September 8, 2008

Of Synthesis and Social Psychology

Why do people think, feel and act as they do? What is human nature? What are the fundamental relationships between the individual and society? For centuries these questions have fascinated great thinkers and ordinary humans alike.

In The Cultural Animal: Human Nature, Meaning, and Social Life (2005), eminent social psychologist Roy F. Baumeister not only summarizes what the field of psychology has come to know about human psychology, but also turns conventional wisdom on its head by arguing that culture is an inextricable part of human nature, and has shaped human evolution for at least 50,000 years.

Written at the peak of Baumeister’s career, The Cultural Animal offers a coherent, easy-to-understand, though radical synthesis of social psychology and argues against theories that depict the individual's relation to society as one of victimization, endless malleability, or just a square peg in a round hole, and proposes that the individual human being is designed by nature to be part of society.

Moreover, Baumeister argues that we need to briefly set aside the endless study of cultural differences to look at what most cultures have in common - because that holds the key to ‘human nature’. Culture, he argues, is in our genes, although cultural differences may not be. This core theme is further developed by a powerful tour through what Baumeister sees as the main dimensions of human psychology.

Read The Entire Book: Here

2 comments:

gregory said...

and culture is based on consciousness, but no one has written that book. yet.

. said...

Interesting perspective Gregory. What if I suggested that 'culture' is not a thing at all – and not based only on consciousness..?

Consciousness is itself a living process - which, in humans, co-creates cultural phenomena, like basket-weaving, or poetry, but is not the final cause of cultural activity. Without conscious agents there would be no “culture”, but without culture there would be no conscious agents. So which is “based” on which? And of course it all depends on what your definition of consciousness is, but I would certainly not what to 'reduce' all cultural realities to "mind-stuff".

Remember: human culture arises empirically, phenomenologically, and is socially mediated. Therefore, we need to respect the intra-active emergent nature of culture, agency, environment and POWER.

Its about moving beyond reduction…

Namaste~

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