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  • Author or Editor: Mathias Albert x
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This chapter explores the possibilities of a fruitful exchange between world society theory and global history approaches. It uses turning points in analyzing the quality of the accounts of the exchange and confirms whether these accounts of significant change can be linked to one another. It also mentions the unification of global history and world society theory in rejecting any obvious 'telos' of history. The chapter explains that in global history, the rejection takes the form of a narrative in which history unfolds as nothing but a transformation of complexity, while in world society theory it takes the form of a theory of social evolution. It discusses possible substantive overlaps between global history and world society theory, which focuses on epochal change, the role of the long nineteenth century, and the role of single big events or turning points.

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In this chapter, Mathias Albert prompts a conversation between Kratochwil’s praxis approach and theories of social differentiation that are both concerned with the evolution of societies, domestically and internationally. He contends that Kratochwil’s uses of ‘theory’ are rather ambivalent, lacking a distinction between ‘IR theory’ and other uses and concepts of ‘theory’. He then enquires into Kratochwil’s account of social constitution, particularly with a view to social differentiation as a defining characteristic of social systems. Albert argues that while Kratochwil’s account is quite clear in this respect, it is biased towards the legal system as an integrative force under the condition of functional differentiation. While such a privileging of the legal system might not necessarily be legitimate from a view of ‘pure’ functional differentiation, it could be upheld as an empirical argument about social evolution. However, for that purpose Kratochwil, as well as other practice theorists, would need to twist their account of social change in the direction of a theory of social evolution.

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Understanding Global Social Change

Analysing social change has too often been characterized by parochialism, either a Eurocentrism that projects European experience outwards or a disciplinary narrowness that ignores insights from other academic disciplines. This book moves beyond these limits to develop a global perspective on social change.

The book provincializes Europe in order to analyse European modernity as the product of global developments and brings together renowned scholars from international relations, history and sociology in the search for common understandings. In so doing, it provides a range of promising theoretical approaches, analytical takes and substantive research areas that offer new vistas for understanding change on a global scale.

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This chapter introduces questions that need to be addressed when thinking about global social change. It discusses the cross-fertilizations between the various branches of global history, world society theories, global historical sociology, postcolonial studies, and theories of international relations. It also cites the criticism of a methodological nationalism that was not seen fit for a comprehensive understanding of historical and contemporary global social orders and their dynamics. The chapter explores the emergence of a paradigm from cross-disciplinary debates that make use of the empirical knowledge accumulated in the globalization scholarship of recent decades. It examines the theoretical standpoints that guide the empirical work in different disciplines.

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