“The self is more of a superhighway for social influence than it is the impenetrable private fortress we believe it to be.”
Neuroscientist Matthew D. Lieberman, head of UCLA’s Social Cognitive Neuroscience Lab, on why our brains are wired to connect
"In sociological studies fashion plays the role which has been allotted to Drosophila, the fruit fly, in the science of genetics."
Quentin Bell, Virginia Woolf’s nephew, on conspicuous consumption, conspicuous leisure conspicuous waste, and “conspicuous outrage”
A fascinating and revolutionary 1980 study of the social life of small urban spaces and what makes a joyful city.
From cave paintings to the internet, or how art and cultural ideology shape one another.
“What music is to the spirit, reading is to the mind. Reading challenges, empowers, bewitches, enriches. We perceive little black marks on white paper or a PC screen and they move us to tears, open up our lives to new insights and understandings, inspire us, organize our existences and connect us with all creation.
Surely there can be no greater wonder.”
Steven Roger Fischer traces how we went from the dawn of symbols to electronic text, and in the process deconstructs what it actually means to read.
How the invention of walls gave rise to eavesdropping – a brief history of personal opacity and public space.
A visionary lens on how social, political, and economic power structures are changing at the dawn of the information age, presaging many of today’s cultural paradigms and touching on other timely topics like networked knowledge, the role of intuition, and the value of adding context.
“Boredom is, in the Darwinian sense, an adaptive emotion. Its purpose, that is, may be designed to help one flourish.”
A fascinating history and anthropology of boredom from classics scholar Peter Toohey. From Madame Bovary to fMRI, he explores the roots, symptoms, and symbolism of boredom across art history, psychology, and neurochemistry to examine what it reveals about us both as individuals and as a culture.
“Non-reading is not just the absence of reading. It is a genuine activity, one that consists of adopting a stance in relation to the immense tide of books that protects you from drowning. On that basis, it deserves to be defended and even taught.”
A formidably research, absorbing, eloquent account of how, contrary to the modern mythology of the 1960s, today’s permissive sexual behavior first developed, seemingly suddenly, some three hundred years earlier, in 17th-century Western Europe. What emerges is a new lens for understanding the Enlightenment as a cultural phenomenon, by connecting this critical sexual transformation to the intellectual, political, and social forces that shaped the period.
Writer and lawyer Eric Berkowitz explores the millennia-long quest to regulate and mandate one of the strongest drivers of human behavior, and the tragic deformities that result from the dictatorship of external authority over the most intimate of inner realities. Tracing how we went from the male bonding ceremonies commonly performed in medieval Mediterranean churches to the lesbian executions in 18th-century Germany, along the entire spectrum of cultural attitudes towards mistresses, goat-lovers, prostitutes, medieval transvestites, adulterers, and other sexual norm nonconformists, Berkowitz brings an eye-opening lens to one the most mercilessly judged yet universal aspects of being human.
“Despite its prevalence, living alone is one of the least discussed and, consequently, most poorly understood issues of our time.”