Collective Mental State and Individual Agency: Qualitative Factors in Social Science Explanation

William W. Bostock

Abstract


Recent violent events such as attacks on civilian targets and political assassinations in countries not usually susceptible to these have created a need to revive interest in the ancient concept of collective consciousness. In this article, the concept in its current reformulation as collective mental state, and the attempts of individual agents to control, shift and otherwise manage it, are examined. It is concluded that allowance for the unmeasurable and unpredictable qualitative factors of the collective mental state and the effect upon it of individual agency is essential in social science explanations.
URN: urn:nbn:de:0114-fqs020317

Keywords


collective mental state; collective consciousness; contagion; individual agency; responsibility

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Copyright (c) 2002 William W. Bostock

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