How I learnt to stop worrying and love grid-group cultural theory

old-divinity-school-cambridgeFourcultures received a nice email from Huw asking how I learned about cultural theory. It was  while enrolled on a religious studies course that I first came across the work  of anthropologist Mary Douglas, who had developed a four part typology of cultures in her book Natural Symbols. Admittedly at the time it didn’t seem very clear how to apply this, since education is mostly wasted on the young. Intriguing as it was, I didn’t take it any further. But it must have been bubbling away under the surface because years later, while studying the phenomenon of peak oil, it suddenly struck home that the arguments for and against peak oil seemed to match very well the contours of cultural bias, or social solidarities,  that Douglas had sketched. On further investigation it became clear that the theory had been strongly developed since the 1980s and now has much to say about today’s social, political and religious debates. That’s what this website is about.

A definitive survey of Mary Douglas’s work was written by Richard Fardon: Mary Douglas: An Intellectual Biography (London: Routledge, 1999).

For those wanting to find out more about grid-group cultural theory and the four cultures it describes you could check out Michael Thompson’s book, Organising and Disorganising, which Huw says is great.

Michael Thompson gave a lecture at the RSA, and an interview which you can download.

[updated 4/2/2016]

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