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Gabriel Tarde as a Founding Father of Innovation Diffusion Research

Jussi Kinnunen
Acta Sociologica
Vol. 39, No. 4 (1996), pp. 431-442
Published by: Sage Publications, Ltd.
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/4194846
Page Count: 12
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Gabriel Tarde as a Founding Father of Innovation Diffusion Research
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Abstract

Gabriel Tarde (1843-1904) has given significant contributions to criminology, to social interaction theory and to diffusion research. Diffusion refers to spreading of social or cultural properties from one society or environment to another. Tarde created his own system of sociology, based on psychology and de signed to explain the whole of social behaviour from development of cultures to acts of an individual. In his view social change requires penetration of inventions that diffuse through the process of imitation. People imitate beliefs and desires or motives transmitted from one individual to another. Analysis should take place on a micro-level with the method he called 'interpsychology'. Tarde refuted the idea of a social whole being more than its parts. He thought at least to some extent like a reductionist. Moreover, imitation as a social phenomenon was in Tarde's view not isolated from other activities in nature but a part of a universal law of repetition. His professional experiences in court apparently directed his interest towards criminology, affected his thinking about motives and about the level of analysis. Tarde's ontological ideas were soon disregarded largely due to the criticism presented by Émile Durkheim (1858-1916). However, Tarde made quite a few insightful and practical observations that have benefited diffusion research. Likewise, aspects similar to Tarde's thoughts concerning cultural evolution seem to interest modern scientists.

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