Posts Tagged ‘sociology’

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A Critique of Everyday Life

July 1, 2014

Henri Lefebvre’s magnum opus: a monumental exploration of contemporary society.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume One: Introduction. A groundbreaking analysis of the alienating phenomena of daily life under capitalism.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Two: Foundations for a Sociology of the Everyday. Identifies categories within everyday life, such as the theory of the semantic field and the theory of moments.

Critique of Everyday Life Volume Three: From Modernity to Modernism. Explores the crisis of modernity and the decisive assertion of technological modernism.

Verso Books: Henri Lefebvre’s three-volume Critique of Everyday Life is perhaps the richest, most prescient work by one of the twentieth century’s greatest philosophers. Written at the birth of post-war consumerism, the Critique was a philosophical inspiration for the 1968 student revolution in France and is considered to be the founding text of all that we know as cultural studies, as well as a major influence on the fields of contemporary philosophy, geography, sociology, architecture, political theory and urbanism. A work of enormous range and subtlety, Lefebvre takes as his starting-point and guide the “trivial” details of quotidian experience: an experience colonized by the commodity, shadowed by inauthenticity, yet one which remains the only source of resistance and change.

This is an enduringly radical text, untimely today only in its intransigence and optimism.

Text and Images via Verso Books

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The Writing of Stones by Roger Caillois

May 14, 2014

Surrealist and Sociologist Roger Caillois was known for his writings on biomimicry, especially within the insect world, pareidolia and lithic scrying. His latter interest provided us with The Writing of Stones, a book in which he unravels the ‘unfathomable graphic madness’ etched onto the rocks contained within the ‘archives of geology’. Each chapter of the book is dedicated to a species of rock – in each he channels ever increasingly dense, extravagant, and at times morbid tales from the authorless inscriptions each stone contains.

“Life appears: a complex dampness, destined to an intricate future and charged with secret virtues, capable of challenge and creation. A kind of precarious slime, of surface mildew, in which a ferment is already working. A turbulent, spasmodic sap, a presage and expectation of a new way of being, breaking with mineral perpetuity and boldly exchanging it for the doubtful privilege of being able to tremble, decay, and multiply.”

About the book, from the flaps:

The Writing of Stones is a fascinating meditation on the human imagination contemplating the interior of stones. Caillois examines patterns that are revealed by polishing sections of minerals such as agate, jasper, and onyx. He considers the impact these configurations have had upon the human imagination throughout history and he reviews man’s attempt to categorize and explain them.

Marguerite Yourcenar [in her introduction] points out that “there had taken place in [his] intellect the equivalent of the Copernican revolution: man was no longer the center of the universe, except in the sense that the center is everywhere; man, like all the rest, was a cog in the whole system of turning wheels. Quite early on, having entered ‘the forbidden laboratories,’ Caillois applied himself to the study of diagonals which link the species, of the recurrent phenomena that act, so to speak as a matrix of forms.” Caillois found the presence throughout the universe of a sensibility and a consciousness analogous to our own. One way which this consciousness expresses itself is in a “natural fantasy” that is evident in the pictures found in stones. Man’s own aesthetic may then be no more than one of many manifestations of an all-pervasive aesthetic that reveals itself in the natural world.

The Writing of Stones PDF

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How We Learn To See Faces

September 24, 2013

Two eyes, aligned horizontally, above a nose, above a mouth. These are the basic elements of a face, as your brain knows quite well. Within about 200 milliseconds of seeing a picture, the brain can decide whether it’s a face or some other object. It can detect subtle differences between faces, too — walking around at my family reunion, for example, many faces look similar, and yet I can easily distinguish Sue from Ann from Pam.

Our fascination with faces exists, to some extent, on the day we’re born. Studies of newborn babies have shown that they prefer to look at face-like pictures. A 1999 study showed, for example, that babies prefer a crude drawing of a lightbulb “head” with squares for its eyes and nose compared with the same drawing with the nose above the eyes. “I believe the youngest we tested was seven minutes old,” says Cathy Mondloch, professor of psychology at Brock University in Ontario, who worked on that study. “So it’s there right from the get-go.”

Excerpt from an article written by Virginia Hughes at NatGeo. Continue THERE

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Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks

June 30, 2012


A new theory of viral relationality beyond the biological

In this thought-provoking work, Tony D. Sampson presents a contagion theory fit for the age of networks. Unlike memes and microbial contagions, Virality does not restrict itself to biological analogies and medical metaphors; it instead points toward a theory of contagious assemblages, events, and affects. For Sampson, contagion is how society comes together and relates.

Virality: Contagion Theory in the Age of Networks

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The disadvantage of smarts

June 19, 2012

What, if any, evolutionary advantage does intelligence give us?

Actually, less intelligent people are better at doing most things. In the ancestral environment general intelligence was helpful only for solving a handful of evolutionarily novel problems.

Suggested reading: “The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life” by Herrnstein, Richard J. and Charles Murray (1994)

You mean our ancestors did not really have to reason?

Evolution equipped humans with solutions for a whole range of problems of survival and reproduction. All they had to do was to behave in the ways in which evolution had designed them to behave—eat food that tastes good, have sex with the most attractive mates. However, for a few evolutionarily novel problems, evolution equipped us with general intelligence so that our ancestors could reason in order to solve them. These evolutionarily novel problems were few and far between. Basically, dealing with any type of major natural disaster that is very infrequent in occurrence would require general intelligence.

Suggested reading: “Evolutionary Psychology and Intelligence Research” by Satoshi Kanazawa, in American Psychologist; 65: 279-289 (2010)

Excerpt of an interview with Satoshi Kanazawa on intelligence. Continue HERE

SATOSHI KANAZAWA is Reader in Management at the London School of Economics and Political Science, and Honorary Research Fellow in the Department of Psychology at Birkbeck College, University of London. He has written over 80 articles across the fields of psychology, sociology, political science, economics, anthropology and biology. One such was his widely reported article “Why Liberals and Atheists Are More Intelligent” (2010). His latest book is called “The Intelligence Paradox: Why the Intelligent Choice Isn’t Always the Smart One” (2012).

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Ideology never ends. An interview with sociologist Daniel Chirot

May 25, 2012

“Eastern Europe as such was never “backward” and marginality is the least of the region’s problems, argues Daniel Chirot. While some countries have shaken off the “post-communist” tag, in others it remains apt; meanwhile, new disparities are generating a leftwing revival that show pronouncements of the end of ideology to have been rash.”

Read interview at Eurozine

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Total Landscape, Theme Parks, Public Space – Miodrag Mitrasinovic

April 16, 2012

Total Landscape, Theme Parks, Public Space employs the theme park in identifying, dissecting and describing the properties of PROPASt – privately-owned publicly accessible space in a themed mode – a hybrid form of public space emerging in urban environments worldwide Mitrasinovic does not propose that theme parks and PROPASt are, or will ever become, desirable substitutes for democratic public space, but deliberately cuts across the theme park model in order to understand the principle of systematic totality employed when such a model is used to revitalize urban public space in the United States, Asia and Europe. In doing so, Mitrasinovic has created compelling and multifaceted inferences out of a plethora of minute details on the design and production of theme parks across continents. Mitrasinovic s central argument is that the process of systematic totalization that brings theme parks and PROPASt into the same conceptual framework is not only obvious through formal similarities, but also through systemic and symbolic analogies: through values, conditions and techniques that have been extended upon the entire social realm. By illuminating the relationship between theme parks and public space, this book offers critical insights into the ethos of total landscape, a condition that emerges from overpowering convergences of the following three domains: a/ a globally emerging socio-economic system organized upon the idea of systematic totality; b/ a material apparatus that establishes its dominance on the ground; and c/ a system of totalizing narratives -designed and operated by the media and entertainment industry- that establish its dominance in cultural imaginations across national boundaries. One of the central premises of this book is that theme parks and PROPASt are complex artifacts designed to materialize such convergences and to spatialize corresponding social and environmental relationships. Mitrasinovic builds his compelling narrative by simultaneously studying phenomena, processes, practices, and forms interwoven in the types of spatial production characteristic of the total landscape. In parallel, Mitrasinovic systematically builds the argument for the necessity of a meta-disciplinary conception of the artificial by juxtaposing and integrating a great variety of insights from both emerging and established fields. In that respect, this book is an essential guide to those interested in cities and urban futures, particularly to scholars and students of urbanism, architecture, design studies, cultural studies, media studies, geography, anthropology, sociology, economy, and marketing.

Download PDF HERE
Text via Amazon