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, May 17, 2012

Looking Back

I will be on the road for the rest of the month and have only intermittent access to the internet. So please use this break as an opportunity to look at some of the 600 posts on the blog. Most relate to perennial issues rather than to the transient subjects which newspapers and many blogs waste their (and our) time with. For example, quite a few of the posts in May last year were concerned with issues of public administration praxis. One post excerpted from a very useful, critical assessment of international university league tables; another mused about a European network of schools of public administration; and perhaps the most interesting asked some critical questions about what public admin scholars were actually up to these days.

As someone who had high hopes in my youth for social science, this issue of the role and contribution of social science work remains a fascinating subject for me. Queen Elisabeth of Britain is not the only one to have wondered why the economists had not seen the global financial crisis coming. There has been a running debate about the value of academic work in at least some places. And American politicians have recently focused their weapons on political science.
Political arguments for “relevance” in education are always dangerous. The results are to be seen in the horrific growth in mindless courses in business studies which teach only obedience to the received wisdom. Education should endow powers of critical assessment. And professors should (and often do) practice this themselves – but not at the costs (as so often happens) of inculcating a suspicion of if not outright cynicism of the world of action. Oh that the spirit of C Wright Mills were alive still in the hallowed halls of academia!
Here are three examples I’ve come across recently of good academic practice – one which shows the important contribution of one of the guys behind the Limits to Growth publications; another which subjects “knowledge management” to critical analysis (following my own remarks on the subject in February);
and a recent spate of books on “debt”. 

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