Frank W. Elwell


The Evolution of the Future (Praeger, 1991)

About this Title:
Written by sociologist Frank W. Elwell Chairman of the Department of Sociology, Anthropology and Social Work at Murray State University. Rather than relying on simple trend analysis, the book critiques futurism from the standpoint of cultural materialism, a contemporary theory rooted in social ecology/evolutionary theory. The book includes:

  • A revision of Cultural Materialism a systems theory that attempts to account for the origin, maintenance, and change of society.
  • The social evolutionary process supported by the latest research and supplemented with case studies and illustrations.
  • The role of elites discussing the nature and extent of their power in determining future social evolution.
  • The politics of the future examining the clash between the technological and ecological worldviews.
  • Environmental limits clarifying the empirical and theoretical underpinnings to the debate.
  • A critique of postindustrialists including the popular utopian works of Toeffler, Naisbitt and other optimists.
  • The new totalitarianism an update on the dystopia as envisioned by Huxley, Heilbroner, and others.

Industrializing America: Understanding Contemporary Society Through Classical Sociological Analysis (Praeger, 1999)

About this Title:
An analysis of any part of the social system must be firmly rooted in a framework that outlines the whole system and the interrelationships of the various parts.  Building on classical sociological theory, this volume proposes an original and comprehensive systems theory of sociocultural stability and change, which combines fundamental ecological relationships with social structures and culture.  Relationships and concepts developed by Marx, Weber, Malthus, Mills, Harris and Durkheim are explained and synthesized into a coherent perspective, which is used to examine multiple phenomena in hyper industrial societies:

  • the structure of power
  • bureaucracy
  • the irrationality factor
  • globalization
  • economic rationalization
  • current workplace turmoil
  • family and community
  • agriculture and health care
  • higher education and politics
  • the rise of a new ideology of technology
  • possibilities for the future
The author argues that recent changes in social structures (for example corporations, education, or the family) and culture (our socially created and shared symbolic understanding of our world) are interrelated and rooted in massive changes in population size and industrial growth.  By systematically relating the analysis of these sociocultural phenomena to the whole and to one another this volume presents a framework that can serve to organize and integrate many diverse theories, insights, and much empirical information into a comprehensive worldview.

A Commentary on Malthus (Mellen, 2001)

About this Title:
The book is a commentary on Malthus’ 1798 Essay on Population that attempts to tie the interpretation closely to the original Essay rather than to the politically charged reactions to that Essay.  Malthus' master work is not a simplistic projection of future population growth and inevitable collapse, the Essay is actually a far subtler ecological-evolutionary social theory.  Malthus’ theory is fundamentally based on the relationships between population and food production.  Increase the supply of food, he argues, and population will rise to meet this increase. This, he asserts, means that the race between population and resources can never be truly won by any sociocultural system. Therefore, some measure of social inequality is inevitable in all human societies.

The work includes commentary and criticism of Malthus’ methodology, the materialist, evolutionary, and functional elements of his theory, as well as the application of his theory to understanding the nature of welfare programs and possibilities for social progress.

Macrosociology: Four Modern Theorists
Paradigm Publishers (2006)


About this Title:
This book examines the work of four modern theorists who have taken on the larger themes of classical social theory. C. Wright Mills, Marvin Harris, Immanuel Wallerstein, and Gerhard Lenski have examined such phenomena and processes as the rise and impact of capitalism, the centralization and enlargement of authority, inequality, and the intensification of production and population. Borrowing what is useful from the classics as well as relying on contemporary practitioners and empirical evidence, each theorist adds his own insights and interpretations in constructing a comprehensive perspective of sociocultural stability and change. This book fully summarizes and documents each perspective using language and examples that resonate with the general reader. A short biography on each theorist is also provided.

Frank Elwell is a professor of sociology and the founding dean of the School of Liberal Arts at Rogers State University. He is the author of The Evolution of the Future, Industrializing America, and A Commentary on Malthus’ 1798 Essay as Social Theory.

Macrosociology: The Study of Sociocultural Systems. Mellen, 2009

About the Title:

This book is intended to introduce students to the classical social theory of Karl Marx, Emile Durkheim, Max Weber, and T. Robert Malthus, as well as the modern expressions of these perspectives. It does this through two mechanisms. First, it provides an overview and critique of the four major classical traditions in sociology. Rather than discussing these theories as history, the book will focus upon elements of the perspectives that have proved useful in understanding sociocultural systems. Then, the book will provide an overview and critique of the perspective and analysis of three contemporary social scientists writing within each of these traditions. For contemporary followers of Marx the theories of Immanuel Wallerstein, Harry Braverman, and John Bellamy Foster will be examined. Representing the Durkheimian worldview will be Stjepan Mestrovic, Robert K. Merton, Robert A. Nisbet, and Neil Postman. Modern day Weberians are represented by C. Wright Mills, Norbert Elias, and George Ritzer. Finally, as modern representatives of  Malthusian/Spencerian theory, the book will examine the theories of Ester Boserup, Gerhard Lenski, and Stephen K. Sanderson. F. The overarching goal of the book is to provide students with an in-depth understanding of each of the macro-sociological traditions and their usefulness in understanding contemporary societies. Through study of contemporary social scientists such as Lenski, Braverman, Mestrovic, and Elias students will truly come to appreciate the usefulness of classical social theory in understanding the modern world. The concluding chapter demonstrates how the various perspectives can be integrated into a single comprehensive worldview.

Sociocultural Systems: Principles of Structure and Change, Athabasca 2013

Macrosociology—the study of large-scale social structures and the fundamental principles of social organization—was the style of sociology practiced by the founders of the discipline. Today, the social theories of Karl Marx, Max Weber, Émile Durkheim, and Herbert Spencer (among others) are commonly studied as part of the history of the field, but, although the macrosociological approach that these thinkers advocated is still employed, it no longer dominates the discipline. Instead, sociologists typically adopt a narrower focus, specializing in areas such as social psychology, medicine, religion, or the study of social stratification. Examining the bigger picture is a task often left to public intellectuals.

Sociocultural Systems aims to reinstate macrosciology as the heart of the discipline by demonstrating that both classical and contemporary macrosociologists stand upon common ground. Focusing on the broad issues that concerned the founders, Elwell addresses questions such as: Historically, what factors accounted for the origin, survival, and evolution of sociocultural systems? Why were some societies more technologically advanced than others? What is the origin of capitalism? What factors determine the allocation of goods and services within and among societies? What effects do changes in government and economic institutions have on communities?

Elwell argues that, as evolution does for biology, the macrosociological paradigm offers an analytical strategy that can be used both to guide and prioritize research in all of the myriad specialties within sociology and to lay forth an orderly body of knowledge for students. Clearly articulating important sociological principles, Sociocultural Systems provides a critical understanding of social institutions and issues, while also furnishing a framework for possible solutions to the perennial social crises that are part and parcel of the development of human societies.


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