Sales Date: July 22, 1994
224 Pages, 6.00 x 9.00 in
- Published: July 1994
As 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.
"In sum, this is an important examination of a significant mode of social discourse and an attempt to reorient our evaluation of that discourse."—Choice
"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
Introduction, Robert Goodman
Part 1: Gossip as a Moral Problem
1. The Vindication of Gossip, Aaron Ben-Ze’ev
2. In Praise of Gossip: Indiscretion as a Saintly Virtue, Ronald De Sousa
3. Gossip as Moral Talk, Gabrielle Taylor
4. The Logic of Gossip, Laurence Thomas
5. Gossip and Humor, John Morreall
6. The Legal Regulation of Gossip: Backyard Chatter and the Mass Media, Robert Post
7. Gossip and Privacy, Ferdinand Schoeman
Part 2: Gossip and Knowledge
8. Knowledge Through the Grapevine: Gossip as Inquiry, Maryann Ayim
9. Gossip, or in Praise of Chaos, Lorraine Code
10. Gossip: A Feminist Defense, Louise Collins
Part 3: Empirical Studies of Gossip
11. Gossip, Reputation, and Social Adaptation, Nicholas Emler
12. Used and Abused: Gossip in Medieval Society, Sylvia Schein
13. Gossip, Gossipers, Gossipees, Ralph L. Rosnow
14. Medical Gossip and Rumor: Their Role in the Lay Referral System, Jerry M. Suls and Franklin Goodkin
15. The Tendency to Gossip as a Psychological Disposition: Constructing a Measure and Validating It, Ofra Nevo, Baruch Nevo, and Anat Derech-Zehavi
About the Contributors