New Book on Grid-Group Cultural Theory

Michael Thompson has a new book out on his version of grid-group cultural theory (for reasons to be explored here one day, he has five social solidarities instead of the ‘four cultures’ described on this site). It’s called Organisation and Disorganisation. And thanks to Huw for pointing this out.

From the blurb:

We may believe that our perspective is the right one and that any interaction with opposing views is a messy and unwelcome contradiction. But why should egalitarians engage with individualists, or hierachists with egalitarians?

Using a range of examples and analogies, the author shows how the best outcomes depend upon an essential argumentative process, which encourages subversions that are constructive whilst discouraging those that are not. In this way each approach gets more of what it wants and less of what it doesn’t want.

There’ll be a review here when  a copy arrives, but in the meantime you can hear Michael speaking about it both at the RSA and on the BBC (with philosopher John Gray).

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]