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!

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

I have a little list….

About ten years ago, a Frenchman published a book with the great title How to Talk about Books you haven’t Read… and proceeded to do so….
I suppose I supply the same service to my readers - as the two recent little E-books How did admin reform get to be so sexy? and Dispatches to the next generation – the short version each had at their core annotated (and hyperlinked) reading lists. And such lists have indeed begun to figure as a regular item in the posts.
The previous post expressed some frustration – since I couldn’t quite pin the idea down which had been bothering me the entire week…it was something to do with the world having escaped “our” control, But it was also something to do with the mental models we used to make sense of the world….

So here is the list of books which landed up on my desk – with, inevitably, a few highly opinionated comments….
These titles, it should be emphasised, do not claim to represent anything except the vagaries of my purchases and interests. Half of them just happen to be in my library - but another nine are E- books (you can therefore all access) which reflect important stages in the very slow understanding which has overtaken us in the past half century that we have allowed a perverse linear/mechanistic model of society to occupy our minds…….
The date of the first book is 1967……. That’s 50 years ago….a long time for an idea to gestate and develop….The last book arrived only a few weeks ago and didn’t seem to be part of this conversation – but as I started it, I realised it was all about….mental models!

The Books which landed up on my desk
Titles from 1967
Clarity Factor
Significance
full book?
The Costs of Economic Growth; EJ Mishan (1967)
1
The first time an economist warns of this

The Limits to Growth; Club of Rome (1972)
2

The book which made the warning global

1
“Small is Beautiful” (1973) was seen as partisan, if not extreme. James Robertson’s book put the case in more balanced terms
Yes
2
Amazingly prescient book -
Yes
3
Made the concepts of systems and of “the learning organisation” fashionable

The Development Dictionary – a guide to knowledge as power; ed W Sachs  (1992)
2
A powerful challenge to “the western view”
yes
2
The sub-title says it all - strategies and tools for building a learning organisation

The Web of Life Fritjof Capra 1996
4
A well-intentioned presentation of systems thinking – but tough going

Deep Change; Robert Quinn 1996
2
Quinn’s first draft of what became the superb “Change the World”

2
An early classic in the attempt to present a new world of complexity

3
One of many focusing on dialogue…

Change the World; Robert Quinn (2000)
1
I simply don’t understand why this book is so seldom mentioned….perhaps because it makes a moral case?

1
A fascinating book which focuses on the complexity of the contemporary world – with a powerful narrative

Towards Holistic Governance – the new reform agenda; Perri 6, Leat, Seltzer and Stoker (2002)
4
Cooperation in government is an important topic but is dealt with in an over-confident and technical manner by these academics

3
Very comprehensive but – at 378 pages – not immediately user-friendly….
yes
Critical Mass; Philip Ball (2004)

3
A popular attempt to look at systems issues which probably tries to cover too many areas

2
A delightful idea and easy read

3
A conversation between 4 friends which reflects their uncertainties. Just a bit too self-indulgent and self-referential

The Dictionary of Alternatives – utopianism and organisation; ed M Parker, V Fournier and P Reedy (2007)
3
A nice idea – which I have still to read

Thinking in Systems – a primer; Donella Meadows (2008)
2
The early pages are a delight to read – this is the woman who lead the team which produced “Limits to Growth”
Yes
Exploring the Science of Complexity; Ben Ramalingam et al (ODI 2008)
5
Almost incoherent – but see “Aid on the edge of Chaos” below
Yes
3
Apparently a very important read but, with more than 500 pages, too big a challenge for me….

3
Clever…
Yes
2
Most authors would avoid a title like this - but Kahane’s south African experience makes this a great story  

The Dance on the Feet of Chance; Hooman Attar (2010)
3
A bit too technical – but honest

Mastery; Robert Greene (2012)
2
An important topic, nicely presented by a craftsman of his trade

Aid on the Edge of Chaos; Ben Ramalingam (2013)
3
A very comprehensive treatment of the various strands but ultimately (at 450 pages) indigestible

1
At first glance, wonderfully clear

How Change Happens Duncan Green (2016)
1

With its focus on the marginalised of the world, this may not immediately attract but it’s one the best discussions of change…
Yes
Can We Know Better?; Robert Chambers (2017)
1
What could be final reflections from the development scholar who wrote “Whose Reality Counts? putting the Last First”…
Yes
1
Didn’t seem part of this discussion – but the clarity of her exposition of how certain ideas first came to be developed blows you away!!


No comments:

Post a Comment