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!
The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Confession Time

Apologies to my loyal readers for my (abnormally) long silence of the past month…I made the mistake of collecting and reflecting on this year’s posts with a view to writing a proper introduction and conclusion to the 2015 volume which is due shortly
I got as far as a draft Preface – but the harder I thought about the posts and how the issues they raised might be pulled together in a coherent conclusion, the more depressed I became about the impossible task I had set myself. To pretend that one person has anything original to add to the thousands of scribblers whose writings so learnedly analyse the world’s ills……..!!  
It was Duncan Green’s blog which brought me back to earth – in a post about the limited use academics make of social media - by reminding me that - 
a blog is a ‘web log’, i.e. an online diary. Regular blogging builds up a handy, time-saving archive. I’ve been blogging daily since 2008. OK, that’s a little excessive, but what that means is that essentially I have a download of my brain activity over the last 7 years – almost every book and papers I’ve read, conversations and debates. Whenever anyone wants to consult me, I have a set of links I can send (which saves huge amounts of time). And raw material for the next presentation, paper or book.

In the past 18 months I’ve taken to raiding my posts in order to compose what are now ten E-books. I have to confess, however, that none of them attempted an overview.....  

Green is spot on about the help a blog like mine offers in finding old material...you just type in the keyword and the relevant post with its quotes and hyperlinks generally appear immediately – a record of your brain activity that particular morning. I also have a file of more than 150 pages (for each year) with raw text and several thousand hyperlinks which didn’t make it to the blog……an amazing archive of months of brain activity which, of course, needs a bit more time to access……  

The problem, of course, is when your brain switches off – as mine seems to have in the past couple of months!! Only 3-4 books have engaged my interest – eg Theodor Zeldin’s The Hidden Pleasures of Life; and, more recently, Naomi Klein’s This Changes Everything – a writer, I must confess, whose celebrity status had until now discouraged me from reading her stuff… This review explains why her new book is so well worth reading. But I have not been encouraged to excerpt either of these books….. nor to comment on the surprising victory of an old leftist in Labour’s leadership contest. Somehow I have lost my capacity to believe in the possibility of “change for the better”…..

I have, in the past decade, become increasingly sceptical of the writings in my own professional field about the possibilities of “reform” efforts actually improving public affairs and services for the better - but I had still been a bit shocked this year by the pessimistic tone of some of the post-mortems which key political science figures have been delivering on their retirements after some 40 years of analysis and exhortations…..
If that’s how the key figures feel about their work, what hope is there for the rest of us?
I hope shortly to upload an early version of the 2015 E-book and share some of my preliminary thoughts about the task I set myself…… 

The photo is one of series I have of marvellous Uzbek terra cotta figures which I acquired in Tashkent in the 3 years I spent there from 1999