- Paperback: 350 pages
- Publisher: Yale University Press (September 24, 2003)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0300084501
- ISBN-13: 978-0300084504
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.4 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 5 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,316,819 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology 0th Edition
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From the Inside Flap
According to J.M. Balkin, cultural evolution occurs through the transmission of cultural information and know-how-- "cultural software"--in human minds. Individuals embody cultural software and spread it to others through communication and social learning. Ideology, he contends, is neither a special nor a pathological form of thought but an ordinary product of the evolution of cultural software. Because cultural understanding is a patchwork of older imperfect tools that are continually adapted to solve new problems, human understanding is partly adequate and partly inadequate to the pursuit of justice.
Balkin offers many current and historical examples that demonstrate the causes of ideological effects and their contributions to injustice. He also enters the current debate over multiculturalism, applying his theory to problems of mutual understanding between people who hold different worldviews.
"A brilliant and daring job of examining law in the light of new thought in the human sciences and vice versa. This is contemporary legal scholarship at its most thoughtful."
--Jerome Bruner, Research Professor of Psychology at New York University and Senior Research Fellow in Law at New York University School of Law.
"Balkin takes the hot button words of current intellectual debate-- culture, ideology, transcendence, pragmatism, historicism-- and manages the considerable feat of making them usable again. He avoids final judgment while at the same time redeeming the vocabulary of final judgment so that it is once again available to those who have learned the lessons of various postmodernisms. An impressive and truly helpful book."
--Stanley Fish, Duke University --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From the Back Cover
"Balkin takes the hot button words of cultural intellectual debate - culture, ideology, transcendence, pragmatism, historicism - and manages the considerable feat of making them usable again. He avoids final judgment while at the same time redeeming the vocabulary of final judgment so that it is once again available to those who have learned the lessons of various postmodernisms. An impressive and truly helpful book." - Stanley Fish, Due University "A brilliant and daring job of examining law in the light of new thought in the human sciences and vice versa. This is contemporary legal scholarship at its most thoughtful." - Jerome Butler, Research Professor of Psychology at New York University and Senior Research Fellow in Law at New York University of Law. "Balking argues ingeniously that meme theory replaces more familiar critical theories of ideology, because it alone explains how people come to believe the things they believe, without reference to dubious assumptions about 'false consciousness' or 'hegemony.' Once we can understand this, we can act to change cultural beliefs for the better. . . . [Balkin] writes with lucid balance. . . . Balkin's account is the most nuanced and convincing on the question of what we actually gain from meme theory."-Mark Kingwell, Harper's "After 250 years of writing about ideology, it is difficult to have something new to say that advances our understanding of this elusive concept, and yet Cultural Software: A Theory of Ideology by J.M. Balkin manages to do just that. . . . Cultural Software is a remarkable work that will be usefully read by a broad audience."-Susan Silbey, American Journal of Sociology "Balkin's book is a path-breaking effort to rethink legal critique using these biological and cybernetic models; the scope of its ambition and the subtlety of its execution are likely to make it a definitive work."-David Charny, University of Michigan Law Review "Balkin's book is intelligent and extremely well crafted. Not the least of his accomplishments is a wonderfully clear presentation of the major strands of postmodern thought. Theories of social psychology, narrative, semiotics, metaphor, and metonym are discussed sympathetically butu also sensibly and in understandable terms. For anyone interested in intelligible discussion of the work of Elster, Ricouer, Geertz, Goffman, Chomsky, Levi-Strauss, Foucault, and the like, this book is an excellent source."-Emily Sherwin, Philosophy in Review
Top customer reviews
Balkin is a fantastic writer, able to explain his concepts very clearly without resorting to excessive jargon and without sacrificing complexity or nuance. The richness of his thought is manifested when he applies his theories to concrete issues in law and politics, such as his powerful analysis of racism toward the end of the book. The book is also worth reading for Balkin's absolutely superb discussion of narratives, one of the most illuminating I have read. In sum, this book is definitely worth reading; Balkin has set forth a serious and convincing theory to be reckoned with.
Steven Shiffrin, Cornell University
When one picks up a tool, one both limits oneself while extending one's abilities.
People talk about interfacing with each other now. An interface is something between two computers.
As you have probably surmised, my argument is only with Belkin's terminology. I believe it dooms his book.
I could never call anything brilliant that suggests 'human software.' The conceit dissappoints.
I gave a star only because the amazon commenting program requires a star rating. It is intended to mean nothing. I am critiquing only the terminology here.