The Evolution of Social Institutions

Interdisciplinary Perspectives

  • Dmitri M. Bondarenko
  • Stephen A. Kowalewski
  • David B. Small

Part of the World-Systems Evolution and Global Futures book series (WSEGF)

Table of contents

  1. Front Matter
    Pages i-xvii
  2. Dmitri M. Bondarenko
    Pages 1-25
  3. Theoretical Approaches

    1. Front Matter
      Pages 27-27
    2. Stephen A. Kowalewski, Jennifer Birch
      Pages 29-50
    3. Henri J. M. Claessen
      Pages 79-100
  4. The Old World

  5. The New World

  6. David B. Small
    Pages 657-661

About this book


This book presents a novel and innovative approach to the study of social evolution using case studies from the Old and the New World, from prehistory to the present. This approach is based on examining social evolution through the evolution of social institutions. Evolution is defined as the process of structural change. Within this framework the society, or culture, is seen as a system composed of a vast number of social institutions that are constantly interacting and changing. As a result, the structure of society as a whole is also evolving and changing. 

The authors posit that the combination of evolving social institutions explains the non-linear character of social evolution and that every society develops along its own pathway and pace. Within this framework, society should be seen as the result of the compound effect of the interactions of social institutions specific to it. Further, the transformation of social institutions and relations between them is taking place not only within individual societies but also globally, as institutions may be trans-societal, and even institutions that operate in one society can arise as a reaction to trans-societal trends and demands. 

The book argues that it may be more productive to look at institutions even within a given society as being parts of trans-societal systems of institutions since, despite their interconnectedness, societies still have boundaries, which their members usually know and respect. Accordingly, the book is a must-read for researchers and scholars in various disciplines who are interested in a better understanding of the origins, history, successes and failures of social institutions. 


Complexity Cultural comparisons World-systems Anthropological theory Social history Political Anthropology Historical Sociology Chiefdoms States Empires Prehistory Ancient history Medieval history Modern history Eurasia Africa North America Mesoamerica South America Oceania

Editors and affiliations

  • Dmitri M. Bondarenko
    • 1
  • Stephen A. Kowalewski
    • 2
  • David B. Small
    • 3
  1. 1.International Center of AnthropologyNational Research University Higher School of EconomicsMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Laboratory of Archaeology, Department of AnthropologyUniversity of GeorgiaAthensUSA
  3. 3.Department of Sociology and AnthropologyLehigh UniversityBethlehemUSA

Bibliographic information

  • DOI
  • Copyright Information The Editor(s) (if applicable) and The Author(s), under exclusive license to Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020
  • Publisher Name Springer, Cham
  • eBook Packages Social Sciences Social Sciences (R0)
  • Print ISBN 978-3-030-51436-5
  • Online ISBN 978-3-030-51437-2
  • Series Print ISSN 2522-0985
  • Series Online ISSN 2522-0993
  • Buy this book on publisher's site