Re: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480

From: Steven Thiele (
Date: Tue 24 Feb 2004 - 22:12:07 GMT

  • Next message: Keith Henson: "Re: Individual - Collective / digest V1#1480"

    At 09:18 PM 23/02/2004 +0100, you wrote:
    << A kind of essentialism is at work within the concept of memetics,
    homogenizing what in fact are very different ( IMO individualistic) discours/
    structures and e(a)ffects.
    For a population to be ripe for hegemony_ it means that its interests ( those
    of all individuals living within ) enables it, to organise the whole of society
    in accordance with those interests. That can 't be done, if not all of the
    ' consciousness ' points in the same direction.
    In that regards, I don 't think that society/ culture manifest itself in the same
    way individuals display, lets say a particular style of walking. Culture, is thus,
    and must be in the ways by which it is explained, rather a complex, conflic-
    tive field of meaning, in which some themes will be bound tight together to
    the experience of a particular class ( and it will express dominance), while
    others will ' float ' around, tugged- torn between now this way and now
    another- in between the competitive ( memetic) powers.
    A group, can be said, can 't be regarded as a kind of collectivized individual_
    ' groups ' don 't possess a ' consciousness ', an unity, an autonomy, a self-
    determination_ there will be always contamination.
    Although, I am not blind for the group- power, and thus that the contamination-
    level is less than zero if it appears to move from individual towards collective,
    but it can be said that therefore it is harder to see how exact dominant an
    individual can be.
    This suggests that in fact ' the social- evolutionary- interpretation'  of what
    Darwin wrote can be seen as a form of ideology.
    Those who try to explain social life and thus culture in Darwinian terms focus
    upon their quasi superior belief of Western scientific supremacy.
    In fact, the progressive ' interpretation of Darwinism contradicts in essence
    its revolutionary insight in evolution. Darwin tried to move God out of the
    picture, but by replacing evolution by the more uni-linear term ' progress '
    progressists put in yet another ' plan '.
    In that way, it allows us to legitimate the replacement of other cultures
    by ours. The argument is thereby that time is of the essence for all parties.
    Some memeticians, those who argue that all has to do with memes, make
    an error of judgement_ by including memes in almost everything they
    include the notion that there is an indisputable terminal point to their assump-
    tion. That is simply unjustified and unwise.

    Yes. Memetics is repeating the age old problem of looking for a single key of or foundation for explanation - an 'essence' or 'terminal point' as Kenneth puts it. There are many, many ways in which this has occurred in human thought, though by far the most powerful has been the idea of a single god.

    Once people think they have found a single key to explanation, they single mindedly propound it, searching for any 'evidence' that they are on the right track and refusing to confront difficulties. Often, these positions develop a head of steam and seem to promise 'the earth', yet, also often, they suddenly collapse as the weight of evidence mounts against them.

    My guess is that many caught up in memetics were once caught up in genetics. Instead of seeing that the drive to find the 'key' is doomed to failure, they have just swapped one 'key' for another.

    Memetics is a shift in the right direction, and contains the potential to help confront the nature-nurture dualism, but if its practitioners are unwilling to enter into dialogue with sociology, or at least with those elements of sociology that also want to confront this dualism, then in a decade or so it will look like another silly fad.

    Steven Thiele

    =============================================================== This was distributed via the memetics list associated with the Journal of Memetics - Evolutionary Models of Information Transmission For information about the journal and the list (e.g. unsubscribing) see:

    This archive was generated by hypermail 2.1.5 : Tue 24 Feb 2004 - 22:31:30 GMT