Sunday, June 23, 2013

Rodger Malcolm Mitchell — What the heck is a “meme” and why should you care?

I would add that "meme" was proposed by evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) as an explanation for "cultural heredity," where certain ideas and behaviors replicate across time and even generations, mimicking genes in individual evolution, as it were. And like genes, memes result in traits that have evolutionary advantages and disadvantages for groups and therefore individuals that comprise them. This may be the difference affecting whether a group is one the right or wrong side of history.

Religious beliefs are an example of the kind of ideas that can result in behavior effects lasting for centuries, and also affecting other cultures. Capitalism is another, and some have argued that conventional economics is the new secular religion underlying capitalism and the major economists are its high priests. See Robert H. Nelson, Economics As Religion: From Samuelson to Chicago and Beyond (2002).
Memes are propagated through language and behavior. Meaning is context-dependent, so memes become norms that shape the context. This context includes cultural rituals and social institutions and dominant memes also shape these.

A cultural worldview is shaped by a complex of frames and chief among these frames are the dominant memes of the culture. Memes gather into "memplexes" that in which memes reinforce each other in constructing a rationale for behavior, the "philosophy" that is evinced as the foundation for cultural rituals and social institutions. 
In the West of the Middle Ages it was religion, today it is "capitalism," which is based on beliefs (assumptions) and myths (models) become memes — like the government as big household analogy that underlies austerianism, as Rodger points out. See, for instance, Ha-Joon Change, 23 Things They Don't Tell You About Capitalism (2012).
Monetary Sovereignty
What the heck is a “meme” and why should you care?
Rodger Malcolm Mitchell

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