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Explaining Society: An Expanded Toolbox for Social Scientists


Department of Sociology, 425 University Boulevard, Indianapolis, IN 46202 (


We propose for social scientists a theoretical toolbox containing a set of motivations that neurobiologists have recently validated. We show how these motivations can be used to create a theory of society recognizably similar to existing stable societies (sustainable, self-reproducing, and largely peaceful). Using this toolbox, we describe society in terms of three institutions: economy (a source of sustainability), government (peace), and the family (reproducibility). Conducting a thought experiment in three parts, we begin with a simple theory with only two motivations. We then create successive theories that systematically add motivations, showing that each element in the toolbox makes its own contribution to explain the workings of a stable society and that the family has a critical role in this process.