The Dynamics of Inter-Societal Systems

  • Jonathan H. Turner


Even though there were less than ten million people on earth for the first 185,000 years of human existence, hunter-gatherers from different sets of bands would inevitably make contact; and if this contact persisted for a time, then these early relations constituted the first inter-societal systems. The label, inter-societal system, connotes that it is societies as a whole that make contact and form relations; and such may have been the case when societies were very small. But even in these early contacts, it was actors within institutional domains that were forging the relations that define an inter-societal system. There can be many varieties of relationships and networks emerging among actors in key institutional domains. For example, small societies may exchange women in marriage, thus indicating that it is actors in the respective kinship domains that are forming relations. Similarly, when religion spreads from one society to another, it is actors operating within the religious domain that are the core of the inter-societal system. When students migrate from one society to another for education, the educational domain is the core of this inter-societal system. When teams from different countries compete in sports, this too is an inter-societal system created by the institutional domains of sport in each society. There can also be a demographic dimension to inter-societal systems, as when members of one population migrate to another; but typically, there is a “reason” for the migration – political, kinship, religion, or economic – and this reason almost always involves the structure and culture of one or more institutional domains. Inter-societal systems can also involve more purely cultural relations, as is the case when individuals from the same ethnic subpopulation or some other categoric designation like tribe or religion become partitioned in two separate societies and, yet, still maintain contact.


Coercive Force Domestic Market Home Base Coercive Power Dominant Society 
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Copyright information

© Springer New York 2010

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of SociologyUniversity of California at RiversideRiversideUSA

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