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, January 4, 2018

The 2017 posts

Since 2009 I have blogged consistently – on average 2-3 posts a week. But the last 10 weeks have seen only one post. Somehow, inspiration seems to have dried up. For someone whose very identity has, for almost 50 years, been tied up with the act of writing, this is a very serious matter……
I’m not the only blogger whose energies have been fading recently – other writers have drawn attention to an apparent decline. This may or may not be linked with the deep sense of pessimism which has gripped my generation at least in recent years…..

With an effort, I have done a final bit of editing to the collected 2017 posts (all 76 of them) which bears the title Common Endeavour? – the 2017 posts (2018) and runs to 183 pages
The introduction reminds us all of the benefits of blogging and there is a special bonus in the annex in the form of a sceptic’s glossary of about 100 key words used in political and administrative discourse. The year is best summarized as follows -

Blog traffic has been increasing here – hitting 10,000 in April for the first time (a 3-fold increase since last year) and, in May, the 200,000 mark for the entire period since 2010. August saw another 10,000 hits….although it dropped thereafter, reflecting what I understand to be a general drop in readership of blogs this year,,,,And, in the final ten weeks, some disenchantment with blogging
     - Native English speakers account for only one third of readers (most from the US) – with Russian and Ukraine readers coming in (in the past year) at a strong 15% share. It’s not idle speculation to feel that part of this latter interest may be a reflection of official Russian oversights of western blogs and accounts – although I don’t get any comments on posts from that source - perhaps because it’s not been my policy to comment on Russian politics and Putin’s intentions? But why the strong interest from Ukrainian readers? After all, recent posts have, if anything been even more “reflective” than usual, trying to put recent events in a fifty-year timescale…..  
·       -  Readers in France, Germany, Bulgaria and Romania account for some 20% in total of the traffic – the latter two for obvious reasons. I’ve blogged quite a bit on Germany (indeed put a little E-book up on the list at the top-right corner of the blog) and am pleased to find readers from that source – and from France.

A new Feature
With two thirds of my readers not having English as their first language, I have perhaps become more conscious of the need for an inviting intro to posts which now try to “position” the subject in the wider commentary……So a new feature is the “Further Reading” resource with which book notes in particular now end… 

Early posts couldn’t help touching on the first shocking weeks of bully boy Trump’s occupation of the White House but, thereafter, ignored the idiot. Political misbehaviour in Romania caused more of a public backlash there and was duly the subject of a few posts.

For several weeks from mid-March, I ran a series of posts which started with an observation about   how badly served we are by the hundreds of economics books which jostle for our attention. The opening post suggested some tests we might apply to screen books out – with the drawback that we actually need the book in our hands to make the call! Follow-up posts used some diagrams……which also help guide the reader through the maze of books……
More than 100 key books were identified, briefly explained - and hyperlinked. And will all be useful in the task which lies ahead – of severe editing of the present draft of Dispatches to the post-capitalist generation

This May post shows the encouragement I now take from the increasing respect being shown to the concept of “The Commons”

June saw the British electorate join the US electorate in bloodying the nose of pundits and the Establishment…but, in the event, also giving progressives back a little bit of hope…….  Hence a couple of posts on social democracy….

Mid-Summer saw various posts connected with discussions I was having with a young Bulgarian journalist about an interview (which appeared at the end of August) which raised difficult questions about progress here in Bulgaria and Romania since 1991 and the curious silence of the past decade about the subject of “transitology” which so consumed the chattering classes in the 90s. The issues about political and institutional behavior which were first raised in the 50s by Edward Banfield; and then in the early 90s by Robert Putnam; remain.

But the most important series of posts started in September with “Close Encounters with bureaucracy” as I tried yet again to make some sort of sense of the efforts I’ve been making for nigh on 50 years to make state bodies more responsive to citizens….I started as a newly-elected young radical, working with community activists to help make their voice heard by a traditional municipality in the West of Scotland; graduated fairly quickly to positions of authority – not least for 16 years shaping the social strategy for Europe’s largest regional authority. All the time working as a public management academic in a local Polytechnic – and writing profusely and being published in UK journals, 

That was the base from which I sprang in 1990 to reinvent myself as a consultant in institution-building in central Europe and Central Asia – and keeping up with the academic outpourings on public management…..For 25 years I have worked in almost a dozen countries on these issues.
In recent years I have been trying to make sense of all this experience - which culminated last spring with a draft of almost 200 pages bearing the title Crafting Effective Public Management. The book's core consisted of (i) surveys of the literature of admin reform 1975-2000; (ii) my critical assessment of the approach and tools used by international bodies and consultants in the challenge of institutional development in "transition countries"; and (iii) my blogposts on admin reform ....

Early last summer, however, I realised that I had missed some of the more profound learning experiences - the new draft therefore has a very different format and content which still requires further work. Its sections are chronological and try to do justice to the shape and significance of the various projects. It also includes my sceptic's glossary; and the recent series of posts which used a dozen questions to try to capture the best writing on public management. As a result, it's currently heading for the 300 page mark!
Its present title No Man's Land reflects the reminder which the summer interview gave me of the importance of the feeling of "being on the margin" I've always had.....  

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