Conjectures and Confrontations: Science, Evolution, Social Concern

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This is the third in the series of volumes of essays that Robin Fox began with Reproduction and Succession and continued with The Challenge of Anthropology. Fox who has been described as "the conscience of anthropology" continues to have the same aim: to expose readers in the social sciences and beyond to the consequences of "the biosocial orientation," and to assess the "state of the art" in anthropology in particular and the social sciences in general.

As always he encompasses a wide range of topics: Why do bureaucracies fail? Are we really an innovative animal? Is nationalism a purely constructed phenomenon? What is the role of sexual competition in epic literature? In all these enquiries he tries to show in non-technical language how the evolutionary approach throws new light on old problems—and even raises new and more interesting problems. He pursues the issue of whether we have a naturally developed moral sense, and if so what it could possibly be (on the way attempting a definitive definition of the good); he looks at the status of the idea of self-interest in economic and biological science; he examines the current state of archaeology as a basis for a renewed scientific anthropology; and he tries to adjudicate the debate between the scientific and humanistic camps in the social sciences.

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Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher
“For over a generation, Robin Fox has illuminated human behavior and social theory with a steady flow of original and insightful writing. This collection of his essays is particularly welcome now that reflective ideological hostility to evolutionary approaches in the social sciences has begun to wane. Such thoughtful and enriching insights as Fox’s probing analyses of why bureaucracies fail and national enmities flourish will enrich all those willing to integrate perspectives from cultural anthropology and philosophy to neuroscience and behavioral ecology.”—Roger D. Masters, Nelson A. Rockefeller Professor of Government, Dartmouth College “A new book by Robin Fox is always an intellectual treat, and Conjectures and Confrontations, which is written with his usual verve, wide learning, wit, and theoretical sophistication, is no exception. In the current postmodernist Zeitgeist, this book is especially welcome for its vigorous, but balanced, defense of reason, science, and the Western Enlightenment tradition.”—Melford E. Spiro, professor emeritus of anthropology, University of California, San Diego “This book of essays offers a fascinating perspective on Robin Fox himself, for the author shares with us some of the intellectual roots which helped to shape him as a truly biocultural persona—an anthropologist who anticipated, and helped to develop, today’s robust merger of biology and the behavioral sciences. The topical essays are, as always, polished and insightful; there is the literary flair and breadth of a Levi-Strauss, yet, refreshingly, the responsibility of a scientist who is true to his facts and careful about them. Some gems in this collection include a discussion of the perils of bureaucracy—delivered not to fellow academicians but to federal bureaucrats in Washington—and a valiant attempt to make some sense of the enduring debate about moral universals. Robin Fox is not afraid of controversy; he provides an insightful assessment of the Politically Correct Culture which pervades contemporary university communities, and suggests that the fashionable field of sociobiology is, in ways, rather theoretically constricted. This work helps to sum up what has been, so far, an extraordinary intellectual career.”—Christopher Boehm, director, the Jane Goodall Research Center, University of Southern California
In his third collection of essays, Fox social theory, Rutgers U. continues his campaign to convince social scientists and the general population that human behavior, like physical attributes, can be traced to the environment we evolved in, the paleolithic savanna. He also critiques current thought and practice in anthropology in particular and the social sciences in general. The eight essays or talks, two interviews, and a poetic epilogue consider such issues as why bureaucracy fails, nationalism, moral sense and utopian sensibility, and left ideology and right archaeology. At least some of the material has been published previously. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781560002864
  • Publisher: Transaction Publishers
  • Publication date: 1/1/1997
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 212

Meet the Author

Robin Fox is University Professor of Social Theory at Rutgers University. Among his best known works are The Imperial Animal (with Lionel Tiger); Kinship and Marriage; The Red Lamp of Incest; The Violent Imagination; The Search for Society and Encounter With Anthropology.

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Table of Contents

Introduction: The Biosocial Orientation 1
Interview: An Accidental Life I 13
1 Why Bureaucracy Fails 27
2 Nationalism: Hymns Ancient and Modern 55
3 How Innovative Are We? 73
4 Sexual Conflict in Epic Narrative 89
Interview: Political Correctness 103
5 Moral Sense and Utopian Sensibility 117
6 Left Ideology and Right Archaeology 137
7 Self-interest and Social Concern 149
8 Scientific Humanism and Humanistic Science 161
Interview: An Accidental Life II 187
Epilogue: What the Shaman Saw 201
Index 207
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