The Introduction sketches the principal features of current social-evolutionary theory to be applied to English (and to a limited extent British) society in subsequent chapters. This theory has nothing to do with the teleological presuppositions of nineteenth-century evolutionism, or the discredited fallacies of ‘Social Darwinism’, or the reductionist claims of twentieth-century sociobiology, or present-day theories of ‘modernization’. Despite sociology’s lack of an agreed taxonomy, England’s distinctive institutions can be shown to be the outcome of an open-ended but path-dependent trajectory which turned out to preclude a revolutionary transition to a qualitatively different mode such as could be seen both in England’s past and in numerous other societies during the eighteenth, nineteenth, and twentieth centuries. Moreover, this approach effectively bypasses the controversies between authors of rival political persuasions over whether any given institutional change (or its absence) is to be judged a good thing or a bad one.
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