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Thread: Re-Imagining Cultures

  1. Top | #11
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    Quote Originally Posted by Swammerdami View Post
    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its genial style over two decades, even though the male survivors of the epidemic have since died or disappeared and been replaced by males from the outside....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.

  2. Top | #12
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Tharmas View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    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 . 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*
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  3. Top | #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post

    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 . 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.

  4. Top | #14
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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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.
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  5. Top | #15
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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.

  6. Top | #16
    Mazzie Daius fromderinside's Avatar
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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.

  7. Top | #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by fromderinside View Post
    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.

  8. Top | #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    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.

  9. Top | #19
    Sapere aude Politesse's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    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...
    "Banish me from Eden when you will, but first let me eat of the tree of knowledge."

  10. Top | #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by rousseau View Post
    Quote Originally Posted by Politesse View Post
    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.

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