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2. Comparing Societies across Sizes and Scales

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Chapter Summary

Nations are unequal in size from various points of view, particularly by their population size, extent of territory, economic wealth, industrial capacity, military strength, cultural weight, natural resources, arable land, and climate conditions. They may be compared on all of these dimensions by scales of sizes. Scaling requires the use of quantified indicators, but single indicators are not always the most pertinent. It is often necessary to combine two or several indicators in an index. By compounding various indicators in an index, the sociological significance of statistical data can be enhanced. Geographical diversity may be expressed in survey research by the notion of social context. Comparing large American and European cities, one should take into consideration the public transportation system, particularly the underground infrastructure. In political economy critical mass is a central concept, which suggests a change of scale in the comparisons of different economies.

Keywords: economic wealth; geographical diversity; military strength; public transportation system; social context



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