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Very Different, But Much the SameThe Evolution of English Society Since 1714$
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W. G. Runciman

Print publication date: 2014

Print ISBN-13: 9780198712428

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198712428.001.0001

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(p.1) Introduction
Very Different, But Much the Same

W. G. Runciman

Oxford University Press

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.

Keywords:   information, trade-off, adaptation, neo-Darwinism, modernization, reverse engineering, co-evolution, game theory, value judgements, paradiastole

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