Re: human nature / world systems theory

Tue, 29 Apr 1997 09:50:41 +1000
Bruce R. McFarling (

On Mon, 28 Apr 1997, stuart wrote:

> Richard K. Moore wrote:
> > You're not talking about "human nature", you're trying to compute the
> > difference "human nature" minus "animal nature"... Otherwise eating and sleeping and
> > walking are not part of human nature - and I find that an absurd notion, and totally useless in discussing what people are about.
> > -rkm

> I would have thought that eating, sleeping and walking were things that
> human beings do, not a part of an inherently 'human' nature. If they
> were a part of human nature, then the absence of any one would mean the
> subject would be less human or not human.

This discussion has obviously devolved into a disagreement over
the usage of phrases like "human nature". It will not, and can not, be
settled by appeal to evidence, since the disagreement involves different
people pointing at different things and saying "human nature".

> Perhaps if you were talking
> about the manner in which a person eats, sleeps and walks then you
> could invoke, maybe, human nature, but essentially these things can all
> be traced back to society/culture and this has been shown in this thread
> to be unnatural (in that - I assume - it is a part of a socio-historical
> imaginary ultimately dependent on human beings for its creation).

This is a direct consequence of pointing the phrase "human nature"
at behaviors rather than capacities. I suppose that this distinction
answers some question that is relevant to some problematic, somewhere.
Personally, I don't like it, because my impression is that it moves to far
from a lay understanding of the term without any corresponding pay-off.

However, the relevant question is whether this distinction is
relevant to the identification of systems (world systems, world-systems,
societies), to an understanding of how they are structured, or to an
understanding of how they change over time. After all, *that* is the
relevance of Sanderson's arguments: they have implications for how we
identify social systems, how they are structured, and the viability of
future social systems that different people in wsn may either predict as
possibilities, or pursue as desireable outcomes.


Bruce R. McFarling, Newcastle, NSW