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Social Theory and Regional Studies in the Global Age

Saïd Amir Arjomand

Publication Year: 2014

A pioneering approach to social theory that rectifies overreliance on Western historical experience of development and modernization.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page, Series Page, Dedication

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pp. i-vi


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pp. vii-x

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Foreword: Pangaea II: Global/Local Studies

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pp. xi-xii

This book series of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies engages the global challenges confronting humankind with research, analysis, and education. It aims at empowering individuals and communities to enjoy the benefits and avoid the dangers of globalization. Without political partisanship, the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies will form worldwide partnerships with those who appreciate the vital contribution of academic excellence to...

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pp. xiii-xiv

The project for integrating social theory and regional studies was an inaugural program of the Stony Brook Institute for Global Studies, and is appropriately appearing in its publication series, Pangaea II: Global/Local Studies. The project required a new social theory and a novel approach to regional studies, and this volume is a pioneering work in the construction of such a new social theory appropriate for the global age. Among the contributors to this volume, Wolf Schäfer and myself are co‑directors of ...

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Introduction: The Challenge of Integrating Social Theory and Regional Studies

Saïd Amir Arjomand

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pp. 1-20

The recognition of the simultaneous emergence of the natural and then social sciences and the formation of modernity in Western Europe is the inescapable starting point for any theorist wishing to lay a claim to the understanding of modernity in whatever form, be it modernity heavy, as in Habermas’s Enlightenment project of modernity that represents a sociologized version of central value‑ideas of the Western Age of Reason, or modernity lite, whose variants include multiple, alternative, connected, entangled, and...

Part I: Comparative Sociology, Civilizational Analysis, and Regional Studies

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1: Three Generations of Comparative Sociologies

Saïd Amir Arjomand

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pp. 23-62

This chapter surveys a century of comparative sociology, dividing its major developments into three phases or generations, separated by abrupt discontinuities. The promise held by comparative sociology from the beginning was the understanding of the diversity of cultures and civilizations in different regions of the world. I will argue that each generation made significant progress toward realizing the original promise of comparative sociology but was abandoned by the dominant trends in metropolitan social theory. The...

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2: History, Sociology, and the Reconfiguration of Civilizations

Björn Wittrock

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pp. 63-90

Social science emerged as a form of reflection on the fundamental transformations that shaped the societal institutions later regarded as characteristic of the modern world. This image was part and parcel of the self‑consciousness of the generation of scholars that—following Talcott Parsons’s (1937) monumental rewriting of the history of social science in the mid‑1930s—we have come to think of as the “classical” social scientists: Weber, Durkheim, and Pareto. It has been equally typical of social scientists ever since. In this...

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3: Civilization in the Global Era: One, Many … or None?

Edward A. Tiryakian

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pp. 91-112

In the new decade marked by a global financial crisis and political disorder casting disillusionment with the promise of globalization that had been spearheaded by the United States (Rachman 2011), macro sociology may be turning to a new paradigm for a renewed focus on “civilizations” as key units of analysis, arguably more appropriate than the “nation‑state.” The theme of “civilization” and its closely related “civilizing process” were the subject of numerous papers presented at the XVIIth World Congress of Sociology held...

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4: Power: Nation-States, Civilizations, and Globalization—A Multiple Modernities Perspective

Willfried Spohn

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pp. 113-144

The aim of this chapter is to specify the contribution of the comparativecivilizational multiple modernities approach to the analysis of power in its national, civilizational, and global dimensions. In the social and political sciences, the analysis of power has traditionally concentrated on power relations within the unit of the nation‑state and been complemented by the analysis of power relations between nation‑states in the political science subdiscipline of international relations and some corresponding sociological approaches ...

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5: Reconfiguring Area Studies for the Global Age

Wolf Schäfer

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pp. 145-176

Some fifteen years ago, I imagined the Global Age in the plural, guided by the “Middle Ages,” as a sequence of eras:

My colleagues five hundred years from now will call the long and eventful stretch of history since the Second World War the Global Ages. Future historians will use the plural to signify that they see a sequence of eras in this new historical epoch, which...

Part II: Historicizing Axial Shifts and Patterns of Evolution and Modernization

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6: Historicizing Axial Civilizations

Johann P. Arnason

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pp. 179-202

Debates on the significance of the Axial Age—a period of several centuries around the middle of the last millennium BCE—have been central to the renewal and development of civilizational analysis during the last decades. In fact, the translation of earlier philosophical views on this time of transformations into the language of historical sociology seems to have been an integral part of S. N. Eisenstadt’s civilizational turn, and his work is still by far the most important focus of discussion in the field. The axial connection,...

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7: Crystallization of Islam and Developmental Patterns in the Islamicate Civilization

Saïd Amir Arjomand

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pp. 203-220

My recent survey of the three generations of comparative sociologists1 gives me grounds for arguing that Max Weber’s work on the world religions, beginning with the seminal “intermediate reflections” of 1915 (Weber 1948[1915]), is the most promising starting point for current civilizational analysis. Weber’s earlier work, though comparative, was centered on the Western developmental pattern of rationalization of administration and law and of the rise of capitalism, and considered other civilizations not in...

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8: Evolutionary Grades within Complex Societies: The Case of Ethiopia

Donald N. Levine

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pp. 221-266

The title Social Theory and Regional Studies may seem oxymoronic. Regional studies have long been thought valuable only for historical understandings or practical interventions. Their idiographic focus appears at odds with rigorous theory work. Nevertheless, to scholars primed with theoretic agendas, regional studies offer bounteous opportunities to fructify social theory....

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9: From Civilizations to Modernity: Divisions and Connections of the World, and Their Legacy—A Historical Social Geology

Göran Therborn

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pp. 267-290

The part, the region, of the world we are living in today was molded long before yesterday. This historical background shapes (virtually) all of us, albeit not in any unilinear, deterministic sense, by outlining our cognitive horizons and our probable paths of learning, by providing bearings of our transcendental and moral convictions, by channeling our sexuality, by filling our memory, by guiding our tastes, by forming our sociability, even by...

Part III: World Regions, Colonial and Subaltern Modernities in the Global Periphery

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10: World-Sociology Beyond the Fragments: Oblivion and Advance in the Comparative Analysis of Modernities

Peter Wagner

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pp. 293-312

Until the late 1960s, modernization theory had provided sociology with a comprehensive and rather consistent approach to the comparative analysis of contemporary societies and their transformations over time from the alleged onset of modernity, in Europe and North America slightly more than two centuries ago, onward. This theory, however, was discredited by the combined onslaught of renewal in social theory, which reintroduced...

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11: The Americas, Civilizational Analysis, and Its Current Competitors: Bringing (Revolutionary) Politics Back In!

Wolfgang Knöbl

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pp. 313-338

The Americas are obviously not en vogue any longer—at least not within comparative‑historical sociology. Whereas in the high times of modernization theory the United States of America were seen as a kind of model society and thus as the embodiment of modernity deserving to be analyzed extensively (e.g., Lipset 1963), nowadays it is not that easy to find broad comparative studies centred around the U.S. Attention of many macrosociologists has...

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12: Atlantic Capitalism, American Economic Cultures

Jeremy C. A. Smith

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pp. 339-360

This essay brings together theories of capitalism with historical and comparative research into the varieties of capitalism in the Americas.1 The combination is supplemented by a focus on regions. There are compelling reasons for such a revision. At first glance it may seem perverse to suggest that comparative inquiry focuses our attention on the sheer diversity of societal forms more so than accounts derived from the well‑known globalization paradigm do....

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13: Second Slavery versus Second Serfdom: Local Labor Regimes of the Global Periphery

Manuela Boatcă

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pp. 361-388

The view that slavery and serfdom are institutions of the distant past, surviving only as anomalies in a capitalist system, has dominated social scientific approaches to these labor regimes ever since Adam Smith and Karl Marx. Treatment of both as essentially precapitalist institutions has habitually entailed a series of related theoretical assumptions, such as their uniform character as “lower forms of labor,” their incompatibility with the free labor characterizing...

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14: Subaltern Modernities: The Case of the Arab Iranian Community of Bushehr

Babak Rahimi

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pp. 389-414

The discourse of multiple modernities has, so far, narrowly focused on the macrohistorical processes and on how diverse interpretive patterns of modern signification have emerged with coherent and bounded (though changing) political‑institutional structures (Wagner 2008, 12). Traditions as specific characteristics of civilizations are likewise viewed as endogenously defined wholes that express unique collective identities according to the cultural programs...

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15: The Construction of Regional Identities in East Asia

Thomas Kern, Lotta Mayer, and Sang‑hui Nam

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pp. 415-436

The recent sociological discussion of the future of the nation‑state in the age of globalization has raised questions about the relationship between global, national, and local levels of institutional orders and cultural identities. In this context, the concept of “world region”1 has increasingly drawn the attention of social scientists as an intermediary level of institutionalization between world society and nation‑state (Eder 2007; Hurrell 2007; Joas and Wiegandt 2005; Katzenstein 2007; Münch 1996; Risse 2000)....

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16: Gazing Backward or Looking Forward: Colonial Modernity and Making of a Sociology of Modern India

Sujata Patel

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pp. 437-460

In this chapter, I explore the visions of two pioneers of sociology in India— D. P. Mukerji and A. R.Desai, who made major contributions to the framing of sociology as a study of modern India. Their major works were published in the decades of the 1940s and 1950s; the decades in which India moved from colonialism to independence. Similar to many intellectuals of that epoch in the region, both were highly influenced by radical nationalist ideas...


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pp. 461-466


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pp. 467-482

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438451619
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438451596

Page Count: 496
Publication Year: 2014

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Sociology.
  • Social sciences -- Philosophy.
  • Globalization -- Social aspects.
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