A handbook for social change
Cristina Bicchieri: Norms in the wild: how to diagnose, measure, and change social norms. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016, 264 pp, $ 29.95 PB
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“Philosophy isn’t useful for changing the world,” parents of philosophy students and Karl Marx tell us (at least about non-Marxist philosophy). Cristina Bicchieri’s new book Norms in the Wild provides an impressive antidote against this worry. It stands to change of social practices as Che Guevara’s Guerrilla Warfare stands to political revolutions. Bicchieri combines hands-on advice on how to change social practices with compelling theoretical analyses of social norms. She draws heavily on her influential earlier work on norms, but the book does not presuppose familiarity with it. Many of her examples stem from her work with UNICEF and other NGOs; they include female genital cutting, open defecation, child marriage, and many more. I cannot do full justice to Bicchieri’s rich book here, but will instead focus on three points.
Bicchieri offers a detailed and helpful botanization of collective behavior. Purely behavioral definitions of the relevant categories are inadequate. We must...
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