Each chapter addresses a fundamental question about people in their various arrangements. The book begins by asking: what do people need from one another; what do they need to survive and how do these needs make them dependent upon others? Subsequent chapters deal with the ties that bind people, the expectations they entertain of one another, their means of distinguishing themselves from others, the ways they have of moulding and teaching the young, and what they believe, know and invent. De Swaan also explores the ways in which people organize their activities, from foraging bands of only a few dozen members to contemporary societies that can effectively co-ordinate a billion people or more. Human Societies traces this huge increase in the scale of social life which occurred as new forms of human co-ordination emerged: from reciprocal obligation and collective action, to markets, organizations, and states, and finally, the emerging global level of interdependence.
This book will be essential reading for anyone who needs a brief and clear introduction to sociology in its broadest sense; it will be especially valuable to those studying the subject for the first time.
Abram de Swaan is chairman of the Amsterdam School of Social Science Research (ASSR.
Keywords: Sociology of Culture