Equality and Hierarchy in Denmark

Hedeby, probable site of the first school in Denmark Further reflections on the concept of horizontal and vertical teaching methods. A recent edition of the journal Social Analysis (55.2, 2011) is entirely devoted to the contrast between hierarchical and egalitarian pressures on Danish Society. The introduction begins with a discussion of the work of the … Continue reading Equality and Hierarchy in Denmark

Four types of institutional control

This diagram comes from a book edited by Christopher Hood (et al.) It shows how contrived randomness can be seen as a method of social control in public institutions (Hood et al. 2004:8). As mentioned in a Fourcultures post on how to beat the odds and escape your fate, Hood wrote: “Contrived randomness denotes control … Continue reading Four types of institutional control

How to beat the odds and escape your fate

We hate it when things that are supposed to be random actually turn out not to be. But on reflection it's not quite that simple. We like random events to be random in entirely predictable ways. The 'Fatalism' quadrant of Grid-Group Cultural Theory includes random activity as a key aspect of social organisation. But it … Continue reading How to beat the odds and escape your fate

Half the cheese or double the cheese? Why not have both?

Health experts warn against the excessive consumption of saturated fats. At the same time industry marketing groups come up with novel campaigns to increase consumption. The role of government, often, is to mediate between these two contrasting positions. The New York Times reports on a great example in which the same government department promotes cheese … Continue reading Half the cheese or double the cheese? Why not have both?

BP Oil Spill – why we care

Behavioural psychologist Dan Ariely’s interesting website has a question about why we seem to care so much about the Gulf of Mexico oil spill, when we don’t seem to care as much about other big environmental disasters such as the ongoing destruction of the Amazonian rainforest. Some good points are raised, including some fairly obvious … Continue reading BP Oil Spill – why we care

It’s OK if you don’t know everything

"We rarely know an explicit formula that tells us what to do in a complex situation. We have to work out what to do by thinking through the possibilities in ways that are simultaneously imaginative and realistic, and not less imaginative when more realistic. Knowledge, far from limiting imagination, enables it to serve its central … Continue reading It’s OK if you don’t know everything

L’analyse culturelle de Mary Douglas

- une contribution à la sociologie des institutions. Here's a good summary of Mary Douglas's Cultural Theory written in French (with an English abstract). It was published in SociologieS in 2006. Marcel Calvez, « L’analyse culturelle de Mary Douglas : une contribution à la sociologie des institutions », SociologieS [En ligne], Théories et recherches, mis … Continue reading L’analyse culturelle de Mary Douglas

Cultural Theory and the Open Society

Catriona Kelly, Professor of Russian at Oxford Universty, has written an article about the concept of freedom in the context of Soviet and post-Soviet politics. She takes issue with the two-sidedness that pits the open society against the closed society, finding in Grid-Group Cultural Theory a helpful and illuminating alternative. ''The "open society" to which … Continue reading Cultural Theory and the Open Society

Acknowledging our own biases

Writing in Risk and Blame: Essays on Cultural Theory,  anthropologist and sociologist Mary Douglas expressed the importance of recognising one's own biases, the importance of reflexivity. 'My own preference has emerged as an idealized form of hierarchy. This has always given me to some degree the professional advantage of feeling out of kilter with the … Continue reading Acknowledging our own biases