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April 25, 2007



The anthropologist Alfred Gell, in his book "Art and Agency: An Anthropological Theory", suggested that social anthropologists and sociologists both study social forces, ie, phenomena involving two or more people. The difference between the two disciplines, he thought, was that anthropology looked mostly at those forces which had their effects within a normal human lifespan, while sociology looked mostly at the forces which took place over longer periods of time.


And another thing:

After three decades of conversations and business interactions with economists, I have come to the generalization that their distinguishing characteristic is a failure to perceive any social forces or social connections in the phenomena they study. They always -- to a man -- identify the cause of any effect as being the allegedly self-interested behaviour of the participants. They just don't seem to have the perceptual antennae needed to recognize social dimensions of behaviours.

This mindset is very different to that of sociologists, who are invariably alert to, and respectful of, social dimensions to behaviour, such as peer-group pressures.

One place where sociology has proven very useful is in marketing. There is a joke among marketers that marketing only works to the extent that the assumptions of economics are false!

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