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Publisher Description

The Social Animal is a classic investigation of human beings as social animals.

The Social Animal is a short, wide-ranging, witty and accessible book that sets out the present extent of our knowledge about how human societies and institutions really work, and what motivates the people who live within them.

W. G. Runciman’s superb book is a welcome corrective to the view that there are no societies, only collections of individuals and their families: he shows that wherever they may live in the world, human beings are quintessentially social animals.

Using the latest insights from the fields of biology, anthropology, psychology, economic history and sociology, Runciman proposes a new social science, based not upon outmoded marxist ideas, but on the insights of Charles Darwin.

The Social Animal is a book that can be read for pleasure as well as profit by anyone who has pondered what the social sciences are really about; how far they can assist policy makers create a better world; and what experiences are common to all human beings, regardless of where they might live.

It is, in short, an instant classic.


Praise for A Treatise on Social Theory (CUP: 1983, 1989, forthcoming):

‘One of the most exotic – even flamboyant – intellectual projects of recent years… the two questions [Runciman] seeks to explain are nothing less than these: what kinds of society are possible at any given stage of human development, and why any given society became the way it did, in the course of it… The result is a dazzling display of erudition. Runciman’s command of the comparative historical record has few, if any, rivals. Old Babylonia, tribal Africa, archaic Greece, Pre-Columbian America, Stone Age Melanesia, Classical Rome, Dark Age Lombardy, Medieval Japan, Imperial China, feudal Poland, republican Venice, caliphal Islam, absolutist France, industrial Britain, revolutionary Mexico, Stalinist Russia, populist Argentina, social-democratic Sweden, racist South Africa – all these and many more parade across what astonishingly remains a compact, middle-sized book, each deftly and economically captured… Deeply impressive.’
Perry Anderson, London Review of Books

About the author

Viscount Runciman of Doxford has been Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge since 1971. He is one of Britain’s most eminent academics and was Chairman of the Royal Commission on Criminal Justice from 1991–3. He is the author of numerous books, most recently the massive and hugely acclaimed three volume Treatise on Social Theory (CUP, 1983,1989, forthcoming).

Science & Nature
May 31