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Socialising Darwin

From linguistics and psychology to anthropology, social scientists are applying neo-Darwinian insights to explain human behaviour. So why are sociologists resisting the trend? WG Runciman shows how the concepts of variation, replication and selection can help to explain social life

By W G Runciman   April 1998

In 1995, I contributed a neo-Darwinian paper to a conference held at the University of Essex to mark the retirement of David Lockwood, the leading British sociologist. The paper, “Social Integration and System Integration in the Theory of Social Selection,” was subsequently submitted at the organisers’ request to the British Sociological Association’s journal Sociology -only to earn me my first rejection from an academic journal for more than 25 years. My immediate reaction was to offer the same journal a carefully revised, unpolemical paper entitled “The Selectionist Paradigm and its Implications for Sociology.” This was accepted as “sophisticated” and “challenging.”…

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