Imitation, Contagion, Suggestion: On Mimesis and Society, 1st Edition (Hardback) book cover

Imitation, Contagion, Suggestion

On Mimesis and Society, 1st Edition

Edited by Christian Borch


234 pages | 6 B/W Illus.

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Paperback: 9780367478049
pub: 2020-01-21
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pub: 2019-01-17
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Terrorist attacks seem to mimic other terrorist attacks. Mass shootings appear to mimic previous mass shootings. Financial traders seem to mimic other traders. It is not a novel observation that people often imitate others. Some might even suggest that mimesis is at the core of human interaction. However, understanding such mimesis and its broader implications is no trivial task. Imitation, Contagion, Suggestionsheds important light on the ways in which society is intimately linked to and characterized by mimetic patterns.

Taking its starting point in late-nineteenth-century discussions about imitation, contagion, and suggestion, the volume examines a theoretical framework in which mimesis is at the center. The volume investigates some of the key sociological, psychological, and philosophical debates on sociality and individuality that emerged in the wake of the late-nineteenth-century imitation, contagion, and suggestion theorization, and which involved notable thinkers such as Gabriel Tarde, Emile Durkheim, and Friedrich Nietzsche. Furthermore, the volume demonstrates the ways in which important aspects of this theorization have been mobilized throughout the twentieth century and how they may advance present-day analyses of topical issues relating to, e.g. neuroscience, social media, social networks, agent-based modelling, terrorism, virology, financial markets, and affect theory.

One of the significant ideas advanced in theories of imitation, contagion, and suggestion is that the individual should be seen not as a sovereign entity, but rather as profoundly externally shaped. In other words, the decisions people make may be unwitting imitations of other people’s decisions. Against this backdrop, the volume presents new avenues for social theory and sociological research that take seriously the suggestion that individuality and the social may be mimetically constituted.

Table of Contents

Part I: Introduction

1. The Imitative, Contagious, and Suggestible Roots of Modern Society: Towards a Mimetic Foundation of Social Theory

Christian Borch

Part II: Historical Roots: The Rise of Imitation, Contagion, and Suggestion Theory

2. The Mimetic Unconscious: A Mirror for Genealogical Reflections

Nidesh Lawtoo

3. Durkheim on Imitation

Bjørn Schiermer

4. Mimesis as a Social Practice of Self-Education

Katja Rothe

Part III: Adaptations: The Proliferation of Mimetic Thought

5. Market Mimesis: Imitation, Contagion, and Suggestion in Financial Markets

Kristian Bondo Hansen And Christian Borch

6. #Contagion

Peta Mitchell And Felix Victor Münch

7. ‘Charlie Hebdo’ and the Two Sides of Imitation

Elisabetta Brighi

8. Viral Chatter and the Afterlife of Contagion

Robert Peckham

9. Contagious Agents: Epidemics, Networks, Computer Simulations

Sebastian Vehlken

Part IV: Looking Back to Look Ahead: Rethinking Individuality and the Social

10. Unpacking I-C-S: Montaigne and the Project of the Self

David Toews

11. The Reactive: Social Experiences of Surface and Depth

Andrea Mubi Brighenti

12. Suggestion, Affect and Speculative Science

Lisa Blackman

About the Editor

Christian Borch is Professor of Economic Sociology and Social Theory at the Department of Management, Politics and Philosophy, Copenhagen Business School, Denmark.

About the Series


Culture, Economy and the Social

This series establishes the importance of innovative contemporary, comparative and historical work on the relations between social, cultural and economic change. It publishes empirically-based research that is theoretically informed, that critically examines the ways in which social, cultural and economic change is framed and made visible, and that is attentive to perspectives that tend to be ignored or side-lined by grand theorising or epochal accounts of social change. The series addresses the diverse manifestations of contemporary capitalism, and considers the various ways in which the `social', `the cultural' and `the economic' are apprehended as tangible sites of value and practice. It is explicitly comparative, publishing books that work across disciplinary perspectives, cross-culturally, or across different historical periods.

We are particularly focused on publishing books in the following areas that fit with the broad remit of the series:

  • Cultural consumption
  • Cultural economy
  • Cities and urban change
  • Materiality, sociality and the post-human
  • Culture and media industries
  • Culture and governance
  • Emerging forms of cultural and economic practice

The series is actively engaged in the analysis of the different theoretical traditions that have contributed to critiques of the `cultural turn'. We are particularly interested in perspectives that engage with Bourdieu, Foucauldian approaches to knowledge and cultural practices, Actor-network approaches, and with those that are associated with issues arising from Deleuze's work around complexity, affect or topology. The series is equally concerned to explore the new agendas emerging from current critiques of the cultural turn: those associated with the descriptive turn for example. Our commitment to interdisciplinarity thus aims at enriching theoretical and methodological discussion, building awareness of the common ground has emerged in the past decade, and thinking through what is at stake in those approaches that resist integration to a common analytical model.

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Subject Categories

BISAC Subject Codes/Headings:
SOCIAL SCIENCE / Sociology / General