This book is based on a theory. The first chapter presented and elaborated sociocultural materialism, a systems theory that incorporates insights from a variety of social theory traditions in an attempt to account for social origins, stability, and change. Theory is important. Through theory we can better grasp the basic organization of all societies to better understand our past as well as our present. Through theory we provide a structure that can help us organize seemingly isolated and random research findings, social facts, and explanations of cultural variations into a systemic view that provides clarity rather than confusion. The structure of theory enables us to approach complexity without oversimplification, to hypothesize causal relationships within a broad range of variables, and to guide us in our explorations of new issues. Theory provides a research agenda that can direct future empirical research, identify issues that need further clarification, which can refine, extend, or modify the theory as well as increase our understanding of the social world. It is only when there is a clear interaction between social theory and empirical research that theory can fulfill its promise. Society is a system, and good social theory attempts to interrelate the key elements of that system in a clear, forthright, and useful manner.
Sociocultural materialism is built on a foundation of materialism, on the mundane assumption that the way people go about making their living is a key element in understanding the social system. The claim is made