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Zeitgeist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

7/7/14, 9:00 PM

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Zeitgeist (spirit of the age or spirit of the time) is the intellectual fashion or dominant school of
thought that typifies and influences the culture of a particular period in time. For example, the Zeitgeist of
modernism typified and influenced architecture, art, and fashion during much of the 20th century.[1]
The German word Zeitgeist is often attributed to the philosopher Georg Hegel, but he never actually used the
word. In his works such as Lectures on the Philosophy of History, he uses the phrase der Geist seiner Zeit
(the spirit of his time)for example, "no man can surpass his own time, for the spirit of his time is also his
own spirit."[2]
Other philosophers who were associated with such ideas include Herder and Spencer and Voltaire.[1] The
concept contrasts with the Great Man theory popularized by Thomas Carlyle, which sees history as the result
of the actions of heroes and geniuses.
Hegel believed that art reflected, by its very nature, the culture of the time in which it is created. Culture and
art are inextricable because an individual artist is a product of his or her time and therefore brings that
culture to any given work of art. Furthermore, he believed that in the modern world it was impossible to
produce classical art, which he believed represented a "free and ethical culture", which depended more on
the philosophy of art and theory of art, rather than a reflection of the social construct, or Zeitgeist in which a
given artist lives.[3]
In the analysis of the arts and culture, the concept of a "spirit of the age" or zeitgeist may be problematic as a
tool for analysis of periods which are socially or culturally fragmented and diverse.[4]

1 Zeitgeist theory and leadership
2 Examples of zeitgeist in psychology
3 Examples of zeitgeist models in business
4 References
5 External links

Zeitgeist theory and leadership

As mentioned, zeitgeist theory of leadership is often contrasted with Thomas Carlyles great man theory.[5]
In his theory, Carlyle stresses that leaders do not become leaders by fate or accident. Instead, these
individuals possess characteristics of great leaders and these characteristics allow them to obtain positions of

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Zeitgeist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

7/7/14, 9:00 PM

However, Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy disagreed with Carlyles perspective.[5] Tolstoy believed that
leadership, like other things, was a "zeitgeist" and was a product of the social circumstances at the time.
Thus, it was not the characteristics of the individual that resulted in a leadership, but societal factors of
the time that are out of the individuals control.
Great man theory and zeitgeist theory can be included in two main areas of thought in psychology.[5] For
instance, great man theory is very similar to the trait approach. Trait researchers are interested in identifying
the various personality traits that underline human behaviors such as conformity, leadership or other social
behaviors. Thus, they agree that leadership is primarily a quality of an individual and that some people are
pre-dispositioned to be a leader whereas others are born to follow these leaders. In contrast, situationist
researchers believe that social behavior is a product of society. That is, social influence is what determines
human behaviors. Therefore, situationism is of the same opinion as zeitgeist theoryleaders are created
from the social environment and are molded from the situation. The concept of zeitgeist also relates to the
sociological tradition that stems from Durkheim and recently developed into social capital theory as
exemplified by the work of Patrick Hunout.
These two perspectives have been combined to create what is known as the interactional approach to
leadership.[5] This approach asserts that leadership is developed through the mixing of personality traits and
the situation. Further, this approach was expressed by social psychologist, Kurt Lewin, by the equation B =
f(P, E) where behavior (B) is a function (f) of the person (P) and the environment (E).

Examples of zeitgeist in psychology

Errors of illusion are not readily apparent because the shared beliefs and assumptions of a particular
era that support them come from the zeitgeist. An example can be seen with Henry Goddard and
Lewis Terman. The consensus in the 20th century was that existing psychology tests adequately
measured basic intelligence in diverse groups of people. Now it is known that "culture-fair" tests need
to be developed. But because of the zeitgeist, in those times, the cross-cultural validity of existing
tests was not questioned.[6]
Failure to question research findings that agree with prevailing political and philosophical ideology
represents one of the effects of the zeitgeist.[6]
The zeitgeist does not always have negative effects. It can stimulate new ideas and creative solutions
to problems. An example is seen in the different models and metaphors chosen to describe behavior
and consciousness.[6]
If Charles Darwin had not lived, his theory of evolution would still have been published. The British
naturalist, Alfred Wallace, had come to almost exactly the same theory as Darwin concerning natural
selection. They jointly presented their idea to the public. If Darwin had not lived there still would have
been advocates for evolution produced simply by the zeitgeist of the time period and the spurring of
new thoughts and ideas outside of the usual biblical explanations for differential species existence.

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Zeitgeist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The zeitgeist of the time shows that natural selection would still have been introduced to the public.[6]
The zeitgeist of the 1920s revolved around logical positivism. Due to this, the great men of that time
were able to impact psychology, such as Watson, Tolman, and Guthrie. This is important because their
work on behavioral psychology was able to work against eugenics. Before this time behavioral
psychology was not able to impact the field since it did not fit with the spirit of the times. For
example, Twitmeyer wrote a paper on knee-jerk in 1902, but it came too early to have the impact it
Skinner being unseated during the cognitive revolution is another example of the zeitgeist in
psychology. The zeitgeist was changing during this time, people wanted to show more interest in
humans, and more people were becoming interested in personality psychology. However, in the 1950s
his new experimental approach to psychology using inductive reasoning and descriptive behaviorism
was seen as novel and practical. Especially in contrast with psychoanalysts, whose assertions and
interpretations were largely immune to rigorous, empirical inquiry, thus making validation a rather
problematic task.[6]

Examples of zeitgeist models in business

Executives, venture capitalists, journalists and authors have argued that the idea of a zeitgeist is useful in
understanding the emergence of industries, simultaneous invention and evaluating the relative value of
innovations. Malcom Gladwell argued in his book Outliers that entrepreneurs who succeeded often share
similar characteristicsearly personal or significant exposure to knowledge and skills in the early stages of
a nascent industry. He proposed that the timing of involvement in an industry and often in sports as well
affected the probability of success. In Silicon Valley, a number of people (Peter Thiel, Alistair Davidson,
Mac Levchin, Nicholas Carr, Vinod Khosla[7]) have argued that much of the current (2014) innovation has
been shaped by easy access to the Internet, open source software, component technologies for both hardware
and software (e.g., software libraries, SaaS or software as a service), and the ability to reach thin markets
across a global market. Peter Thiel has commented: "There is so much incrementalism now."[8]
In a zeitgeist market, the number of new entrants is high, the ability to launch differentiated high value
products (the strongest predictor of new product success) is more difficult to achieve, and new forms of
business model innovation are required for success (e.g., service and solution innovation rather than product
and process innovation; experiential innovation; legal rights and bundling innovation; privacy rights
innovation; agency innovation, where businesses act on behalf of customers).[9][10][11][12]

1. ^ a b Eero Saarinen (2006), Shaping the Future (,
Yale University Press, p. 15, ISBN 9780972488129
2. ^ Glenn Alexander Magee (2011), "Zeitgeist" (,

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Zeitgeist - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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The Hegel Dictionary, Continuum International Publishing Group, p. 262, ISBN 9781847065919
3. ^ Hendrix, John Shannon. Aesthetics & The Philosophy Of Spirit. New York: Peter Lang. (2005). 4, 11.
4. ^ Mike Chopra-Gant Hollywood Genres and Postwar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Movies
and Film Noir 2006 "The idea of zeitgeist as the spirit of the age demands a unanimity that is inconsistent with the
fragmentation and contradiction that characterized American society and culture during the early postwar years. The
concept of Zeitgeist, therefore, is a problematic tool for analyzing the films and culture of the period: the idea of the
spirit of the age is an impediment to the production of a reliable impression of an age that possessed no singular,
dominant spirit."
5. ^ a b c d Forsyth, D. R. (2009). Group dynamics: New York: Wadsworth. [Chapter 9]
6. ^ a b c d e f Hothersall, D., "History of Psychology", 2004
7. ^
8. ^
9. ^
10. ^
11. ^
12. ^

External links
Christian Adolph Klotz (
Christian Adolf Klotz ( in: Meyers
Konversations-Lexikon, 4. Aufl., 1888, Vol. 9, Page 859
Zeitgeist, History of Ideas (
Retrieved from ""
Categories: Philosophy of history Philosophical concepts German words and phrases
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