Wednesday, 27 February 2008


Memes. You either love them or loathe them. They can help keep your blog going when you've got blogger's block, or make it look as though you're trying to get down with the kids. Here at AVPS Brother S and I have little opinion either way. But, when I see the latest meme monster has chewed up much of sociologyblogland, I have no choice but to hop on the bandwagon. My future career could be at stake.

Union Street and Global Sociology have tagged me with this: pick sentences six to eight on page 123 of the nearest book, write them down, and then tag five others with the meme.

Well my nearest book is On Materialism by Sebastiano Timpanaro. Read it and weep:
Generally, its point of departure are real and serious problems in the epistemology of the sciences, related to the need for a re-examination of the very foundations of scientific knowledge. But this epistemological crisis is quickly used in order to reassert an absolute, mythological creativity and freedom belonging to man, and in order to be able to disregard both the real conditioning to which man is subject and the way to overcome it. It then becomes possible to proclaim a completely rhetorical and mystifying subjectivism-voluntarism.

I want to pass this contamination into leftyblogland, so I nominate Jim Jay, Splintered Sunrise, Madam Miaow, Stroppyblog, and Leftwing Criminologist and ask they bow to blogging peer pressure. Alternately, feel free to have a go in the comments box.


Rob said...

Is the Timpanaro book good? I've read good things about it from Anderson and Hobsbawm and I've been thinking about (eventually) reading it.

Jim Jepps said...

Nice quote - much better than mine!

Graeme said...

memes drive me nuts

Phil said...

Hi Rob, I haven't had the chance to read it yet. I picked it up from an Oxfam book shop a few years ago, having heard it spoken well of in an old Kate Soper paper (in the Issues in Marxist Philosophy series) so thought I might give it a go. I've managed to read and understand Althusser, so Timpanaro will be a walk in the park.

Graeme, I ought to have tagged you then ;P

ian said...

I read the Timpanaro quote and thought'Pseuds Corner'!!

What the f*ck does it mean?


Phil said...

Seriously, it was picked out a random. I didn't scour the book looking for deliberately abstruse passages!

For a bit of context, it's from a chapter called Engels, Materialism and 'Free Will' - so that makes the quote a bit more legible.

Leftwing Criminologist said...

what's a meme?

i guess i'm probably to post this on my blog, but my nearest book is Understanding History by George Novack

"The wider range of differences in development and the greater the number of stages present at any one time, the more dramatic are the possible number of combinations of conditions and forces and the more startling is the nature of the leaps. Some combinations produce extraordinarily sudden eruptions and twists in history. Transportation has evolved, step by step, through the ages from human to animal locomotion, through wheeled vehicles on to railways, cars and airplanes."

Prizes if you can get the title of the chapter (what it's about).

Phil said...

Could it be a chapter about historical development, the passing of one epoch and the coming of the next?

Re: memes, here's the Wikipedia definition: "A meme is any unit of cultural information, such as a practice or idea, that is transmitted verbally or by repeated action from one mind to another. Examples include thoughts, ideas, theories, practices, habits, songs, dances and moods and terms such as race, culture, and ethnicity. A meme is self-propagating and can move through a "culture" in a manner similar to a virus."

Anonymous said...

The book that comes to hand for me is Dry Store Room No. 1. By Richard Fortey. Coincidentally appropriate as Fortey tends towards Dawkins's views in evolutionary debates and in consequence I suspect may be inclined to approve of Memes.

I'm not sure whether the rules for this count or ignore the 'orphan' sentence from the previous page, so I've included 4 sentences, 6, 7, 8 & 9 if they count it, or 5, 6, 7 & 8 if they don't. Ignore whichever you want!

As with so many aspects of British life, Mrs Thatcher transformed the way the [Natural History] Museum worked. In the 1980's the composition of Trustees changed. Now it was deemed appropriate to have successful business persons as a sizeable proporiton of the Trustees; out went bishops and the retired Sibthorpian Professor from Oxfored University, and in came the Chief Executive Officers. This was part and parcel of instilling a new spirit of realism into our ivory towres of shaking up the old Civil Service by making it conform to that business paradigm that was considered the model for successful running of any organization.

A consequence of this was the sacking of Socialist Party member and union branch secretary for the curatorial staff the NHM, Ann Hollifield, but I'm not sure whether Fortey covers this in his book.

Anonymous said...

If you want Pseud's Corner, the following conclusion from J-P Sartre's chapter on "Socialism in One Country" (I never found out whether he agreed with it or not):

"However, in order to settle the question, we must recall that men make history to the extent that history makes them. In the present case, this means that the practico-inert is produced by the counter-finalities of praxis insofar as serialities of impotence, by making life impossible, give rise to the totalizing unity that transcends them. Thus the movement of historialization has three phases. In the first, a common praxis transforms the society through a totalizing action whose counter-finalities make its results practico-inert. In the second, the anti-social forces of the practico-inert impose a negative unity of self-destruction on the society, by usurping the unifying power of the praxis which produced them. In the third, the detotalized unity retotalizes itself in a common attempt to rediscover the objective by stripping it of counter-finalities. This, however, requires further examination."

You don't say!