Challenging the assumption that the capitalist transformation includes a radical break with the past, this edited volume traces how historically older forms of social inequality are transformed but persist in the present to shape the social structure of contemporary societies in the global South.

Each social collective comprises an interpretation of itself – including the meaning of life, the concept of a human person, and the notion of a collective. This volume studies the interpretation that various social collectives have of themselves. This interpretation is referred to as social ontology. All chapters of the edited volume focus on the relation between social ontology and structures of inequality. They argue that each society comprises several historical layers of social ontology that correspond to layers of inequality, which are referred to as sociocultures. Thereby, the volume explains why and how structures of inequality differ between contemporary collectives in the global South, even though all of them seem to have similar structures, institutions, and economies.

The volume is aimed at academics, students and the interested public looking for a novel theorization of social inequality pertaining to social collectives in the global South.

chapter Chapter 1|5 pages


chapter Chapter 2|17 pages

Rethinking the social

Social ontology, sociocultures, and social inequality

chapter Chapter 3|19 pages

The South against the destroying machine

An interdisciplinary attempt to theorize social ontology for a decolonial project in the social sciences

chapter Chapter 4|25 pages

Reconceptualizing the cosmic polity

The Tai mueang as a social ontology

chapter Chapter 5|18 pages

Developmentalism and the misacknowledgement of socio-ontological difference

The coloniality of being in the Colombian Pacific basin

chapter Chapter 6|15 pages

The social ontology of caste

chapter Chapter 8|17 pages

Social ontologies as world-making projects

The mueang–pa duality in Laos

chapter Chapter 9|21 pages

Clashing social ontologies

A sociological history of political violence in the Cambodian elite

chapter Chapter 11|21 pages

Collectivity and individuality in contemporary urban Kenya

Social ontologies in Nairobi

chapter Chapter 13|18 pages

The socio-cultural making of inequality in today’s China

Symbolic construction and collective habitus 1