Exploring Social Change: America and the World

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  • Edition: 6th
  • Format: Paperback
  • Copyright: 2010-10-27
  • Publisher: Routledge

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This introduction to social change focuses on theories that explain social change, innovation, social movements, and revolutions. The last part of the book shifts explicitly to the global level to analyze population and environmental issues and globalization. Within this framework, the book discusses topics about change and its problems familiar in sociology and social science.

Author Biography

Charles Harper, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sociology at Creighton University. His academic interests include social change, globalization, religion, environmental sociology, social theory, and food issues. His publications include journal articles related to those interests, and he has published university-level texts including Environment and Society: Human Perspectives on Environmental Issues (2007), Exploring Social Change: America and the World (2006), and Food, Society, and Environment (2007).  Professor Harper has been a consultant for many religious and community organizations, and is an active contributor to departmental policy, personnel, and curriculum matters for the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at Creighton University. He is the recipient of numerous awards, including the Environmental Educator Achievement Award, presented by the Nebraska Chapter of the Sierra Club, and the Burlington Northern Award, to the Outstanding Creighton University Scholar of the Year, awarded by the Creighton University Graduate School.


Kevin Leicht, Ph.D. is a Professor of Sociology at the University of Iowa, where he teaches courses in the sociology of work, organizational theory, economy and society, political sociology and social stratification. He has co-authored five books, including Postindustrial Peasants: The Illusion of Middle Class Prosperity (2006), Professional Work (2001), and Current Issues in the Study of Labor Force: Concepts, Measures and Trends (2001). He has contributed chapters and articles to edited works, including the Encyclopedia of Social Theory, and published research articles in journals such as American Journal of Sociology and Law and Society Review. Professor Leicht is Editor of Research in Social Stratification and Mobility, official journal of the Social Stratification Section (RC-28) of the International Sociological Association, Director of the Institute for Inequality Studies and Director of the Social Science Research Center. His current research examines gender inequality among professionals, transaction-cost approaches to career decision-making, the development of economic development programs by the U.S. states, and the causes and consequences of corporate restructuring.

Table of Contents

Prefacep. viii
By Way of Introductionp. 1
What Is Social Change?p. 5
Sociology and Social Changep. 10
What you Can Expect from This Book and How It Is Organizedp. 10
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 11
Explaining Change
The Causes and Patterns of Changep. 13
Theory in Sociologyp. 14
The Causes of Changep. 15
Materialistic Perspectivesp. 16
Idealistic Perspectivesp. 18
Patterns of Changep. 24
In Conclusionp. 40
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 40
Social Theory and Social Changep. 43
Functionalist Theoryp. 44
Conflict Theoryp. 50
Multiple Perspectives and Change: Reconciling Agency and Structurep. 62
In Conclusion: Large-Scale Change and Human Agencyp. 64
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 64
Social Change in the United States
American Social Trendsp. 66
Structural Trendsp. 67
Changing Cultural Themesp. 72
Countertrends and Reactions to Modernity: Antimodernism and Postmodernismp. 78
In Conclusionp. 80
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 81
Change in the Settings of Everyday Life: Populations, Families, and Workp. 83
Demographic Changep. 84
Changing Familiesp. 89
Transforming Workp. 96
In Conclusionp. 103
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 103
Economics, Politics, and the American Prospectp. 105
The Changing Economyp. 106
Change in the Political Systemp. 113
Change, Problems, and the American Prospectp. 123
In Conclusionp. 128
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 131
Processes of Social Change
Social Movementsp. 133
What Are Social Movements?p. 134
Types of Social Movementsp. 136
Explaining the Origins of Social Movementsp. 139
In Conclusionp. 157
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 158
American Reform Movements and Social Changep. 160
The Social Context of Twentieth-Century American Reform Movementsp. 161
Social Class and Reform Movements at the Turn of the Twentieth Centuryp. 162
Social Status and Reform Movements in Mid-Twentieth Centuryp. 171
In Conclusion: What Kinds of Changes Do Reform Movements Produce?p. 185
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 187
Revolutionsp. 189
What is a Social Revolution?p. 189
Theories of Revolutionp. 190
The Outcomes of Revolutionp. 202
Successful and Failed Revolution in the Contemporary Contextp. 203
A World Revolution: The Collapse of the Communist Systemp. 209
But Was It a Revolution?p. 224
In Conclusion: The Inevitability of Revolutionary Surprisep. 226
Thinking Personality about Social Changep. 227
Technology, Innovation, and Networksp. 229
Innovations as a Change Processp. 230
The Act of Innovationp. 232
Sources of Innovation: Social and Culturalp. 233
Diffusion: How Innovations Spreadp. 239
Adoption of Innovations: Social Systems and Individualsp. 243
Instutional Change and the Spread of Innovationsp. 245
Social Networksp. 247
In Conclusion: Back at the Information Technology Revolutionp. 256
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 259
Creating Changep. 260
Creating Change in Omaha: Muddling Through and Planningp. 263
Basic Change Strategiesp. 268
The Role of Violence in Creating Changep. 274
Mixed and Complex Strategiesp. 278
Being a Change Agentp. 283
The Ethics of inducing Changep. 284
In Conclusion: Some Final Thoughts about the Feasibility of Creating Changep. 286
Thinking personally about Social Changep. 289
Global Change
The Emerging Global System: Development and Globalizationp. 291
Two Worldsp. 292
What is Development?p. 294
Uneven Developmentp. 295
Developmentalist Thinking: Perspectives and Dimensionsp. 300
Explaning Failed Developmentp. 304
Dependency and World Systems Theoriesp. 306
Structure and Dynamics of the World Systemp. 307
Globalizationp. 314
In Conclusion: Development, Globalization, and Human Progressp. 322
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 324
Society, Environment, and Changep. 325
Ecological Perspectives on Change and Problemsp. 326
Aspects of Ecological Change and Problemsp. 328
Human Impacts and Global Environmental Changep. 339
In Conclusions: Societies, Environment, and Global Stabilityp. 351
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 355
World Futuresp. 356
New World order or New World Chaos?p. 358
Looking at the Next Fifty Yearsp. 359
Prophetic Visions: Some Longer Viewsp. 370
In Conclusions: The Third Revolution and Power from Belowp. 379
Thinking Personally about Social Changep. 381
Epilogue: Living in a Rapidly Changing Worldp. 383
Referencesp. 387
Author Indexp. 415
Subject Indexp. 418
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