September 20, 2006

Seeking Advice on Introducing Ideological Bias

Well, it looks like I have some VIGRE-funded undergraduate research assistants for the semester; specifically, I have takers both for my idea about aggregated network data, and neutral cultural diffusion on assortative networks. The latter, however, leaves me with a puzzle.

The project makes sense (to the extent that it does) against a background assumption that culture is not neutral, but an adaptation to the physical or social environment. This is a pretty pervasive assumption on the part of social scientists, historians, ethnographers, cultural critics, etc., but I'm not sure that my students will have been exposed to this idea as such. So, I need background reading which will rapidly persuade a wholesome, technically-inclined Carnegie Mellon undergrad that a person's beliefs and values ought to be correlated with their status in society. "Rapidly" is important, because there is some technical research to get to, and recapitulating the whole history of the sociology of belief is not an option. Similarly, assigning The German Ideology and/or The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism seems like asking for trouble. (And, with Weber, I'd feel like I'd have to spend a lot of time unteaching the errors.) So, I invoke the collective wisdom of the Web for reading suggestions: please write me at cshalizi [at] cmu [dot] edu [dot] oryx, deleting the name of a genus of antelope.

Corrupting the Young

Posted at September 20, 2006 16:20 | permanent link

Three-Toed Sloth