978-0-19-217658-5 / 9780192176585

Rubbish Theory: The Creation and Destruction of Value


Publisher:Oxford University Press, USA



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About the book:

Why study Rubbish? What is Catastrophe Theory? And what is the connection between the two? In this book Michael Thompson tells the story of an intellectual journey from the one to the other; and points the way to a general theory of the 'social landscape.' En Route, the author looks at the value we place on houses (when is a slum not a slum?), on Stevengraphs, and, if we are on Tiv, on our ancestors --and arrives at some surprising conclusions. Just as, to understand poverty, we must study the very rich, so, to understand value, we must study rubbish. The one is the dark side of the other. But the social sciences, claims the author, have tended to exclude 'mosters'-- those facts or ideas that were thought to be valueless or inconvenient. Anthropologists interest themselves in what is noticed, treasured, and admired in an exotic society rather than in what is disregarded, discarded, and established, yet the sociology of ignorance scarcely exists.Economics is concerned with scarcity: if something becomes dirt cheap, it disappears form view. The dark and light side feed one on the other-- that which was worthless becomes valued: what was once admired is now despised. So the study of rubbish holds out the possibility, not just of understanding value as it exists, but of understanding the process whereby value is constantly being created and destroyed.

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