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Social Change Theories in Motion : Explaining the Past, Understanding the Present, Envisioning the
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This book assesses how theorists explained processes of change set in motion by the rise of capitalism. It situates them in the milieu in which they wrote. They were never neutral observers standing outside the conditions they were trying to explain. Their arguments were responses to those circumstances and to the views of others commentators, living and dead. Some repeated earlier views; others built on those perspectives; a few changed the way we think. While surveying earlier writers, the author’s primary concerns are theorists who sought to explain industrialization, imperialism, and the consolidation of nation-states after 1840. Marx, Durkheim, and Weber still shape our understandings of the past, present, and future. Patterson focuses on explanations of the unsettled conditions that crystallized in the 1910s and still persist: the rise of socialist states, anti-colonial movements, prolonged economic crises, and almost continuous war. After 1945, theorists in capitalist countries, influenced by Cold War politics, saw social change in terms of economic growth, progress, and modernization; their contemporaries elsewhere wrote about underdevelopment, dependency, or uneven development. In the 1980s, theorists of postmodernity, neoliberalism, globalization, innovations in communications technologies, and post-socialism argued that they rendered earlier accounts insufficient. Others saw them as manifestations of a new imperialism, capitalist accumulation on a global scale, environmental crises, and nationalist populism.