Abram de Swaan

Abram de Swaan (b. 1942) was awarded the prestigious position of University Professor of Social Science at the University of Amsterdam in 2001, where he is now emeritus professor.

Photo: Bob Bronshoff

His many teaching appointments included the Collège de France in Paris and Columbia University in New York. De Swaan’s most successful books include In Care of the State, Words of the World, and The Killing Compartments, all published in English editions. His books have been translated into twelve languages. His oeuvre was awarded the prestigious P.C. Hooft Prize in 2008.

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Abram de Swaan

Human Societies

From the moment we’re born, we are dependent on other humans for our survival, whether we choose to acknowledge so or not. Over the course of history, and our progression from hunter-gatherer tribes to modern states, these networks of dependence have only extended across the globe. In his seminal text Human Societies, Abram de Swaan combines anthropology, sociology and political science to trace the evolution, dilemmas and consequences of human social life to the globalised world of today.

Abram de Swaan

Words of the World

There are over five thousand languages in the world, and yet humankind has still retained its cohesion. Sociologist Abram de Swaan believes that this is due to the people who speak more than one language. As a result of multilingualism, certain languages within the global system have a kind of ‘umbrella function’, serving as a means of communication between the speakers of regional languages. For the last half-century or so the ‘supercentral’ language crowning this linguistic hierarchy has been English.

Abram de Swaan

The Killing Compartments

Why do some regimes commit mass murder, and how do they always find willing participants? That is the terrible question sociologist Abram de Swaan has set out to tackle.

Abram de Swaan

Against Women

Over the past fifty years, education has improved, especially for girls and young women, and machines have taken over the heavy work traditionally done by men. This has liberated many women from dependence on men for financial support or physical protection and allowed them to flourish in the workplace. But now, men’s wounded pride is leading to tensions.

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