Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification / Edition 1

Private Truths, Public Lies: The Social Consequences of Preference Falsification / Edition 1

by Timur Kuran
     
 

ISBN-10: 0674707583

ISBN-13: 9780674707580

Pub. Date: 09/30/1997

Publisher: Harvard

Preference falsification, according to the economist Timur Kuran, is the act of misrepresenting one's wants under perceived social pressures. It happens frequently in everyday life, such as when we tell the host of a dinner party that we are enjoying the food when we actually find it bland. In Private Truths, Public Lies Kuran argues convincingly that the

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Overview

Preference falsification, according to the economist Timur Kuran, is the act of misrepresenting one's wants under perceived social pressures. It happens frequently in everyday life, such as when we tell the host of a dinner party that we are enjoying the food when we actually find it bland. In Private Truths, Public Lies Kuran argues convincingly that the phenomenon not only is ubiquitous but has huge social and political consequences. Drawing on diverse intellectual traditions, including those rooted in economics, psychology, sociology, and political science, Kuran provides a unified theory of how preference falsification shapes collective decisions, orients structural change, sustains social stability, distorts human knowledge, and conceals political possibilities.

A common effect of preference falsification is the preservation of widely disliked structures. Another is the conferment of an aura of stability on structures vulnerable to sudden collapse. When the support of a policy, tradition, or regime is largely contrived, a minor event may activate a bandwagon that generates massive yet unanticipated change.

In distorting public opinion, preference falsification also corrupts public discourse and, hence, human knowledge. So structures held in place by preference falsification may, if the condition lasts long enough, achieve increasingly genuine acceptance. The book demonstrates how human knowledge and social structures co-evolve in complex and imperfectly predictable ways, without any guarantee of social efficiency.

Private Truths, Public Lies uses its theoretical argument to illuminate an array of puzzling social phenomena. They include the unexpected fall of communism, the paucity, until recently, of open opposition to affirmative action in the United States, and the durability of the beliefs that have sustained India's caste system.

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Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780674707580
Publisher:
Harvard
Publication date:
09/30/1997
Edition description:
REPRINT
Pages:
440
Product dimensions:
6.12(w) x 9.25(h) x (d)

Table of Contents

Preface

Living a Lie

The Significance of Preference Falsification

Private and Public Preferences

Private Opinion, Public Opinion

The Dynamics of Public Opinion

Institutional Sources of Preference Falsification

Inhibiting Change

Collective Conservatism

The Obstinacy of Communism

The Ominous Perseverance of the Caste System

The Unwanted Spread of Affirmative Action

Distorting Knowledge

Public Discourse and Private Knowledge

The Unthinkable and the Unthought

The Caste Ethic of Submission

The Blind Spots of Communism

The Unfading Specter of White Racism

Generating Surprise

Unforeseen Political Revolutions

The Fall of Communism and Other Sudden Overturns

The Hidden Complexities of Social Evolution

From Slavery to Affirmative Action

Preference Falsification and Social Analysis

Notes

Index

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