Pretty much this except the athenosphere is giant dragons and the volcanoes are full of zombies.
Seriously. Come to my talk. I might actually say those words.
We all know the writers who do this well. Frank Herbert gave us summaries of galactic economies compressed into two paragraphs so dense we barely noticed them. Ben Bova wrote almost a dozen novels about the same fundamentalist regime and how different groups of people overcame the problems it caused (while also discovering space whales in Jupiter. Love.). Larry Niven's Mad Puppeteers had a society based on putting the most cowardly individual in charge of everything and also planets that moved like spaceships, and he made it make sense. And let's not even get started on Tolkein's grasp of fictional history.
There's good reason that the best Spec-Fic writers are usually highly educated and always extremely well-read. In addition to knowing a thing or two about science, language, and psychology, odds are they've read at least one book on sociology. And if not one book, then at least an essay called The Promise, by C. Wright Mills, (highly recommend link to click, by the way) which essentially pushed the 'reset' button on the entire school of thought while also making basic sociology accessible to anyone with the ability to tell the difference between public issues and private troubles.
Here's the five most important lessons I think that spec-fic writers need to take from the essay.