Combining a thorough introduction to the work of nineteenth and early twentieth-century Italian social theo-rist Vilfredo Pareto with a highly read-able English translation of Pareto's last monograph, "Generalizations," origi-nally published in 1920, this work illus-trates precisely how and why demo-cratic forms of government undergo decay and are eventually re-invigo-rated. More than any other social scien-tist of his generation, Pareto offers a well-developed, articulate, and com-pelling theory of change based on a Newtonian vision of science and an en-gineering model of social equilibrium.
In his introduction, Powers focusses on Pareto's intellectual maturation and on his overall theory of society. Powers describes the various stages of Pareto's development as engineer, economist, political scientist, and finally as sociol-ogist. He explains how Pareto consid-ered himself the Einstein of social sci-ence and how he introduced the con-cept of relativity into the social sci-ences. Even if such self-claims were rarely widely shared, the sense of Pareto's originality is doubted by few, if any, contemporary scholars. This last, and in many ways most penetrat-ing, of Pareto's briefer works, warns of the dangers which can befall demo-cratic order. It is important because, as his final attempt to clarify his ideas, it places his earlier works in perspective. Pareto generates a comprehensive the-ory of complex social phenomena.