what you get here

This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!

Thursday, June 9, 2011

administrative evil, cultural confusions and complexity science

In the last couple of days I’ve read about the brutal behaviour of the immigration officials processing some senior citizens on a cruiser ship which was docking for the second time up the US coastline. One couple apparently made a remark questioning this duplication – and, as revenge, the officials put the entire gaggle of old people through the administrative hoops for 7 hours – at some no little physical suffering, treating them as if they were terrorist suspects. And then look at thisaggro to a journalist by a policeman in NE Scotland who had been clearly taken his cue from Donald Trump’s minions; regarding anyone interviewing people critical of the commercial activities of the high and mighty as a terrorist - and therefore needing spoeadeagled on the bonnet of a car and having the videa camera wrested from him. What has happened to the Scottish democracy we used to be so proud of?
Officials who dance on our rights like this should be clapped immediately in the stocks – and pelted for a few hours with rotten fruit and vegetables! And again I say, this is the sort of stuff which should be the focus of public admin training!! One of the (many) unread books in my googlelibrary has the striking title Unmasking Administrative Evil and purports to show
how ordinary people, within their normal professional and administrative roles, can engage in acts of evil without being aware that they are doing anything wrong--and that this tendency toward administrative evil is deeply woven into the identity of public affairs as well as other fields and professions in public life.
Duncan Green is Head of Research of Oxfam and writes a great blog Very amusing was the table he gave recently showing not only what brits really mean by their understatements (eg that’s very interesting really means the exact opposite what complete nonsense!) but a third interpretation which is put on the first phrase by those from other countries. Very funny – and insightful!

The development community to which he belongs is doing interesting work on the implications of complexity theory for the professional field of development. The Aid on the Edge blog has put me in touch this week with what look to be 2 very important papers on the subject issued by the UK’s Overseas Development Institute – one this month, the other in 2008.
Simon Maxwell’s development blog celebrates Robert Chambers (whose work I drew on in the conclusion to my Varna paper) and has some reflections on the development field’s thinking.

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