Browsing All posts tagged under »social change«

Murals versus Flags: A Symbolically Dense Landscape, continued

July 21, 2014 by


As I said in my previous blog, the Catholic areas in Belfast tend to be symbolically demarcated primarily with murals, while the Protestant ones are festooned with flags. The distinction is not absolute, and you can see the Irish Tricolor (green-white-orange) in two photographs in the previous blog. Still, they are mostly found in the […]

Ideology Is Heritable Yet Societies Can Change Their Views Quickly. A guest blog by Jonathan Haidt.

December 16, 2013 by


Bernard Winograd has written an intriguing post, summarizing the findings one must grapple with when thinking about how attitudes can change within a single generation. The rapid change in the USA on gay marriage has caught many people’s attention, coming at a time when many popular books are saying that political attitudes are to some […]

We Really Have no Idea Why Political Attitudes Change (or Not). A Guest Blog by Bernard Winograd

December 14, 2013 by


At the risk of oversimplification, consider a few key findings of researchers into human beliefs and their evolutionary foundations. Human belief systems are rooted in biologically evolved senses of morality. While beliefs about many matters differ widely from culture to culture, there are certain underlying belief systems that are virtually universal in human culture, such […]

Sticking My Neck Out

August 31, 2013 by


When 15 years ago I started working within the scientific discipline that eventually became Cliodynamics, my initial plan was to concentrate entirely on past societies. Of course, history doesn’t end in, say, 1800. But there are dangers in pushing a historical analysis all the way to the present day. First, we are too close to […]

An Imperfect Time Machine

August 20, 2013 by


In the previous blog, I asked why some nations are wealthy, stable, and happy, and others are not. Many theories have tried to provide an answer to this question. How do we decide which of the competing theories is true? So far, economists have not done a compelling job addressing this issue. Let’s take Why […]

Greedy Publishers III: Oxford University Press

August 5, 2013 by


I did not mean to write another installment in this series, but Oxford University Press recently published a volume on War, Peace, and Human Nature: The Convergence of Evolutionary and Cultural Views, which got me really incensed. It’s another example of a ridiculous pricing policy of another greedy publisher, even though it’s a university press. […]

The Impending Demise of Greedy For-Profit Scientific Publishers (Part II)

August 1, 2013 by


Part I here In the previous blog I related how I almost signed up with Elsevier to write an article for their Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences, but was deterred by the draconian contract that they sent me. I told Elsevier that I would only participate in the project if I could retain […]

The Impending Demise of Greedy For-Profit Scientific Publishers (Part I)

July 25, 2013 by


Last year a good colleague invited me to write an entry on Cliodynamics/Social Evolution for The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2nd edition). I agreed, in part because I felt that it’s been several years since I had summarized the state of our rapidly evolving field, and committing to this article would […]

The Strange Disappearance of Cooperation in America II

July 6, 2013 by


Apart from sessions on space exploration, the other highlight of Sci Foo for me was, naturally, the discussion of the dynamics of cooperation in America (I have more to say about the search for extraterrestrial intelligence and will return to it in the next blog). The session was well attended by folks with very different […]

Harvey Whitehouse: More On Social Glue (a response to commentaries)

June 10, 2013 by


The discussions in this forum have raised some big issues, ranging from the implications of two types of social glue for the evolution of groups (e.g. Waring; Smith) to the practical and ethical challenges of seeking public policy interventions based on our scientific theories and findings (e.g. Lanman; Waring). I agree with most of the […]

The Future Cliodynamics of the Great Divergence (AKA the Rise of the West)

June 7, 2013 by


One of the major reasons I enjoy having a blog is the many excellent comments that the readers make on various ideas I float here. Sometimes they make me change my views, sometimes they force me to explain things better, or clarify my own thinking on the subject. All of this happened as a result […]

Zoey Reeve and Dominic Johnson: Identity (con)fusion: Social Groups and the Stickiness of Social Glue. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 26, 2013 by

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Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has. —Margaret Mead Harvey Whitehouse argues that we will be better able to resolve major challenges of the 21st century—civil wars, collective action, poverty, and environmental change—if we understand the “social glue” that binds […]

Timothy M. Waring. On the Application Methods for Various Types of Social Glue. A Commentary on Harvey Whitehouse

March 20, 2013 by


Whitehouse’s article on social cohesion provides a mix of research agenda and aspirational vision. The research agenda springs from the “Ritual, Community, and Conflict” project that he directs, but Whitehouse also aspires to employ an advanced understanding of social cohesion to “predict, prevent, and resolve civil wars,” and to “mobilize a global response to economic […]

Harvey Whitehouse Responds

March 15, 2013 by


I have just been reading through these very thought-provoking posts and there are many observations it would be great to discuss further, including the point that social glue can be used for immoral ends (Voron) and that often a darker side to ingroup bonding is outgroup hatred (Anderson and Zimmerman). Bill Swann echoes these points […]

The Double Helix of Inequality and Well-Being

February 8, 2013 by


The on-line magazine Aeon today published an article of mine on why economic inequality tends to wax and wane in very long (‘secular’) cycles, and what consequences it has for the society. One of the central ideas in the article was that general well-being (that is, of the overwhelming majority of population) tends to move […]

Drivers vs. Pedestrians: A case study of social norms

June 17, 2012 by

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Social norms and institutions have been the subject of several blogs by me and others on the Social Evolution Forum. Understanding how social norms are maintained and, especially, how they change (see, e.g., the post by Bernard Winograd) is a central issue of social evolution. I have been thinking about this issue during my sojourns […]

Nicolas Baumard. The evolution of cooperation: from networks to institutions (Commentary on Dunbar)

May 8, 2012 by


Our ancestral environment differed greatly from our current environment, for the better (we enjoy better, safer and longer lives than our ancestors) but also for the worse. In his text, Dunbar points out, in particular, that while we used to spend our whole life with the same people, we now live mostly with strangers, people […]

R.I.M. Dunbar: Networking Past and Present

May 7, 2012 by


Recent history has witnessed two important dramatic changes that have had a deep bearing on our social lives. One has been the way travel has shrunk the world to create a growing level of economic interdependence: butterflies flapping their wings in Brazil really do have reverberations on the economics and politics of every other continent […]

Studying the Past to Design a Better Future

May 6, 2012 by


Last week I was in St. Louis, where I first participated in the Consilience Conference, then went on a day trip to Cahokia Mounds, and finally gave a talk at Washington University. This has been a very intense and productive trip, and I already see that I will need several blogs to cover various themes […]

Guest Blog by Bernard Winograd: An Evolutionary Theory of Political Change

May 4, 2012 by


What creates political and social changes in a democracy? This is a question being asked a lot lately in the United States, largely because the degree of polarization of American politics is widely perceived to have increased dramatically since the 1960s, with each party becoming less tolerant of ideological diversity in its ranks and both […]


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