Willekeur in culturele verandering | Amsterdam University Press Journals Online
Volume 135 Number 4
  • ISSN: 0040-7550
  • E-ISSN: 2212-0521



This article argues in favour of studying processes of random cultural change in the humanities. Studies of cultural change are of limited value if they are not embedded in or contrasted with a formalized and systematic theory of random change. To situate the discussion, this article first provides a brief overview of historical and more recent accounts of random cultural change. While quantitative, cultural evolutionary studies have for long considered random copying to be fundamental to cultural change, it has received hardly any attention in the humanities literature. Accounts of cultural change in the humanities typically concentrate on informal, narrative descriptions of non-random factors of change, and downplay, reject or simply ignore random change as an alternative explanation. The paper reflects on several reasons pertaining to this lack of attention and highlights the benefits of an integrated quantitative framework of chance for the study of cultural change.


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