The beetroot lesson – the politics of disgust


Martha Nussbaum has recently written a second book on the connections between visceral feelings of disgust and more abstract responses of indignation. As one commentator put it:

‘disgust can’t be reasoned with. Logical arguments do not make spoiled milk smell better.’

[Image: Darwin Bell]

I think this is precisely wrong. As a child I hated beetroot with a passion. But I convinced myself that if someone in the world liked it there must be something to like. After persisting, I found I not only liked beetroot – I loved it, and still do to this day. Happily the first time I tasted an olive I remembered the beetroot lesson and all was well. As it turns out, disgust can be reasoned with. And further, logical arguments do in fact make spoiled milk smell better. Here’s my logical argument: it’s sour cream. Continue reading “The beetroot lesson – the politics of disgust”


The meaning of culture

When Glasgow won the honour of hosting the 1990 European City of Culture festival the joke was, Culture? Isn’t that what we’ve got growing on our walls? (from memory,  this was Rab C Nesbitt’s contribution). It wasn’t far off the mark though. I interviewed an amazing woman, Cathy McCormack, who had successfully campaigned for a medical and, yes, cultural recognition that the mould growing in council houses was a contributing factor to Glasgow’s high incidence of heart disease, and that therefore, it shouldn’t be assumed that people with heart disease had brought it upon themselves by eating a poor diet (deep fried mars bars and pizzas notwithstanding).

So culture can mean different things depending on context. I rather like Edgar Schein’s description (1991: 111):

‘Culture can now be defined as a pattern of basic assumptions, invented, discovered, or developed by a given group, as it learns to cope with its problems of external adaptation and internal integration, that has worked well enough to be considered valid and, therefore is to be taught to new members as the correct way to perceive, think, and feel in relation to those problems’.

That’s certainly neat, but it’s not necessarily straightforward. I’ve previously mentioned here the meaning of culture, and it should be noted that a well-known study by Kroeber and Kluckhohn (1963) identified 164 unique definitions of the term ‘culture’, while van der Post et al. (1997) listed more than 100 dimensions and according to Ott (1989) there were 74 elements of organisational culture. Continue reading “The meaning of culture”