The path dependence of dynamic traditions and the illusion of cultural AIDS

Abstract

Analyses of cultural change routinely turn on observations or evaluations regarding what some institution, system of belief, or technology is doing to "us," but it can be obscure how one is supposed to fix the meaning of such claims. This essay explores such analyses, calling attention to their reliance on the rhetorical force of the first person plural when the literal meaning of their claims strongly suggests the third person would be more literally appropriate. In many cases, "we" has to mean "them---not us." The essay describes how this rhetorical move invites readers to conceive the relation between individuals and the cultures they inhabit as legitimizing a dubious paternalism, how pluralism undermines confidence in the paternalist attitude entwined within that conception, and finally sketches an alternative in which individuals are vested with ultimate cultural authority.

DOI: 10.1145/2874239.2874269

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Cite this paper

@article{Volkman2015ThePD, title={The path dependence of dynamic traditions and the illusion of cultural AIDS}, author={Richard Volkman}, journal={SIGCAS Computers and Society}, year={2015}, volume={45}, pages={211-217} }