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!

Monday, July 9, 2018

Changing the World - or oneself?

You know you’re losing your mind when – after a week of intensive musings – you still can’t put into clear words an issue which has led to much feverish searching for (and pulling out of) books……
It seemed initially to be about the source of significant social change – the extent to which it comes from external social and technical factors compared with more internal subjective factors… Arthur Koestler’s The Yogi and the Commissar; (1945) was perhaps an early expression of that dualism….
The collapse of communism in 1989 showed how regime self-confidence could melt in the sunshine….

In the middle of last week I came across in Brasov a nicely-presented book in the self-help genre - About Presence; a journey into ourselves - which I was tempted to buy (and read!) simply because the language was more conversational and downbeat than its usual type. And the book seemed to connect to the point which a friend had just put to me about the over abstract nature of the discourse which people like me use. As well as to the question put a couple of years ago by a schoolfriend with whom I had tried to renew contact after more than 50 years – “why doesn’t your personal life figure in your blog??”
The answer is quite simple – the technocratic role I’ve played since 1991 had no place for the personal….at least in the style of our writing…We had to pretend to a neutrality…if not omniscience! (Although the feedback was that I seemed to be more committed to grassroots change than the typical “expert”….)

The About Presence book reminded me of another similar title in my library Presence – exploring profound change in people, organisations and society; P Senge et al (2005) - typical of "new age" managerialism. By then I had piled on my desk my old Robert Quinn favourites – “Deep Change” and “Change the World” – which remain for me the key books exploring the link between the individual and the apparently impervious forces of the world at large…..

But the library also contains books on subjects such as Systems Change, Chaos theory and Complexity which have never been able to engage my sustained attention – apart from Thomas Homer-Dixon’s The Ingenuity Gap – how can we solve the problems of the future? (2001)
These focus on the increase of the interdependence of one system with another – making apparently for a world which no one can control and yet one in which local victories are achieved….

So other books were duly deposited on the desk – both real and virtual - and now form a rather fascinating list which starts with a book written in 1967 and ends with 4 powerful books with messages of hope I strongly recommend to my readers.
Embracing Complexity – strategic perspectives for an age of turbulence; Jean Boulton, Peter Allen and Cliff Bowman (2015)
How Change Happens Duncan Green (2016)
Can We Know Better?; Robert Chambers (2017)

This post is long enough. I will attach the list tomorrow……  

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