invention of the modern world

there’s a very interesting series of lectures by alan macfarlane on youtube in which he outlines, from an historical/sociological p.o.v., the things we’ve been discussing around here: familialism/collectivism vs. individualism, civic societies, trust — and why the english are so odd in all these regards.

i’ve watched two so far — the one on friendship & kinship and the one on associations, trusts & civil society:



about halfway through the second video, macfarlane talks at length about, and very fondly of, the english public house. (^_^) i ask you: is there anything better than an english pub (<< been there)?! (correct answer: an emphatic no!)

the lectures were given @tsinghua university, beijing, so he offers some suggestions to the chinese audience on how they can get china to be modern just like the anglo world. unfortunately, he doesn't seem to have offered any biological solutions (at least not in the two videos i watched), so i doubt they'll have much luck.

still, macfarlane has a lot of info and some good insights to share, so they're worth the watch if you're looking to chill in front of the "tv" for a couple of hours.

he's also turning the lectures into a book, apparently, which is currently being serialized on The Fornightly Review. not quite half of the chapters have been posted so far.

previously: but what about the english?

(note: comments do not require an email. albatross!)



  1. @luke – “The phrase ‘civil society’ is now banned on the Chinese Internet.”

    you’re kidding?!

    macfarlane mentions (in the second video) that authoritarian regimes typically don’t like civil societies because all those organizations and interest groups are, of course, a threat to them.


  2. He starts out saying China will be leading the world in coming years. That is not necessarily true and I think it is a mistake to tell them this. If they remain a Leninist state they will not be leading anything.


  3. “he’s also turning the lectures into a book, apparently, which is currently being serialized on The Fornightly Review”

    Hey, when are YOU going to write a book?! :o)


  4. @crassus – “Hey, when are YOU going to write a book?! :o)”

    tomorrow! (~_^)

    (oh, i dunno. one day, maybe. when i can afford a keyboard with big letters….)


  5. @crassus – “I’d buy it and recommend it to all my friends.”

    i’ll put you down for ten copies then! (~_^)

    seriously, i have thought about it/am thinking about it. prolly won’t happen any time soon (more research to be done!) — and if/when it does happen, it’ll prolly be an e-book.


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