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1 - The Conceptual Framework

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  17 August 2009

Douglass C. North
Affiliation:
Washington University, St Louis
John Joseph Wallis
Affiliation:
University of Maryland, College Park
Barry R. Weingast
Affiliation:
Stanford University, California
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Summary

Introduction

The task of the social sciences is to explain the performance characteristics of societies through time, including the radical gap in human well-being between rich countries and poor as well as the contrasting forms of political organization, beliefs, and social structure that produce these variations in performance. Recorded human history began with the first social revolution – the Neolithic, agricultural, urban, or first economic revolution – and the appearance of the first large permanent groups of individuals between five thousand and ten thousand years ago. The second social revolution – the industrial, modern, or second economic revolution – began two hundred years ago and continues today. Changes in the organization of groups played a central role in this revolution as well. As Coleman describes it, “It is the corporate actors, the organizations that draw their power from persons and employ that power to corporate ends, that are the primary actors in the social structure of modern society” (1974, p. 49). The two social revolutions resulted in profound changes in the way societies were organized. The central task of this book is to articulate the underlying logic of the two new patterns of social organization, what we call social orders, and to explain how societies make the transition from one social order to the other.

In order to understand why emergent features of modern developed societies, such as economic development and democracy, are so closely linked in the second social revolution, we are interested in the basic forces underlying patterns of the social order.

Type
Chapter
Information
Violence and Social Orders
A Conceptual Framework for Interpreting Recorded Human History
, pp. 1 - 29
Publisher: Cambridge University Press
Print publication year: 2009

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