What are some sources that attempt to explain drastic social change?
December 23, 2015 9:02 AM   Subscribe

I'm researching how cultures sometimes hold a majority opinion or maintain a social norm and within a decade or two completely flip and go the other way. I'd love a nudge in the right direction toward resources that attempt to explain the underlying mechanisms that tend to result in that sort of culture-wide "flip" on a social issue.

I'm writing a book about drastic mind change (conversions, epiphanies, flips, etc.), and in the book I'm exploring that idea along three scales: - individuals, groups/institutions, cultures.

At the cultural level, even the national level, majority-held opinions/beliefs/norms sometimes completely flip and go the other way. I'm having a hard time finding good resources that explore drastic social change within that scale, the sort of cultural change like what (apparently) happened recently in the USA with same-sex marriage.

I'd love a nudge in the right direction toward resources that attempt to explain the underlying psychological, sociological, and anthropological mechanisms that tend to result in that sort of culture-wide "flip" on a social issue.

Also, if nothing else, I'd love to learn of more examples of this sort of change so that I can try and discover what they share in common.

Thanks!
posted by Lownotes to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
The Tipping Point.
posted by Melismata at 9:05 AM on December 23, 2015


If you haven't already read it, you might want to check out Thomas Kuhn's book The Structure of Scientific Revolutions (1962). He's looking at science, granted, but the structure of change he posits--the paradigm shift--has since been used outside of the hard sciences.
posted by theatro at 9:31 AM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Information cascades may explain some forms of social change.
posted by ferdydurke at 10:36 AM on December 23, 2015


I haven't read it, but I just heard about this book the other day and intend to find it soon: The Honor Code by Kwame Appiah, about how the prevailing moral beliefs change in society. Examples are slavery, dueling, and footbinding.
posted by BrashTech at 10:46 AM on December 23, 2015


You'll love research about the Quiet Revolution in Quebec. The Quiet Revolution is a decade where Quebec went from being a highly-Catholic province with an entrenched elite to a high-secular province--in a single decade. Unfortunately, the best resources are only in French. Luckily, at least one exists in English: Gauvreau's The Catholic Origins of the Quiet Revolution. It also deals significantly (if frequently in footnotes) with the history of sociological thought.
posted by flibbertigibbet at 12:44 PM on December 23, 2015 [2 favorites]


Peter Turchin's Ultrasociety might be helpful.

Also, if you'd like an (excellent, excellent) book concentrated around a specific example, check out Rick Perlstein's Nixonland. He explores the question of how the U.S. veered from one of the largest Democratic landslides ever (in 1964, for LBJ) to one of the largest Republican landslides ever (in 1972, for Nixon), in just eight short years.
posted by Conrad Cornelius o'Donald o'Dell at 6:48 PM on December 23, 2015


👍🏼 to Thomas Kuhn above.

Bruno Latour’s Science In Action is another book in a similar vein, with special emphasis on how consensus is created and evolved.
posted by migurski at 11:50 PM on December 23, 2015


Thirding Kuhn.
posted by internet fraud detective squad, station number 9 at 5:09 AM on December 24, 2015


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