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Good Gossip

Edited by Robert F. Goodman and Aaron Ben-Ze'ev

244 pages, 6 x 9
Paper ISBN 978-0-7006-0670-2, $14.95

Book Cover ImageAs ubiquitous and influential as gossip is, it has been surprisingly downplayed as a topic of philosophical, psychological, and sociological investigation and debate.

In Good Gossip, twenty-two scholars from several disciplines turn a professional eye to that much-maligned yet heavily practiced form of conversation. Going beyond merely trying to explain a previously ignored human behavior, many of them argue that gossip has unexpected virtues. They show how it contributes to community cohesion and helps individuals better understand their own predicaments, problems, and personal idiosyncrasies in light of knowledge about the life experiences of others. Without gossip, the authors show, we would have no access to such knowledge.

Gossip also serves as a mode by which people resist and subvert power in a world that would otherwise seem overpowering. People gossip about the rich and famous in order to "cut them down to size," and informal gossip networks help overcome the depersonalizing tendencies of modern society.

Provocative and varied, this book looks at gossip from diverse angles by including essays on gossip and humor, logic, morality, privacy, legal and medical issues, feminism, history, rumors, and reputation. Although many of the authors conclude that gossip has a positive aspect that ought to be encouraged rather than prohibited, the collection as a whole does not constitute an unqualified vindication of gossip, but rather paves the way for future debate on this omnipresent pastime.

"Gossip is inherently democratic, concerned with private life rather than public issues, 'idle,' in the sense that it is not instrumental or goal oriented. Yet it can serve to expand our consciousness of what life is about in ways that are effectively inaccessible to other modes of inquiry."--Ronald de Sousa from Good Gossip

"This topic is interesting and in need of serious study. The book is partially an attempt to exonerate gossip from its bad reputation by pointing to the various positive values it may promote. A worthy contribution to the study of gossip."--Irwin Goldstein, Davidson College

ROBERT F. GOODMAN is coauthor of Deadlock in School Desegregation and coeditor of Rethinking Knowledge and Values: Reflections Across the Disciplines.

AARON BEN-ZE'EV is author of The Perceptual System: Philosophical and Psychological Considerations and Aristotle's On the Soul.

CONTRIBUTORS: Maryann Ayim, Aaron Ben-Ze'ev, Lorraine Code, Louise Collins, Anat Derech-Zahavi, Ronald de Sousa, Nicholas Emler, Franklin Goodkin, Robert F. Goodman, Marianne E. Jaeger, John Morreall, Baruch Nevo, Ofra Nevo, Robert Post, Bruce Rind, Ralph L. Rosnow, Sylvia Schein, Ferdinand Schoeman, Anne A. Skleder, Jerry Suls, Gabriele Taylor, Laurence Thomas

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