Question for anthropologists and scholars of religion

Quite a few religions, ranging from the Norse religion to Christianity imagine an apocalypse (often including war, famine and pestilence) followed by a new world in which a reduced number of people enjoy plenty. Has anyone looked at the idea that this may represent a cultural memory or understanding of the kind of plenty which … Continue reading Question for anthropologists and scholars of religion

Chesterton’s fence and thinking using sayings

“Common sense is a chaotic aggregate of disparate conceptions, and one can find there anything that one like.” -Antonio Gramsci I. Chesterton's fence is the principle that: "Reforms should not be made until the reasoning behind the existing state of affairs is understood. " (Courtesy of Wikipedia) It sounds so very reasonable- simply a more … Continue reading Chesterton’s fence and thinking using sayings

Informal musings on the self-organisation of authoritarianism

You know how everyone has realizations they make far later in life than is normal? This is one of mine. Nonetheless, in the possibility that this essay might be helpful to someone who was similarly slow on the uptake, I've decided to share it. I. I’ve come to realize that most pro-authoritarian action can be self-organised- … Continue reading Informal musings on the self-organisation of authoritarianism

Survey evidence suggests Americans are generally conflict theorists

A few years ago I published something on Reddit in which I argued that perspectives on politics could be divided in two: those who believe that political controversies represent one or both sides making a mistake about what is in their own interests -which I termed mistake theorists-, and those that believe that political controversies … Continue reading Survey evidence suggests Americans are generally conflict theorists

What I wish Science-Fiction writers knew about disasters

Probably as many science-fiction books as not feature disasters, and most of those reproduce what are sometimes termed by experts ‘disaster myths’. I find a lot of speculative fiction frustrating because of how it treats the human response to disasters. It is the near unanimous view of science fiction that, during a disaster, humans become, … Continue reading What I wish Science-Fiction writers knew about disasters

Money makes the world go round: the case for materialist explanations in social science

I’m a materialist, and I wanted to take a moment to commend the idea of materialism to you. Materialism here doesn’t mean being greedy. Nor does it mean philosophical materialism- the view that only matter exists. Instead by materialism I mean the view that the economy in its widest possible sense- the technology, markets, legal … Continue reading Money makes the world go round: the case for materialist explanations in social science

Human nature isn’t a persuasive objection to left-wing ideas

Every so often someone puts to me the claim that egalitarian and left-wing ideas cannot work because of human nature. I have no concerns about the concept of human nature- any ethologist or psychologist could tell you that we come into the world with a bundle of capacities, drives and instincts. Rather, I find myself … Continue reading Human nature isn’t a persuasive objection to left-wing ideas