-other attunement, and embodied action. In turning to embodiment, however, we consider aspects of cognitive neuroscience that can contribute to ongoing work in neurosociology building on symbolic interactionism.

Practical Implications – The focus on affective systems suggests new research agendas in leveraging emerging neurosociological methods in the laboratory, while pushing for novel, naturalistic observational strategies. The latter, in particular, may be key to deepening sociology's contributions to neuroscience, better positioned to bring the full disciplinary toolkit to bear on these questions.

Social Implications – In considering the embodied and projective aspects of the self, we show how work examining convergence and divergence between embodied and linguistic pathways opens up new insights into how the self develops or acquires behavioral repertoires. As such, this chapter points to the need for holistic approach to understanding the social actor and, thereby, how political, economic, historical, and cultural factors shape self as much as biogenetic and psychological.

Originality of the Chapter – Sociologists think of emotions as either dependent or intervening variables: (1) signaling identity or situational incongruence, (2) states to be managed, and (3) structural dimensions of superordinate–subordinate relationships. Our integration of the theory of affective systems emphasizes the causal primacy emotions have over other behavioral and cognitive functions, clarifying how they play into the construction and maintenance of self and social experience.

Details

Advances in Group Processes
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-232-1

Keywords

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Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Abstract

Details

Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

Content available
Book part
Publication date: 20 October 2020

Abstract

Details

Advances in Group Processes
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-80043-232-1

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 2 December 2013

Abstract

Details

Social Theories of History and Histories of Social Theory
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78350-219-6

To view the access options for this content please click here
Book part
Publication date: 15 October 2013

Abstract

Details

Voices of Globalization
Type: Book
ISBN: 978-1-78190-546-3

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