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Re-Imagining Cultures

rousseau

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.
 

Tharmas

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.

Seems like you’re wandering a little bit into the land of postmodernism. If you don’t watch out, soon you’ll be unpacking and deconstructing all over the place. ??????

Seriously, I agree with your musings. Keep rambling.
 

Tharmas

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No, not Weber for goodness sake. That's not what I meant by a long shot.
 

bigfield

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For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

A little while ago I was reading about the Roman Republic, and the power struggle between the Optimates and the Populares seems to have some parallels with modern left-right politics. The left-right convention itself originated over 200 years ago with the French Revolution. There's a pattern that goes back further than the modern political divide, and I think this is a clue to a more fundamental political phenomenon: people gain power by collecting allies, and the biggest alliance is often the most powerful. Chances are this is going to lead to a state of affairs where you have two big alliances: the incumbent power and a single viable contender.

A parliament full of independents just isn't a stable system. It would last only until some parliamentarians realised they could have more power if they allied with others and formed a party. If a bunch of people agree in advance to act in concert, they will be more effective at getting (some of) their legislation passed than if they each negotiated independently. In that way, a political party is greater than the sum of its parts.

As I understand it, Australia is has unusually disciplined political parties. MPs rarely rebel. So when we are offered a list of candidates at election time, the representatives are offering their party's policies, not necessarily their own. And by offering party policy, they also offer a great likelihood that they might actually realise those policies, whereas independents can only implement their policies if they find themselves controlling the balance of power in parliament. (Even then, they still form impromptu coalitions and make compromises in order to actually get something they want.)

In any political system dominated by two major parties or alliances, voters don't get the choice to pick and choose between policies; each party offers an indivisible suite of policies intended to maximise appeal, and voters can only choose one or the other. The same is basically true even if you add a couple of extra parties like a green party or the NDP; it's just a couple of extra package deals to choose from. It's basically impossible to vote for your preferred suite of policies if you can't find a party that offers it.

I think some people are well aware of this structure and want things to change. Some people run as independent candidates or start new political parties, some people abstain from voting because they don't like any of the offerings.

I also think there are a lot of people whose views don't align with the mainstream left or right, and consider themselves to be centrists because they agree with some left wing policies and some right wing ones. I expect these people to be less vocal because at least some of their opinions are going to be unpopular on the left while others will be unpopular on the right; they can't just assume their opinions will be welcome among their social (media) circles.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Perhaps that's why human history shows cyclical patterns of civilisation rising and falling; in order to progress, society needs to go through a constant process of collapse and renewal, and each iteration re-imagines the institutions of the previous cycle. We also see this is on a smaller scale, with the rise and fall of industries and social norms as technology advances.

It's also worth noting that progress isn't universally beneficial. Some people are doing very well right now and have an incentive to resist changes that might be good for other people. I'm not saying that politics is necessarily a zero-sum game, but the equation isn't all...um...addition of positive numbers? Not all progress is a win-win? Or to put it another way, you have pointed out that our stagnant political institutions stop a lot of people from getting what they want, but those institutions are doing a very good job of ensuring that some people get what they want.
 

Swammerdami

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Baboons can solve the problem of aggressive males. Can humans?

Nature vs Nurture. Is behavior instinctive, or learned from a culture?

Common wisdom was that only humans have culture; the behavior of "lesser" animals is all instinctive. However this 2004 article in the N.Y. Times explains how one troop of baboons solved its problem with male violence. Culture overcomes genetic predisposition. (I posted this 2 days ago in another thread, but it belongs in this thread.)

Among a troop of savanna baboons in Kenya, a terrible outbreak of tuberculosis 20 years ago selectively killed off the biggest, nastiest and most despotic males, setting the stage for a social and behavioral transformation unlike any seen in this notoriously truculent primate.

In a study appearing today in the journal PloS Biology (online at www.plosbiology.org), researchers describe the drastic temperamental and tonal shift that occurred in a troop of 62 baboons when its most belligerent members vanished from the scene. The victims were all dominant adult males that had been strong and snarly enough to fight with a neighboring baboon troop over the spoils at a tourist lodge garbage dump, and were exposed there to meat tainted with bovine tuberculosis, which soon killed them. Left behind in the troop, designated the Forest Troop, were the 50 percent of males that had been too subordinate to try dump brawling, as well as all the females and their young. With that change in demographics came a cultural swing toward pacifism, a relaxing of the usually parlous baboon hierarchy, and a willingness to use affection and mutual grooming rather than threats, swipes and bites to foster a patriotic spirit.

Remarkably, the Forest Troop has maintained its genial style over two decades, even though the male survivors of the epidemic have since died or disappeared and been replaced by males from the outside.... The persistence of communal comity suggests that the resident baboons must somehow be instructing the immigrants in the unusual customs of the tribe.

Dr. Sapolsky, who is renowned for his study of the physiology of stress, said that the Forest Troop baboons probably felt as good as they acted. Hormone samples from the monkeys showed far less evidence of stress in even the lowest-ranking individuals, when contrasted with baboons living in more rancorous societies.

The new work vividly demonstrates that, Putumayo records notwithstanding, humans hold no patent on multiculturalism. As a growing body of research indicates, many social animals learn from one another and cultivate regional variants in skills, conventions and fashions. Some chimpanzees crack open their nuts with a stone hammer on a stone anvil; others prefer wood hammers on wood anvils. The chimpanzees of the Tai forest rain-dance; those of the Gombe tickle themselves. Dr. Jane Goodall reported a fad in one chimpanzee group: a young female started wiggling her hands, and before long, every teen chimp was doing likewise.

But in the baboon study, the culture being conveyed is less a specific behavior or skill than a global code of conduct. ''You can more accurately describe it as the social ethos of group,'' said Dr. Andrew Whiten, a professor of evolutionary and developmental psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who has studied chimpanzee culture. ''It's an attitude that's being transmitted.''

The report also offers real-world proof of a principle first demonstrated in captive populations of monkeys: that with the right upbringing, diplomacy is infectious. Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta, has shown that if the normally pugilistic rhesus monkeys are reared with the more conciliatory stumptailed monkeys, the rhesus monkeys learn the value of tolerance, peacemaking and mutual hip-hugging.

Dr. de Waal, who wrote an essay to accompany the new baboon study, said in a telephone interview, ''The good news for humans is that it looks like peaceful conditions, once established, can be maintained,'' he said.

''And if baboons can do it,'' he said, ''why not us? The bad news is that you might have to first knock out all the most aggressive males to get there.''

If baboons could find a cultural solution to the problem of bullying males, maybe Americans can also.
 

bilby

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.

1. Anything that is in the world when you’re born is normal and ordinary and is just a natural part of the way the world works.
2. Anything that's invented between when you’re fifteen and thirty-five is new and exciting and revolutionary and you can probably get a career in it.
3. Anything invented after you're thirty-five is against the natural order of things.
- Douglas Adams, The Salmon of Doubt
 

OLDMAN

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Well, without the obvious reference, Trump avoided war with Iran, even though having a foreign enemy to war with has always been beneficial to term presidents.
 

rousseau

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.

Seems like you’re wandering a little bit into the land of postmodernism. If you don’t watch out, soon you’ll be unpacking and deconstructing all over the place. ������

Seriously, I agree with your musings. Keep rambling.

It's funny you mention postmodernism. I've been interested in seeking out some of that recently but haven't had the time to really see what's out there. The current plan is to finish with Weber, and then move on to more recent stuff.

And yea, I'm already deconstructing all over the place :smile:. It's funny, lately I only seem to get any type of kick from pretty heavy concepts. My friends and family are sitting there watching Friends while I'm using words like 'socio-historical'. The rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper.
 

rousseau

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For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

A little while ago I was reading about the Roman Republic, and the power struggle between the Optimates and the Populares seems to have some parallels with modern left-right politics. The left-right convention itself originated over 200 years ago with the French Revolution. There's a pattern that goes back further than the modern political divide, and I think this is a clue to a more fundamental political phenomenon: people gain power by collecting allies, and the biggest alliance is often the most powerful. Chances are this is going to lead to a state of affairs where you have two big alliances: the incumbent power and a single viable contender.

A parliament full of independents just isn't a stable system. It would last only until some parliamentarians realised they could have more power if they allied with others and formed a party. If a bunch of people agree in advance to act in concert, they will be more effective at getting (some of) their legislation passed than if they each negotiated independently. In that way, a political party is greater than the sum of its parts.

As I understand it, Australia is has unusually disciplined political parties. MPs rarely rebel. So when we are offered a list of candidates at election time, the representatives are offering their party's policies, not necessarily their own. And by offering party policy, they also offer a great likelihood that they might actually realise those policies, whereas independents can only implement their policies if they find themselves controlling the balance of power in parliament. (Even then, they still form impromptu coalitions and make compromises in order to actually get something they want.)

In any political system dominated by two major parties or alliances, voters don't get the choice to pick and choose between policies; each party offers an indivisible suite of policies intended to maximise appeal, and voters can only choose one or the other. The same is basically true even if you add a couple of extra parties like a green party or the NDP; it's just a couple of extra package deals to choose from. It's basically impossible to vote for your preferred suite of policies if you can't find a party that offers it.

I think some people are well aware of this structure and want things to change. Some people run as independent candidates or start new political parties, some people abstain from voting because they don't like any of the offerings.

I also think there are a lot of people whose views don't align with the mainstream left or right, and consider themselves to be centrists because they agree with some left wing policies and some right wing ones. I expect these people to be less vocal because at least some of their opinions are going to be unpopular on the left while others will be unpopular on the right; they can't just assume their opinions will be welcome among their social (media) circles.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Perhaps that's why human history shows cyclical patterns of civilisation rising and falling; in order to progress, society needs to go through a constant process of collapse and renewal, and each iteration re-imagines the institutions of the previous cycle. We also see this is on a smaller scale, with the rise and fall of industries and social norms as technology advances.

It's also worth noting that progress isn't universally beneficial. Some people are doing very well right now and have an incentive to resist changes that might be good for other people. I'm not saying that politics is necessarily a zero-sum game, but the equation isn't all...um...addition of positive numbers? Not all progress is a win-win? Or to put it another way, you have pointed out that our stagnant political institutions stop a lot of people from getting what they want, but those institutions are doing a very good job of ensuring that some people get what they want.

I figured there'd be something to say about the left/right paradigm I mentioned. It's also worth mentioning that for the overwhelming brunt of human history it wasn't even really possible to re-imagine culture. I wonder how many people even had a realistic conception of what the word 'culture' meant until after the printing press? How many even now?

You also make a good point re: progress. I'd add that I'm not so much interested in promoting progress per se, but rather just understanding historical trends and forces. I believe what you mention could be seen as another, distinct paradigm, or historical force: the idea that a unitary vision of progress doesn't exist. So even if most people didn't find culture normalized, there would still be an inherent power struggle.
 

rousseau

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Nature vs Nurture. Is behavior instinctive, or learned from a culture?

Common wisdom was that only humans have culture; the behavior of "lesser" animals is all instinctive. However this 2004 article in the N.Y. Times explains how one troop of baboons solved its problem with male violence. Culture overcomes genetic predisposition. (I posted this 2 days ago in another thread, but it belongs in this thread.)

Among a troop of savanna baboons in Kenya, a terrible outbreak of tuberculosis 20 years ago selectively killed off the biggest, nastiest and most despotic males, setting the stage for a social and behavioral transformation unlike any seen in this notoriously truculent primate.

In a study appearing today in the journal PloS Biology (online at www.plosbiology.org), researchers describe the drastic temperamental and tonal shift that occurred in a troop of 62 baboons when its most belligerent members vanished from the scene. The victims were all dominant adult males that had been strong and snarly enough to fight with a neighboring baboon troop over the spoils at a tourist lodge garbage dump, and were exposed there to meat tainted with bovine tuberculosis, which soon killed them. Left behind in the troop, designated the Forest Troop, were the 50 percent of males that had been too subordinate to try dump brawling, as well as all the females and their young. With that change in demographics came a cultural swing toward pacifism, a relaxing of the usually parlous baboon hierarchy, and a willingness to use affection and mutual grooming rather than threats, swipes and bites to foster a patriotic spirit.

Remarkably, the Forest Troop has maintained its genial style over two decades, even though the male survivors of the epidemic have since died or disappeared and been replaced by males from the outside.... The persistence of communal comity suggests that the resident baboons must somehow be instructing the immigrants in the unusual customs of the tribe.

Dr. Sapolsky, who is renowned for his study of the physiology of stress, said that the Forest Troop baboons probably felt as good as they acted. Hormone samples from the monkeys showed far less evidence of stress in even the lowest-ranking individuals, when contrasted with baboons living in more rancorous societies.

The new work vividly demonstrates that, Putumayo records notwithstanding, humans hold no patent on multiculturalism. As a growing body of research indicates, many social animals learn from one another and cultivate regional variants in skills, conventions and fashions. Some chimpanzees crack open their nuts with a stone hammer on a stone anvil; others prefer wood hammers on wood anvils. The chimpanzees of the Tai forest rain-dance; those of the Gombe tickle themselves. Dr. Jane Goodall reported a fad in one chimpanzee group: a young female started wiggling her hands, and before long, every teen chimp was doing likewise.

But in the baboon study, the culture being conveyed is less a specific behavior or skill than a global code of conduct. ''You can more accurately describe it as the social ethos of group,'' said Dr. Andrew Whiten, a professor of evolutionary and developmental psychology at the University of St. Andrews in Scotland who has studied chimpanzee culture. ''It's an attitude that's being transmitted.''

The report also offers real-world proof of a principle first demonstrated in captive populations of monkeys: that with the right upbringing, diplomacy is infectious. Dr. Frans B. M. de Waal, the director of the Living Links Center at the Yerkes National Primate Research Center of Emory University in Atlanta, has shown that if the normally pugilistic rhesus monkeys are reared with the more conciliatory stumptailed monkeys, the rhesus monkeys learn the value of tolerance, peacemaking and mutual hip-hugging.

Dr. de Waal, who wrote an essay to accompany the new baboon study, said in a telephone interview, ''The good news for humans is that it looks like peaceful conditions, once established, can be maintained,'' he said.

''And if baboons can do it,'' he said, ''why not us? The bad news is that you might have to first knock out all the most aggressive males to get there.''

If baboons could find a cultural solution to the problem of bullying males, maybe Americans can also.

I wonder what'll happen to the troop after a number of generations of the most sexually aggressive baboons being selected for.
 

Politesse

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.

Seems like you’re wandering a little bit into the land of postmodernism. If you don’t watch out, soon you’ll be unpacking and deconstructing all over the place. ������

Seriously, I agree with your musings. Keep rambling.

It's funny you mention postmodernism. I've been interested in seeking out some of that recently but haven't had the time to really see what's out there. The current plan is to finish with Weber, and then move on to more recent stuff.

And yea, I'm already deconstructing all over the place :smile:. It's funny, lately I only seem to get any type of kick from pretty heavy concepts. My friends and family are sitting there watching Friends while I'm using words like 'socio-historical'. The rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper.

*holds back the instinctive list of book recommendations, with effort*
 

rousseau

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It's funny you mention postmodernism. I've been interested in seeking out some of that recently but haven't had the time to really see what's out there. The current plan is to finish with Weber, and then move on to more recent stuff.

And yea, I'm already deconstructing all over the place :smile:. It's funny, lately I only seem to get any type of kick from pretty heavy concepts. My friends and family are sitting there watching Friends while I'm using words like 'socio-historical'. The rabbit hole just keeps getting deeper.

*holds back the instinctive list of book recommendations, with effort*

Please do. There's never too many books on my to-read list.
 

Politesse

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Well, if you want a very different perspective than Weber's on what culture is and how it is inherited, you might try Michel de Certau's The Practice of Everyday Life, J.M. Blaut's The National Question, or Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think, depending on which of many possible directions you might want to take away from structuralism.

The "classics" of postmodernism are not hard to find, thought they do not relish in being readable. Of that generation, I'm most fond of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge and Bourdieus The Forms of Capital. It is helpful to master a bit of Hegel and Weber first before tackling their deconstructions. It seems you are already engaged in this project.
 

Swammerdami

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One of the most profound cultural changes in all of human history is Internet social media. Giant companies like Facebook and Google manipulate their users' victims' attention just to maximize ad revenue. The recent Netflix documentary The Social DilemmaWatch it! — interviews several tech stars who are worried about the unintended consequences of the vast networks they helped build. (As just one example, the rates of suicide and self-maiming have tripled among girls in the 10 to 14 age group.) One researcher sees an existential threat, with democracy eroding and civilization itself at risk.
 

fromderinside

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firgita'boutit.

Their parents and grandparents constructed societies with communist and capitalistic structures and infused the notion of one's kind superiority to others. Took the ignorant out to fields and forced them to work for almost nothing, built factories, railroads, cars, planes and complete cultures as far as their medical meddling could take them. Then they developed the bomb and missile terror.

And we're still here ..... in greater numbers than ever before.
 

rousseau

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firgita'boutit.

Their parents and grandparents constructed societies with communist and capitalistic structures and infused the notion of one's kind superiority to others. Took the ignorant out to fields and forced them to work for almost nothing, built factories, railroads, cars, planes and complete cultures as far as their medical meddling could take them. Then they developed the bomb and missile terror.

And we're still here ..... in greater numbers than ever before.

Maybe another trend: we instinctively build systems that promote homeostasis. We often do a shitty job of it, but the overall effect averages out as population growth.
 

rousseau

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Well, if you want a very different perspective than Weber's on what culture is and how it is inherited, you might try Michel de Certau's The Practice of Everyday Life, J.M. Blaut's The National Question, or Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think, depending on which of many possible directions you might want to take away from structuralism.

The "classics" of postmodernism are not hard to find, thought they do not relish in being readable. Of that generation, I'm most fond of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge and Bourdieus The Forms of Capital. It is helpful to master a bit of Hegel and Weber first before tackling their deconstructions. It seems you are already engaged in this project.

Thanks for the tips. It looks like past rousseau already discovered The Practice of Everyday Life at some point, but it's still yet to be read.
 

Politesse

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Well, if you want a very different perspective than Weber's on what culture is and how it is inherited, you might try Michel de Certau's The Practice of Everyday Life, J.M. Blaut's The National Question, or Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think, depending on which of many possible directions you might want to take away from structuralism.

The "classics" of postmodernism are not hard to find, thought they do not relish in being readable. Of that generation, I'm most fond of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge and Bourdieus The Forms of Capital. It is helpful to master a bit of Hegel and Weber first before tackling their deconstructions. It seems you are already engaged in this project.

Thanks for the tips. It looks like past rousseau already discovered The Practice of Everyday Life at some point, but it's still yet to be read.

That may also have been my fault, I miss very few opportunities to recommend it...
 

rousseau

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Well, if you want a very different perspective than Weber's on what culture is and how it is inherited, you might try Michel de Certau's The Practice of Everyday Life, J.M. Blaut's The National Question, or Eduardo Kohn's How Forests Think, depending on which of many possible directions you might want to take away from structuralism.

The "classics" of postmodernism are not hard to find, thought they do not relish in being readable. Of that generation, I'm most fond of Foucault's Archaeology of Knowledge and Bourdieus The Forms of Capital. It is helpful to master a bit of Hegel and Weber first before tackling their deconstructions. It seems you are already engaged in this project.

Thanks for the tips. It looks like past rousseau already discovered The Practice of Everyday Life at some point, but it's still yet to be read.

That may also have been my fault, I miss very few opportunities to recommend it...

There was also a time recently when I was researching Sociology much as I am now. I actually took Economy and Society out of the library in the past few years, and carefully studied my own copy of The Social Construction of Reality. But one Covid hit I got locked out of the goldmine. Now I'm finally giving in and actually purchasing the stuff.
 

Politesse

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That may also have been my fault, I miss very few opportunities to recommend it...

There was also a time recently when I was researching Sociology much as I am now. I actually took Economy and Society out of the library in the past few years, and carefully studied my own copy of The Social Construction of Reality. But one Covid hit I got locked out of the goldmine. Now I'm finally giving in and actually purchasing the stuff.

Ah, I do like Berger and Luckmann's classic as well. Did you find it enlightening?

I've been missing my local library, though with the size of my "to read" pile, I hardly need it as a source of books per se.
 

rousseau

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That may also have been my fault, I miss very few opportunities to recommend it...

There was also a time recently when I was researching Sociology much as I am now. I actually took Economy and Society out of the library in the past few years, and carefully studied my own copy of The Social Construction of Reality. But one Covid hit I got locked out of the goldmine. Now I'm finally giving in and actually purchasing the stuff.

Ah, I do like Berger and Luckmann's classic as well. Did you find it enlightening?

I've been missing my local library, though with the size of my "to read" pile, I hardly need it as a source of books per se.

I consider it one of my major influences. Lots of perspective on the history I'd been reading for years before, and I came away with sympathy for pre-modern cultures and why they were the way they were (and why we are the way we are). I actually made notes in it as well, probably worth going through again and checking those out.

I've amassed a bit of to-read pile myself but I'm a bit flighty with topic and most of what I want to read isn't in there.
 

fromderinside

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Maybe another trend: we instinctively build systems that promote homeostasis. We often do a shitty job of it, but the overall effect averages out as population growth.

I don't think we can avoid thermodynamics when we study human cultures. Since we are here by random process cooking in other random processes it is little wonder that we observe conservation of energy in our attempts to manipulate and prolong them.
 

rousseau

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Maybe another trend: we instinctively build systems that promote homeostasis. We often do a shitty job of it, but the overall effect averages out as population growth.

I don't think we can avoid thermodynamics when we study human cultures. Since we are here by random process cooking in other random processes it is little wonder that we observe conservation of energy in our attempts to manipulate and prolong them.

I've spent a lot of time in the past few years studying the rise of the nation-state. It's interesting when you put it in the perspective of Thermodynamics. A couple nations did it, then within the course of a few centuries the entire Globe followed suit. Crawford Young wrote much about this process in Africa, and how states across the continent followed, roughly, the same trajectory.

It raises some valid questions about agency. We are free, but not free from broader cultural forces.
 

T.G.G. Moogly

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Maybe another trend: we instinctively build systems that promote homeostasis. We often do a shitty job of it, but the overall effect averages out as population growth.

I don't think we can avoid thermodynamics when we study human cultures. Since we are here by random process cooking in other random processes it is little wonder that we observe conservation of energy in our attempts to manipulate and prolong them.

I've spent a lot of time in the past few years studying the rise of the nation-state. It's interesting when you put it in the perspective of Thermodynamics. A couple nations did it, then within the course of a few centuries the entire Globe followed suit. Crawford Young wrote much about this process in Africa, and how states across the continent followed, roughly, the same trajectory.

It raises some valid questions about agency. We are free, but not free from broader cultural forces.

We're as free as those baboons, or just as deterministic.
 

rousseau

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I've spent a lot of time in the past few years studying the rise of the nation-state. It's interesting when you put it in the perspective of Thermodynamics. A couple nations did it, then within the course of a few centuries the entire Globe followed suit. Crawford Young wrote much about this process in Africa, and how states across the continent followed, roughly, the same trajectory.

It raises some valid questions about agency. We are free, but not free from broader cultural forces.

We're as free as those baboons, or just as deterministic.

T.G.G. Moogly ask yourself why people like playing the lottery? What would large sums of money do for a person?

I'm not that interested in re-hashing determinism, what I was getting at with the post is that human agency doesn't (and can't) exist in a vacuum, even on the scale of macro-politics. Cultural pressure is ubiquitous and ever-present, and can't be separated from human behaviour. Put another way, culture is a cause of human behaviour, just as much as the individual is.
 

rousseau

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.... Cultural pressure is ubiquitous and ever-present, and can't be separated from human behaviour. Put another way, culture is a cause of human behaviour, just as much as the individual is.

Reads like you have a bad case of Wynne-Edwards "Group Selection" to me.

Na, I don't think so, but I think you could argue that human cultures are akin to an ecosystem of sorts. Laws and norms set the framework for behaviour. I haven't read the book yet but I believe Giddens touched on this in Structuration Theory.

The theory of structuration is a social theory of the creation and reproduction of social systems that is based on the analysis of both structure and agents (see structure and agency), without giving primacy to either.

A small example to demonstrate: you walk down a street with people everywhere, culturally what are you free and unfree to do? Some behaviour is not possible. In reality this is no different for any other animal, living anywhere, but for us the sphere of rules and norms is a bit more complicated.

I don't think this has anything to do with group selection, but it does set the frame that the individual has to adapt to or fail to survive/reproduce. The African example was interesting because on some level even a global culture existed that leaders had to adapt to. A new, more efficient norm became prominent and everyone followed suit.
 

rousseau

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So you actually agree that one's position in any grouping is the result a series of consequences and not the result of some group friendly 'trait'?

Yea, maybe I haven't worded some of my posts well (this happens with 11 month old in tow). But group selection wasn't in my mind when making any posts in this thread. In the original post I mentioned progress, which might have suggested that, but it was only a reference point to understand this historical pattern. That's my main interest: understanding patterns of cultural change across time. In the OP I'm highlighting a pattern: as a species we continually build on what was before, rather than re-thinking what's there.

We strayed from that and got into thermodynamics, then cultural pressure which is another thing entirely. My later argument is that a specific culture is analogous to an ecosystem: a place where people habitate, and have to adapt to, to survive and reproduce. Selection still happens at the genetic level, but behaviour is largely constrained and channelled by the culture. I don't really know how group theory would fit into this, but a more robust culture would facilitate a better life for it's inhabitants.
 

steve_bank

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In form us humans are like screeching feces flinging chimps. Just watch politics. Constantly throwing shit in each other's face.

There is a Pacific island where traditionally men and women go bare chested. Saw it on an old PBS series Globe Trekwer. It is the exposed thigh that is considered sexually provocative. Western male sexual fascination with female breasts is cultural.


In chimp culture an agumrnt can end with one male allowing brief dry humping by another as a sign of submisiion. Maybe the UN n try that. Males can be observed maturating each other. We can sure learn a lot from oter species....

Part nature and part nurture.

Cultural conditioning is the root cause of a lot of human conflict. We see it right now between Israel and the Palestinians.
 

DrZoidberg

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I've been reading some Max Weber recently and it's really got my wheels spinning on the Sociology/History paradigm.

Over time I feel like I'm piecing together human nature and how it intersects with any given culture, and lately I feel like I've come to a stark realization about the topic (assuredly a realization that someone, somewhere has probably already had).

And the realization is that once institutions become so embedded in any given community that they're taken for granted as they way things are most people don't even think to question them. In an average human life we're born into a world, that world feels normal to us, then we die. Change happens, but generally slowly, and under the assumption that the way things were before is the way things were supposed to be.

For example, if you look at something like the liberal / conservative paradigm in politics. This feels normal, but why does any given politician need an affiliation at all? If the idea behind democracy is that we make an informed vote, why don't we look at the policies of our specific choices of representative and vote without any party lines? But because we've always experienced this paradigm no one even thinks to question it. It's an embedded institution that is just taken for granted, not even noticed.

So I think this reality lends itself to a kind of socio-historical paradigm where we're continually building on the old without really questioning or completely re-imagining what was already there. Really a major constraint of human nature on any kind of significant progress.

Thanks for listening to my rambling.

Party politics is by design. It's not a flaw. It's to create an obstacle for lazy and uniformed people to randomly pop by and screw up the work of informed opinion. In a completely open market for ideas will always create a tilt towards the stupid and simplistic.

I'm a big fan of party politics. I think it's great. I think the current western democratic system is the closest we will ever come to utopia.

But yes, humans are creatures of habit. I talked to a historian who specialised in the Nazi concentration camp system. I asked her why nobody reacted to it. She said, "once people got used to it, they stopped reacting. It became a normal and acceptable part of life"
 

rousseau

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Cultural conditioning is the root cause of a lot of human conflict. We see it right now between Israel and the Palestinians.

I'm inclined to think it goes deeper, and can be boiled down to a basic survival instinct - the need to acquire power for oneself.

Any behaviour at all, in theory, should offer some type of payback, and the payback usually comes in the form of material incentives. This manifests itself in politics that veils itself with 'morality', but is ultimately about power acquisition. Most of us don't know how to think in any other terms - the idea of just giving freely for no reason is completely foreign to us.

Sometimes, by coincidence, there is no need for conflict, but when there is a need the instincts quickly set in.
 
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