Welcome

Barry Schwartz invites you to share his thoughts on collective memory and social psychology. Always on the lookout for new ideas, he welcomes and responds to all comments.

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Assembling a website is difficult for one who cannot get his head together. As time passes the trouble gets worse. Before the early 1980s, I labored in the fields of criminology, interactional social psychology, and symbolic classification. From then to present, I have worked in the field of collective memory. Although vastly different in content, these projects share a similar theoretical structure, which I have tried over the years to deepen and enlarge.

This website references all my work, but the most ample and focused set of writings is in the Collective Memory section. Here, visitors will find books, articles, chapters, essays, and reviews on a wide range of topics, all unified by a common concern: to assess what the striking lady on the top of this page, Memory, sees in her mirror.

Memory is not looking at herself; the tilt of her mirror shows her contemplating what is behind her. Many believe that what she sees is not the past itself but the result of her own selections, exaggerations, and hallucinations.  Such beliefs negate themselves, for no one can say that a memory, whether individual or collective, is distorted unless it is compared to one that is already known to be authentic.

Everything Memory sees of the past depends on how she slants her mirror. She knows that the slightest movement of her hand reveals a new and authentic but partial truth. The ease with which she assembles these fragments of truth is where we find her genius.

Memory is my ideal, and this site’s visitors will find her inspiring my every effort.

 

* Sculptor: Daniel Chester French, 1919. Courtesy of The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, NY