The human nature debate: social theory, social policy, and the caring professions

Boulder, Colo.: Pluto Press (1994)
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Abstract

Definitions of human nature have preoccupied philosophers, politicians, anthropologists and social scientists for centuries. Our conceptions of ourselves - what we perceive to be 'human nature' - have taken many forms from the abstract to the biologically determined. In The Human Nature Debate, Harry Cowen describes the diversity of ideas about human nature and demonstrates the extent to which all such ideas are socially and politically grounded, reflecting the prevailing concerns and priorities of their times, from the classical Greek conceptions of 'rational man' to the behaviourist explanations that did so much to bolster and justify fascism and Stalinism in the twentieth century. Cowen's admirably clear introduction to the history of ideas about human nature goes beyond the theorising to the ways in which concepts of human nature have both informed and reflected policy and practice. Drawing on a wealth of evidence and example, he demonstrates the political significance of the human nature debate, and looks at the vital interactions between theory and practice in the social sciences, social policy and social practice.

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