Old White Men and their Crazy Ideas

The great man theory is the effect of influential figures who have had an impactful historical effect. These forces are both larger and smaller than the individual itself, but those like Marx and have change societies’ views on how we interact with our surroundings. Marx himself identified three primary forces, the class struggle, the evolution of capitalism, and the innovation of technology. This theory then bleeds into the next: The paradigm shift, introduced by Kuhn. The paradigm shift occurs when revolutionary science is born from the data that cannot be explained, which is a deviation from the normality of the structural side of science. This deviation creates new rules and conventions that will untimely collapse the old system. The ecosystem theory helps to develop a commonality in understanding the actors in science that help us understand our earth’s ecosystem or the “long zoom” science. Each method helps to explain that historical change is activated by what most cannot see. This academic change, therefore, seeks to push the boundaries and create new norms and expectations that allow us to see the bigger picture of our world and its functions. Lastly, it connects such micro fields to help better understand the bigger picture we are starting to finally see.

Johnson uses the example of the coffeehouse culture to illustrate Priestley’s discovery of oxygen. This example talks about how the public space of the coffeehouse turned out to be the perfect environment to spark intellectual and academically innovative conversations. This created a network of relationships of enlightenment, with the help of coffee of course. An example of this method could be in the form of clubs, academic or not, but it is an environment which stimulates passion, mutual understanding of the subjects, and excitement for discussion.

3 thoughts on “Old White Men and their Crazy Ideas

  1. I found your post to be well informed and analytical. With Johnson’s coffeehouse culture example,
    he illustrates that the ideas Priestly gathered came from those he interacted with there. By meeting
    the Honest Whigs, he was given ideas to bounce off of and further work on finding a more accurate solution.
    Things that were not originally explained were eventually explained by Priestly, which caused the old paradigm of
    that scientific topic to collapse and a new one to emerge. I also liked your extra examples of coffehouse culture, and a few others to add could be sport teams and creative workplaces.


  2. I enjoy your use of language throughout your post! I know that some of the phrasing is definitely inspired by the book, but your use of “micro fields” helped contextualize it a lot. I talked about a similar concept in my blog post, but I was just trying to relate all the disciplines together to talk about the ecosystem at large, and how historians are now able to approach things differently because of it. The coffeehouse culture definitely expedites that thinking process, so I’m glad you touched on that as well. I just can’t believe it’s been prevalent for 300-400 years, and still going strong!


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