On Social Evolution : Phenomenon and Paradigm book cover
1st Edition

On Social Evolution
Phenomenon and Paradigm

ISBN 9781003004653
Published February 26, 2020 by Routledge
260 Pages 2 B/W Illustrations

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Book Description

Tang provides a coherent and systematic exploration of social evolution as a phenomenon and as a paradigm. He critically builds on existing discussions on social evolution, while drawing from a wide range of disciplines, including archaeology, evolutionary anthropology, sociology, economics, political science, the philosophy of social sciences, and evolutionary biology.

Clarifying the relationship between biological evolution and social evolution, Tang lays bare the ontological and epistemological principles of the social evolutionary paradigm. He also presents operational principles and tools for deploying this paradigm to understand empirical puzzles about human society.

This is a vital resource for students, practitioners, and philosophers of all social sciences.

Table of Contents


Chapter 1. Introduction

Chapter 2. Biological Evolution: From Basics to Extended Synthesis

Chapter 3. Social Evolution as a Phenomenon

Chapter 4. The Social Evolution Paradigm

Chapter 5. A Critique of Existing Evolutionary Social Sciences

Chapter 6. What Social Evolution Paradigm can Do

Chapter 7. In Lieu of Conclusion: The Power of SEP

Appendix A. What Haven’t Social Sciences been more evolutionary?

Appendix B. Geno-social sciences as Sociobiology Redux



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Shiping Tang is Fudan Distinguished Professor and Dr. Seaker Chan Chair Professor at the School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Fudan University, China. He also holds a "Chang-Jiang/Cheung Kong Scholar" Distinguished Professorship from the Chinese Ministry of Education. His earlier book, The Social Evolution of International Politics (2013), received the International Studies Association's "Annual Best Book Award" in 2015.


"Shiping Tang’s insightful and critical review of the previous evolutionary arguments in the social sciences is a must read for scholars interested in going beyond generalized Darwinism and moving toward adopting 'generalized evolutionism.' His focus on niche construction and human agency in reshaping environments represents a major contribution to the study of social evolution." 

Howard E. Aldrich, Kenan Professor of Sociology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, USA

"For much too long social science has neglected evolutionary theories, which are both powerful and appropriate to many of our puzzles. In a systematic treatment that is both nuanced and stimulating, Shiping Tang puts the evolutionary approach through its paces and shows how selection, variance, and inheritance operate to explain both macro and micro social developments."

Robert Jervis, Aldai E. Stevenson Professor of International Politics, Columbia University, and author of System Effects: Complexity in Political and Social Life.

"Deeply researched and powerfully argued, On Social Evolution posits that evolutionism triumphs over all other explanations of the natural and the social world. Shiping Tang has succeeded marvelously in developing and defending theoretically this bold claim. All of us should read and wrestle with this challenging and outstanding book."

Peter J. Katzenstein, Walter S. Carpenter, Jr. Professor of International Studies, Cornell University, USA