I don’t normally like this time of year. It is, bluntly, when I am at risk (if in Christendom) of dipping (like a lot of others) into the depression zone – so much emphasis on families (difficult when you have made a mess of that), bright lights and selling. Twenty years ago I could put some of this down to the darkness (in north Europe they invented a useful term - sensory affective disorder (S.A.D. to explain how dreich some of us felt) And, certainly for most of the past 20 years, the exotic locations in which I have often passed this time of year have kept my spirits high – particularly when there were no celebrations taking place (Central Asia). But a small flat in Bucharest can get a bit claustrophobic – and some downs have been experienced during this artificial season. But not now that I am in semi-retirement; financially secure (absent bank meltdowns); and pursuing my own intellectual agenda, I can better enjoy the excuse the period offers to be in relaxed mode. This afternoon a visit to the Carteresti bookshop netted a wonderful new book on the Wooden Churches of Northern Olteniei; and JM Coetze’s Inner Workings – literary essay 200-2006. The latter has quite a few reviews of central European writers of the first part of the 20th century – and confirmed my fascination for this general part of the world – what was the Austro-Hungarian Empire.
In the past couple of days my glossary (including introduction) is now 10 pages – and boasts the title Just Words? Reclaiming the language of social purpose. At the moment I am wrestling with post-modernism. I suppose if post-modernists have done anything, they have made us more aware of language. After all, they spend their time deconstructing texts! And they have been active in the field of public administration – Postmodern Public Administration (2007), is one taken at random. The trouble is that they play so many word games amongst themselves that what they produce is generally incomprehensible to the outsider. Despite their critiques and claims, therefore, I do not consider them helpful companions.
Before the post-modernists came along, M Edelman’s book The Symbolic Use of Politics was published in 1964 but then ignored – not least by myself. I have never found Chomsky an easy companion – but clearly books like his Language and politics (1988) are highly relevant to this theme. One of the most insightful texts for me, however, is Gareth Morgan’s Images of Organisation - a fascinating treatment of the writing about organisations which demonstrates that many of our ideas about them are metaphorical : he suggests the literature uses eight "images" viz organisations as "political systems", as "instruments of domination", as "cultures", as "machines", as "organisms", as "brains", as "psychic prisons", as "flux and transformation" and as "instruments of domination".