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How Societies Remember (Themes in the Social Sciences) Paperback – November 2, 1989

ISBN-13: 978-0521270939 ISBN-10: 0521270936 Edition: First Edition

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Product Details

  • Series: Themes in the Social Sciences
  • Paperback: 121 pages
  • Publisher: Cambridge University Press; First Edition edition (November 24, 1989)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0521270936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0521270939
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.3 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 3.5 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (6 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #245,581 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Book Description

An essential aspect of social memory, until now badly neglected, is stressed in this study of memory that concentrates on incorporated practices and provides an account of how they are transmitted in and as traditions.

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101 of 108 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on March 19, 2004
Format: Paperback
I read this book and was not unimpressed with Connerton's analysis. However, the book opens with one of the most egregious acts of plagiarism I have ever seen. Compare these passages. The first is from Connerton's opening chapter. The second is from Hannah Arendt's ON REVOLUTION (Penguin Books):
"All beginnings contain an element of recollection. This is particularly so when a social group makes a concerted effort to begin with a wholly new start. There is a MEASURE OF COMPLETE ARBITRARINESS in the VERY NATURE of any such attempted beginning. The BEGINNING HAS NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO HOLD ON TO; IT IS AS IF IT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE. FOR A MOMENT, THE MOMENT OF BEGINNING, IT IS AS IF THE BEGINNERS HAS ABOLISHED THE SEQUENCE OF TEMPORALITY ITSELF AND WERE THROWN OUT OF THE CONTINUITY OF THE TEMPORAL ORDER." (Connerton, p. 6).
"It is in the VERY NATURE of a beginning to carry with itself a MEASURE OF COMPLETE ARBITRARINESS. Not only is it not bound into a reliable chain of cause and effect, a chain in which each effect immediately turns into the cause for future developments, THE BEGINNING HAS, as it were, NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO HOLD ON TO; IT IS AS THOUGH IT CAME OUT OF NOWHERE in time or space. FOR A MOMENT, THE MOMENT OF BEGINNING, IT IS AS THOUGH THE BEGINNER HAD ABOLISHED THE SEQUENCE OF TEMPORALITY ITSELF, or as though the actors WERE THROWN OUT OF THE TEMPORAL ORDER AND ITS CONTINUITY." (Arendt, p. 206).
Arendt's book was published some 25 years prior to Connerton's and Arendt's name appears nowhere in the text or the bibliography.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Johan Meire on March 10, 2000
Format: Paperback
A short book that has been very important in opening up the field of social memory and in bringing the work of Maurice Halbwachs back into focus. The book is a good introduction to the basic problems of social memory, useful to historians, sociologists and anthropologists. Connerton makes the important point that social memory is essentially performative in character and points to the importance of the bodily practices in memory. The final chapter on bodily practices is however rather disappointing in that he tends to equate bodily memory with 'habit memory', thereby putting stress too much on repetition and the incorporation of codes and missing important points on the phenomenological primacy and agency of the body. Still a classic, though.
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13 of 14 people found the following review helpful By FrKurt Messick HALL OF FAMEVINE VOICE on May 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Connerton's thesis about the communal/social aspects of memory prompted me to recall the proposed research project of a friend of mine in a doctoral programme, dealing with aspects of received knowledge of children - how do children of each successive generation, across social classes and often across cultural divides, seem to know certain things that are not taught to them by adults, particularly as adults seem to have forgotten these things themselves, but that are known by other children. How is this collective childhood body of knowledge maintained and continued without any formalised structure of preservation or transmission? This type of question can have relevance toward many types of study.
Connerton's distinction between social memory and historical reconstruction is an important one. We might know the factual (or, at least, the conjectured factual) details of lost cultures and societies, but their social memory is, by virtue of their disappearance, inaccessible to us, save in the possible elements that have been continued in present cultures or societies. However, I am not sure I can subscribe to Connerton's complete application of the principle of historical reconstruction being necessarily removed from social memory. Connerton writes, `A historically tutored memory is opposed to an unreflective traditional memory.' (p. 16) We none of us operate as pure historical reconstructionists; our social memory influences even the manner in which we pursue an historical memory; surely there is a cross-influence as work as some level (and perhaps often different levels).
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