World Religions and Social Evolution of the Old World Oikumene Civilizations: A Cross-Cultural Perspective

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This book provides a cross-cultural analysis of traditional social organization of the Old World Oikumene civilizations, which suggest that the world religions were its major determinant. The role of Christianity and Islam as determinants of social evolution is analyzed in more detail. Formal analysis performed in this book shows that though such factors as political centralization and class stratification were also important determinants, the difference in traditional social organization between Christian and Islamic cultures were mostly shaped by the respective world religions. This study also analyzes such topics as influence of Islam on social patterns in Sub-Saharan Africa and Southeast Asia, or Hinayana Buddhism influence on the evolution of kinship organization. This cross-cultural analysis makes it possible to provide an entirely new assessment of the old controversy between Materialism and Idealism, to move beyond both of these approaches.


“[This work] is one of the most remarkable and important studies in recent years in cross-cultural analysis. Following the general thrust of Max Weber’s argument for the significance of religion for social and economic development, Korotayev shows that the divergence between Islam and Christianity is deep and long-standing….Korotayev shows that Islamic societies are at the extreme poles of unilateral descent and patricentric kinship structures, whereas Christian societies are at the opposite poles of bilateral descent and matrilateral kinship…..Basing his findings on a wide-ranging and well-executed technical analysis of cross-cultural data sets, Korotayev makes a strong case. This work will be of great importance for everyone interested in long-term structural patterns of human societies; in the comparison of Christian and Islamic regions of the world; and in the deep historical evolution of democracy.” – Randall Collins, University of Pennsylvania

“Andrey Korotayev has written an original and penetrating analysis of the influence of world religions on social evolution…..Korotayev persuasively argues that the communicative networks associated with world religions, such as Christianity and Islam, molded the social structure of the Afroeurasian societies. Good ideas and rigorous statistical insights abound. Of particular interest to many readers will be the new results on the influence of religions on intrasocietal aggression and on communal democracy. This is an important and timely book by one of the foremost scholars in the field of social evolution.” – Professor Peter Turchin (University of Connecticut, Storrrs), author of Historical Dynamics: Why States Rise and Fall

“This new study by Professor Korotayev is a particularly valuable contribution….effectively showing that religion does indeed have an active role in shaping other elements of social organization…..This is an important study not just because it addresses these crucial yet strangely neglected questions, but even more so because of its unusually empirical and hypothesis-based approach. The correlational studies relating elements of the different religions to sociostructural characteristics of cultures is certainly the heart of the book…..Professor Korotayev persuasively argues that progress remains a valuable concept if we wish to fully explore social evolution and it is one that can be approached much more objectively than most of us would have guessed.” – Paul K. Wason, Director of Science and Religion Programs, John Templeton Foundation and author of Archaeology of Rank (Cambridge, 1994).

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