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Comparative Sociology and Theories of Social Change: Progress, Unpredictability and Visions of the Future

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Comparative Sociology and Social Theory
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There is a widespread sense that the contemporary world is undergoing a profound transition, perhaps as profound as Polanyi’s (1957) ‘great transformation’ which marked the emergence of modernity and which sponsored the birth of the discipline of sociology. It is certainly the case that the global reach of economic, political and cultural forces has had an intensely destabilizing effect throughout what Horowitz called the ‘three worlds of development’ (1972), resulting in the need to reconsider the very terminology of first, second and third worlds coined in the period following the Second World War (Worsley, 1984). Chapters 3 and 4 charted the various processes unfolding within industrial capitalist societies, which are becoming in some senses ‘post-industrial’ and which are in important respects increasingly diverse. The second world of state socialist societies examined in Chapter 5 has undergone even more dramatic changes, to the extent that ‘when communism was abandoned in Eastern Europe and the former Soviet Union, the rationale for the Second World appeared to have vanished’ (Sklair, 1995, p. 11). From the outset, the heterogeneity of the countries grouped together in the third world made the category inherently problematic, and the further differentiation of these countries during the second half of the twentieth century has added to doubts about its analytical usefulness, as has been noted in Chapters 6 and 7. If comparative sociology is to fulfil its promise and to have continued relevance in the twenty-first century, it will be necessary to reassess this inherited framework of analysis and go beyond the three worlds.

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© 1997 Graham Crow

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Crow, G. (1997). Comparative Sociology and Theories of Social Change: Progress, Unpredictability and Visions of the Future. In: Comparative Sociology and Social Theory. Palgrave, London.

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