Sunday, July 17, 2016

The centenary of the Battle of Fromelles

My grandfather, Col White arrived on the Western Front in July 1916 via Marsailles and Egypt.  He had been drafted into the 114th Howitzer Battery, 5th Division AIF.  On the 15th July 1916 they went into the front in preparation for the assault known as the Battle of Fromelles, 1916.  This battle began on the 19th July 1916.

"In a period of twenty-four hours the Australians lost 5,533 men and the British 1,400 with absolutely nothing to show for it. The proportion of those killed was exceptionally high, for example of the 887 men of the Australian 60th Battalion engaged in the battle only 107 survived"

Col (CKB White) was fortunate to survive the war. He later led an active life as a grazier and in civic life in Bathurst NSW.

Monday, July 04, 2016

Rethinking agricultural systems - corn

"As a crop, corn is highly productive, flexible and successful. As a system, the same is not true."

"with the current corn system dominating our use of natural resources and public dollars, while delivering less food and nutrition than other agricultural systems, it’s time ask tough questions and demand better solutions" argues Jonathan Foley.


Thursday, June 30, 2016

Against collaboration?

Against collaboration:  by Charlotte Pell  (16 Dec 15) 
"Can the government’s policy of mandating cross-agency collaboration really be the best way to provide efficient services at minimum cost?"

See Charlotte's "eight charges against government-funded collaboration".

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Brexit - a cry of concern from a friend

I like so many others have been incredibly saddened and disturbed by the outcomes of last week's vote.  Amongst the many emotions, particularly those of loss, anger soon emerges at the intellectual vacuousness of those who have been placed into the roles of leading the country.  What is more, few commentators see it is the systemic failure of the 'UK governance system', a failing that has been ongoing for many years...as this article from Philip Pullman illuminates. 

A dear friend has articulated the grief many of us are experiencing in the following terms:

Dear X, thanks for your note! I hope you don't mind but I am so sore and disturbed that I cannot help adding some comment on what's afoot. 

A brief grieving: How does a govt that got around 24 % of the vote in the last elections now dare to act and speak in the name of the nation after leading it into an unecessary referendum to resolve an internal party struggle? ?

How is it that neither the left nor the right of the political specturm understood the consequences of the damage to [male, white] identity as secure employment in mining, agric, ship building, steel etc. left the towns, docks, and rural areas? How is it that the elderly, with dreams of empire and former glory, can have such influence on the future of a country? How do the nation's great and good get away with outrageous lies without accountability?

How is it possible for a nation to contemplate electing as the new PM someone who has no admin ability, and who has lied time and again in his quest for power? [his personality and abilities are well known on the continent and for sure, tho some in the UK might think he can re-unify the differences in the UK, he would not be seen as a responsible or competent person to lead negotiations with the other 27 countries, thus increasing the likelihood of worse coutcomes].

And whatever side of the debates anyone stands on, it's simply terrifying that there appears to have been so little preparation for, and understanding of what the social, political, economic and constitutional consequences of a referendum might be - utterly, utterly irresponsible.

The debates now seem focussed on matters internal to the UK. In following these debates, I am also constantly struck by how little understanding of or consideration anyone in Westminster or the country at large - or the BBC - has given to how members of the other 27 countries might actually perceive the issues, and the consequences,or, come to that, how Commonwealth countries, the US, Russia or China might view these events.

I live in the NL and I am sure that the UK will not be able to get both access to the single market and control of free movement, nor access to the single market without financial contributions, nor access and a rejection of the European Court of Justice. And [almost!] worst of all, as a resident of more than 15 yrs in the EU I do not have the right of vote. This is in itself surely a scandalous denial of basic rights to over 2 million Brits; there are now in effect two classes of British citizenship. Democratic provisions seem to have fallen down big time - bah! and boo!

"Why everything you know about management is wrong"

Great article from Simon Caulkin.  Here is a flavour:

"Not a day passes without some fresh underlining of Baum’s message (and it’s not just the US): fraud at FIFA, in athletics and in tennis; Tesco exploiting suppliers; Sports Direct exploiting employees; charities (for God’s sake) exploiting donors; yet more bank penalties (up to a global $150bn since the financial crisis and counting); Libor fallout; Kids’ Company; and VW.

There is, of course, a link between all these organisations. Their misfortunes were made by the people who work in them.

They were manmade, or, to be clearer, management-made"

N.B.  Mark Baum is the character based on a real-life investor, in The Big Short, the 2015 film adaptation of Michael Lewis’s  unpicking of 2008’s global financial crisis. Baum is a capitalist investor, not a revolutionary.

Friday, June 17, 2016

Why I voted remain


I have already voted in the UK referendum concerning the UK's future in Europe. I voted remain.  As a researcher in Europe and UK resident (some of it part time) for 22 years I have come to see myself as essentially European. As I have written elsewhere I have regarded the EU as one of the greatest and most needed experiments in governance in the last two centuries.

Despite the millions of words written and spoken about "Brexit", as it has become known, nothing has shifted my fundamental conviction that Britain, and the rest of the world, will be better off with the UK inside Europe.  Little that has been written or said about "Brexit" is intelligent or insightful.  There is little acknowledgement that successive UK governments abandoned responsibility for shaping and improving Europe. Cameron's last minute dash for reform was far too little and too late. It also elicited cynicism conditioned by internal Tory Party power struggles. The great tragedy, and perhaps great shock for many, is that when the lid was taken off, when citizens were enabled (well sort of!) to participate in a 'conversation' about the UK and its future, very few people had a narrative, a story they could tell themselves, about Europe. The emergent narrative is one of disaffection and fear, and stories that hark back to an imaginary period when Britian was 'great'!  That this is a myth shows how powerful narratives can be.

Don't get me wrong, the EU needs reform, but so too does the Westminster system of government (perhaps even more so). Much better to work together to design new governance arrangements for the world we humans are creating.  Simon Caulkin, whose work has often featured in my posts, makes elegant and intelligent arguments for remaining; they are reprised below in this blog from Simon.

Why I'm voting to remain

Simon Caulkin (Thu, 16th Jun 2016)

"There’s a more than respectable progressive case for voting to leave the European Union in the forthcoming UK referendum. It’s set out here by the Guardian’s economics editor Larry Elliott, someone I like and respect. The lack of democratic accountability, the austerity that has driven Greece to its knees when it voted for the opposite, the failure of the euro, the inability to come together over Putin and migration, the environmental and other failings detailed by another Guardian writer, George Monbiot – all these are dagger blows at the heart of the limping half-century-old European project, and they can’t be wished away.

Yet I passionately believe that we should remain, and shall have no hesitation in voting so on 23 June.

My reasons are personal, historical and political. 

First, having married into a French family, half my close relatives are French. I care about what happens to France and know at first hand that for all the cross-Channel barbs and incomprehension, the French on the whole, like other Europeans, care about us too. Read this letter of affection in the TLS signed by, among others, footballers, football managers and rugby players, authors, architects, restaurateurs, actors and film directors, and musicians from Greece to Sweden, Italy to Poland. Or these. Despite our best current efforts to make ourselves as dislikeable as possible, Europeans believe that traditional British tolerance and fortitude are an important counterweight to different continental qualities – and any honest inhabitant of these islands would have to acknowledge that the trade is equally advantageous in the other direction.

There is another personal reason. My father’s physical and intellectual journey from committed pacifist to lieutenant in a reconnaissance regiment fighting its way through Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in 1944 and 1945 is vividly preserved in the letters that he wrote home at the time. Reading them now, there is not the shadow of a doubt that he and his colleagues knew perfectly well that they weren't only fighting for their and their own families’ futures; for them, the terrible bloodshed and mayhem that they witnessed (and suffered – my father was killed a week before the armistice) was only redeemable by a settlement that cemented all the nations affected, including the defeated, in a binding democratic embrace. (So well did these soldiers do their peacetime work that, as I only realised much later, German teenagers in the British occupied zone grew up as familiar with the Beatles, the Rolling Stones and other icons of British popular culture as I did; while the German postwar economic miracle owed much to the company governance regime of two-tier boards and co-determination instituted under strong influence from our own TUC.)

I’m dismayed that the remain camp has ignored these broader issues to focus on the economy and Project Fear. I don’t doubt that there would be short-term shocks to the economy from a Brexit, but that's not why I'm voting to remain. I don't trust any of the numbers. But more than that, to collapse the European idea to name-calling over numbers, as both sides have done, is both embarrassingly reductive and beside the point. Given the government’s well proven ability, not least over the last eight years, to make a pig’s ear of the economy without any outside assistance, using economic freedom from Brussels as a rallying cry for leave is almost comically brazen. There is a real economic argument to be had, about the nature and purpose of business, but like all the other important issues we face, it can only be addressed at supra-national level. Only at EU level is it conceivable that a counterweight could be developed to the dangerous arrogance of Silicon Valley and the excesses of US finance and shareholder-dominated capitalism.

As for immigration, the shrill, angry discourse about migrants reminds me of efforts 20 years ago to block the building of the Channel Tunnel for fear it would bring in an epidemic of rabies. Scapegoating is as old as history. But so, as a dispassionate New Scientist analysis reminded us recently, are waves of human migration, the inseparable companion of wars, famine, natural disaster and, although this is usually left out, gross global inequality. Of course, it would be mad to deny that an influx of incomers seeking a new life creates uncomfortable issues. But they can be managed, as they have been before, by tackling them head on with thought, effort, sympathy and state help, usually temporary, with cost. For those responsible for austerity to whip up anti-migrant feeling by blaming the latter for stretched public services and lack of affordable housing is breathtaking in its dishonesty, while to believe that any country can pull up the drawbridge and shut out these global tides is wishful thinking of the most vapid kind. 

Also disappointing is the narrow vision of other European leaders who don't seem to see the UK referendum for what it is, an existential challenge that can only be met by imaginative and sweeping restatement of what Europe is for. ‘What has happened to you, the Europe of humanism, the champion of human rights, democracy and freedom? What has happened to you, Europe, the home of poets, philosophers, artists, musicians, and men and women of letters? What has happened to you, Europe, the mother of peoples and nations, the mother of great men and women who upheld, and even sacrificed their lives for, the dignity of their brothers and sisters?’ I’m not aware of having quoted the Pope before, but the reproach implicit in the questions he raised in his Charlemagne award speech can't be easily swept aside.

Europe,’ as Churchill once put it, ‘is where the weather comes from’. The migration surge welling up from the Mediterranean, the Eurozone crisis and the outbreaks of right-wing populism all underline that that’s as true today as it ever was; and now as then it’s no more possible for Britain to negotiate an opt-out than from European isobars or the Gulf Stream. We’re in, and we have to deal with it. Do we face up to the challenge, or run away in a way that we never have before? What’s at risk in this misconceived referendum, it’s now apparent, is not our economic future but our soul, our identity and an idea of Europe that our parents and grandparents helped to shape 70 years ago." 

Like Simon I have family connections to war in Europe (though without such devastating personal outcomes). 2016 is the centenary of my grandfather's induction into war on the Western Front. As a young Australian he also went to war to fight for the European ideal - to fight tyranny, hegemony, and the attempted imposition of belief through bullying and violence. This is worth remembering and honouring.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

60th ISSS Conference: Boulder Colorado, July 2016

#ISSS2016 USA-INDIA

60th Annual Meeting of the International Society for the Systems Sciences
and 1st Policy Congress of ISSS

Realizing Sustainable Futures in Socio-Ecological Systems

Call for Papers Booklet Download
and
Leadership for Sustainability

"Unity in Diversity -- Humanity in Technology"

India: 23-25 July 2016 -- Leadership for Sustainability
Vadlamudi, Anhra Pradesh, India, Biotechnology Department, Vignan's University
Day 1 (Saturday): Food, Energy, and Water Systems: Engineering for Sustainability
  • Session 1: Renewable and sustainable energy
  • Session 2: Sustainable and healthy food systems/Engineering systems for
Day 2 (Sunday): Economics, Business, and Green Technologies
  • Session 3: Circular economic models for business, societies, entrepreneurs and communities
  • Session 4: Green technologies- agriculture and livestock/Use of sensors for sustainability
Day 3 (Monday): Habitats and Ecosystem Sustainability
  • Session 5: Habitat resilience (rural, urban, forest and natural ecosystems)
  • Session 6: Valedictory session
USA: 24-30 July 2016 -- Realizing Sustainable Futures in Socio-Ecological Systems

Math and Engineering Buildings, University of Colorado, Boulder  (Campus Information)

Day 1 (Monday): Frameworks for Systemic Sustainability: “When are Complex Systems Sustainable?”
            Plenary I: The Challenge of System(s) Sustainability 
            Plenary II: Towards Holistic System(s) Theory
            Evening Keynote Program: Realizing Sustainable Futures

Day 2 (Tuesday): Global Science and Ecosystem Assessments: “From Problem to Solution Orientation.”
            Plenary III: Coupling Human and Natural System(s) Research
            Plenary IV: From Crisis to Synergy (Anticipatory, Exploratory and Participatory Methods)

Day 3 (Wednesday): Cultural, Ethical, and Economic Wisdom: “Reuniting Nature and Humanity”
            Plenary V: Making Sense in Economics, Ethics, and Policy
            Plenary VI: Multi-Cultural Wisdom
            Special Luncheon Keynote: Inter-Faith Perspectives on Global Sustainability
            Special Afternoon Session: ISSS Policy Summit
            Evening Reception: The Edges of Science

Day 4 (Thursday):  Engineering and Systemic Synthesis: “Creating Sustainable Systems”
            Plenary VII: Engineering Sustainable Systems and Technology
            Plenary VIII: Prospects for Scientific Systemic Synthesis

Day 5 (Friday): Education, Communication, and Capacity: “Making it Whole”
            Plenary IX: Systems Literacy Education and Outreach
            Plenary X: The Whole Person in a Whole society
 

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Relational Approaches to Policy Analysis: Prague, September

I have accepted an invitation to participate in, and present at, the ECPR (European Consortium on Political Research) conference

"The ECPR's General Conference is the largest political science event in Europe, bringing some 2,000 political scientists together every autumn. The 2016 Conference will be held at Charles University, Prague"

The group I will join are concerned with "Relational Approaches to Policy Analysis: Knowing, Intervening and Transforming in a Precarious World". It is my first time to be involved with this group and to join this conversation which is characterised by section chair, Henk Wagenaar, as:

"The Interpretive Turn (Fischer and Forester, 1993; Wagenaar, 2011) has introduced hermeneutic and discursive methods in the analysis of public policy. Approaches such as narrative analysis, frame analysis, governmentality, Critical Discourse Analysis and poststructuralist political theory are increasingly common in the discipline and practice of policy studies. These foster a politically and socially relevant policy analysis that is both appreciative and critical of daily policy practice and the argumentative and discursive processes that constitute it.

Of these, a ‘second wave’ of interpretive approaches is distinctive in incorporating anti-dualist or relational elements. Examples are practice theory (Shove et. al, 2013; Nicolini, 2013; Schatzki et al., 2001; Cook and Wagenaar, 2012), process philosophy (Stout & Love, 2015), critical pragmatism (Forester, 2013; Healey, 2007; Griggs et al., 2014, Ansell, 2011), collaborative governance (Ansell and Gash, 2008; Innes and Booher, 2011), discursive institutionalism (Carstensen 2015), the strategic-relational approach (Jessop, 2005) and co-production and action research (Reason, 1988; Bartels & Wittmayer, 2014). At the same time, the relational element within this body of research has not been fully articulated. Drawing on ideas from the new relational sociology (Emirbayer 1997) would contribute to developing this dimension of policy research by contributing to a more fully-fledged relational policy analysis, with the potential to integrate interpretive, constructivist and other new institutionalist theories of policymaking.

Although seemingly disparate and originating in different philosophical traditions, these approaches share a number of ontological and epistemological principles that set them apart from first-generation interpretive policy analysis
."


Read on to explore the different abstracts that have been accepted....but here are some key points many of which resonate with my own work: 
  • Relational approaches attempt to overcome the traditional dualisms of social and political science (structure vs. agency, knowing vs. acting, human vs. material) by conceiving of the world in terms of ongoing events and dynamic processes generated by recursively related elements (e.g. while action is shaped by structure, structure is reproduced trough action).
  • Ontologically our world is a world of becoming. It is open-ended, complex and unpredictable. Therefore, strong control is a misguided ideal; harnessing complexity is a more realistic prospect.
  • Relational approaches emphasize the power dynamics inherent in all social exchanges.
  • In terms of practical implications, in relational approaches knowledge is not aimed at finality and (intellectual or physical) control. Instead knowledge has the character of an encounter; between individuals or between individuals and the world. Knowledge is fundamentally bilateral, dialogical, and provisional (Wagenaar, 2011, ch. 8). It aims as much at shared understanding as at joint transformation.
  • We know the world by acting on it. In the epistemology of anti-dualism knowledge is performative. Relational approaches do not play down the importance of language, but they emphasize the primacy of practice, and the way that practice mediates language and vice versa. Intervening, knowing, learning and transformation are inextricably linked in practice and inquiry.
  • Experience is central in our dealings with the world. Experience is not an individual feeling, but instead a web of relations that ties individuals into the world. In relational approaches there is a fundamental awareness that we are inescapably woven into ecological and social webs.
  • Materiality is central. Things, technologies the stuff the word is made of, are repositories of understandings, competences, meaning and traditions. They make our actions possible, and constrain and afford them, by structuring them but also by resisting our interventions.
  • In their emphasis on joint acting, warranted assertability (exposure to recalcitrant experience), the fusion of practical and moral judgment, and the importance of open, deliberative forums, relational approaches bring out the ‘intelligence of democracy’ but also the limitations of contemporary liberal-electoral institutions. 

Thursday, June 09, 2016

New Global Systems Science MOOC

A new MOOC has just gone live on the OU's FutureLearn platform.  It is called Global Systems Science and Policy: an Introduction.  "Learn how Global Systems Science can inform and model the impact of social, economic, political and environmental policy making." 

The authors' claims for the MOOC are to "Understand the four main elements of Global Systems Science.....This free online course will help you understand the four main elements of Global Systems Science, and how they can work together to create better formulated policy with better outcomes:  

 1. Policy at all levels, from individuals to the world: we will begin with policy problems at global and national scales. How can these problems be tackled? How can we know which, if any, proposed policy options will work.

2. The new, interdisciplinary approach: we will explore how the science of complex social, economic, political, biological, physical and environmental systems can inform policy makers in their work.

3. Data science and computational modelling for policy makers: we will look at so-called “policy informatics” – the new, policy-oriented methods of modelling complex systems on computers.

4. Citizen engagement: a central concept of GSS is that the behaviour of social systems emerges bottom-up, from the interactions of individuals and institutions, in the context of top-down policy constraints. We will explore what this means in practice – why individual citizens must be involved in decision making and policy formulation."

‘STEPS': to a systemic ecology of mind - seminar

STEPS Centre Seminar, 1.00-2.30pm Monday 27 June 2016, IDS Convening Space

‘STEPS: to a systemic ecology of mind (with apologies to Gregory Bateson)’

By Ray Ison

My seminar will cover a broad sweep of issues under the general rubric of building systemic governing capability in the context of the Anthropocene. My starting point will be to lay down a challenge as to whether those present have a systemic ecology of mind?  I will then unpack what I consider to be significant limitations in much contemporary scholarship because of failures to understand: the 'feral concept' of system; praxis, or more specifically systems praxis; complexity, or complex adaptive system; transformation and governance, or governing.  I will ground the seminar in examples from recent research projects that employ, or are concerned with, social learning and systemic inquiry. In the discussion we can explore implications for the STEPs programme.

Ray Ison has an international reputation in, and has been a major contributor to, ‘cybersystemics’.  What is this field you may well ask?  Ray's rationale for using this term was explained in the presentation last year at ISSS2016 in Berlin of his Presidential Address for the International Society for the Systems Sciences (ISSS), and also in a special ‘systemic inquiry’ at Herrenhausen Palace, Hanover details of which can be found at this Blog site

Amongst other matters raised at these events was the significant institutional complexity in the cybersystemic field and the lack of intellectual and political influence for investment in and the furtherance of cybersystemic scholarship – particularly in key policy and research funding fora associated with the UN, Brussels, Washington and the like. This is despite the growing awareness that the issues of our time, the Anthropocene, if you will, are systemic in nature and thus require systemic responses, i.e., transformations. Ray has been Professor of Systems at The Open University (OU), UK since 1994. 

Everyone welcome! Please forward this email to your networks

Monday, June 06, 2016

The 'econocene' and the religion of 'economism'

As millions of words are written in the pursuit of election outcomes in Australia (on July 2nd) and the future of the UK in Europe, it is a pity that so little of it is relevant to our current (human) circumstances.  Intelligence, as an emergent property of what is being written, is in short supply!   In contrast, essays such as "The Church of Economism and its Discontents" by Richard Norgaard, point to deep, important 'truths' about our situation that deserve attention.  

Dick Norgaard, himself a graduate of the Chicago School in economics, has become one of  'economism's' -  the reduction of all social relations to market logic -  most articulate critics. He justifiably claims:

"Economists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few.."

His argument is that:

Economism [is] a widely held system of faith. This modern “religion” is essential for the maintenance of the global market economy, for justifying personal decisions, and for explaining and rationalizing the cosmos we have created. This uncritical economic creed has colonized other disciplines, including ecology, as ecologists increasingly rely on economistic logic to rationalize the protection of ecosystems."
Economists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few: - See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/the-church-of-economism-and-its-discontents#sthash.FnT89crd.dpuf

omists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few:
The point is that the “principles” by which a society or a group lives in tolerable harmony are essentially religious. The essential nature of a religious principle is that not merely is it immoral to oppose it, but to ask what it is, is morally identical with denial and attack.

There must be ultimates, and they must be religious, in economics as anywhere else, if one has anything to say touching conduct or social policy in a practical way. Man is a believing animal and to few, if any, is it given to criticize the foundations of belief “intelligently.”

To inquire into the ultimates behind accepted group values is obscene and sacrilegious: objective inquiry is an attempt to uncover the nakedness of man, his soul as well as his body, his deeds, his culture, and his very gods.

Certainly the large general [economics] courses should be prevented from raising any question about objectivity, but should assume the objectivity of the slogans they inculcate, as a sacred feature of the system.8
When I show students these passages in my lectures, they gasp, finally understanding why economics is taught so differently from the other social sciences, why it is presented so uncritically, as if it were a science when it obviously is not.
- See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/the-church-of-economism-and-its-discontents#sthash.FnT89crd.dpuf
Economists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few:
The point is that the “principles” by which a society or a group lives in tolerable harmony are essentially religious. The essential nature of a religious principle is that not merely is it immoral to oppose it, but to ask what it is, is morally identical with denial and attack.

There must be ultimates, and they must be religious, in economics as anywhere else, if one has anything to say touching conduct or social policy in a practical way. Man is a believing animal and to few, if any, is it given to criticize the foundations of belief “intelligently.”

To inquire into the ultimates behind accepted group values is obscene and sacrilegious: objective inquiry is an attempt to uncover the nakedness of man, his soul as well as his body, his deeds, his culture, and his very gods.

Certainly the large general [economics] courses should be prevented from raising any question about objectivity, but should assume the objectivity of the slogans they inculcate, as a sacred feature of the system.8
When I show students these passages in my lectures, they gasp, finally understanding why economics is taught so differently from the other social sciences, why it is presented so uncritically, as if it were a science when it obviously is not.
- See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/the-church-of-economism-and-its-discontents#sthash.FnT89crd.dpuf
Economists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few:
The point is that the “principles” by which a society or a group lives in tolerable harmony are essentially religious. The essential nature of a religious principle is that not merely is it immoral to oppose it, but to ask what it is, is morally identical with denial and attack.

There must be ultimates, and they must be religious, in economics as anywhere else, if one has anything to say touching conduct or social policy in a practical way. Man is a believing animal and to few, if any, is it given to criticize the foundations of belief “intelligently.”

To inquire into the ultimates behind accepted group values is obscene and sacrilegious: objective inquiry is an attempt to uncover the nakedness of man, his soul as well as his body, his deeds, his culture, and his very gods.

Certainly the large general [economics] courses should be prevented from raising any question about objectivity, but should assume the objectivity of the slogans they inculcate, as a sacred feature of the system.8
When I show students these passages in my lectures, they gasp, finally understanding why economics is taught so differently from the other social sciences, why it is presented so uncritically, as if it were a science when it obviously is not.
- See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/the-church-of-economism-and-its-discontents#sthash.FnT89crd.dpuf
Economists themselves have acknowledged the ultimately religious nature of their discipline. In 1932, Frank Knight, the most scholarly and broad-thinking of the founders of the influential market-oriented Chicago school of economics, literally argued that economics, at a fundamental level, had to be a religion, the basic tenets of which must be hidden from all but a few:
The point is that the “principles” by which a society or a group lives in tolerable harmony are essentially religious. The essential nature of a religious principle is that not merely is it immoral to oppose it, but to ask what it is, is morally identical with denial and attack.

There must be ultimates, and they must be religious, in economics as anywhere else, if one has anything to say touching conduct or social policy in a practical way. Man is a believing animal and to few, if any, is it given to criticize the foundations of belief “intelligently.”

To inquire into the ultimates behind accepted group values is obscene and sacrilegious: objective inquiry is an attempt to uncover the nakedness of man, his soul as well as his body, his deeds, his culture, and his very gods.

Certainly the large general [economics] courses should be prevented from raising any question about objectivity, but should assume the objectivity of the slogans they inculcate, as a sacred feature of the system.8
When I show students these passages in my lectures, they gasp, finally understanding why economics is taught so differently from the other social sciences, why it is presented so uncritically, as if it were a science when it obviously is not.
- See more at: http://www.greattransition.org/publication/the-church-of-economism-and-its-discontents#sthash.FnT89crd.dpuf

Thursday, June 02, 2016

Help to celebrate Ranulph Glanville's work


The exhibition

Ranulph Glanville
Architecture | Art | Cybernetics | Design. London and the 1960-ies

is open until June 13th 2016. You may visit the exhibition at Echoraum, Sechshauserstraße 66, 1150 Wien from 18:00-20:00 on weekdays and from 15:00-18:00 on weekends.

There is a rich program accompanying the exhibition. Next events are:

31.5.2016 18:00              Ranulph Glanville : lecture on electronics, architecture and epistemology. Magnetic tape, ca. 1970 | ca. 90’
1.6.2016 18:00                Ranulph Glanville : Experimental and electronic music from the 1060ies and 1970ies, Comment : Albert Müller
2.6.2016 18:00                Iannis Xenakis : Lecture on architecture and music, delivered at the Architectural Association (AA), mid 1960ies, magnetic tape | ca. 120’
6.6.2016 18:00                Ranulph Glanville : Tutorium on the Theory of Objects. Bolton University, 2013 | video
7.6.2016 18:00                Ranulph Glanville – his last lecture, Oslo. video, 2014
8.6.2016 20:00                dieb13 : Glanville revisited. Electronic music by Ranulph Glanville remixed and performed on turntable | Concert

13.6.2016 20:00         Finissage:
Stephen Gage The Sixties and the Seventies (and Ranulph)
Lecture in english language
Dirk Baecker Komposition im medialen Raum
Lecture in german language
Compositions by Ranulph Glanville from the 1960ies:
Bernhard Höchtel - piano
Robert Pockfuß - E-guitar
Jakob Gnigler – tenor saxophon
Incomplexitudes Beatrix - Piano Solo
Title (La cathédrale des escargots) - for any Instruments and Players
Writ in Squares - for 1 Glass & 1 Cardboard Sheet & 2 Contact Mikes (2 Players)

Guided tours may be arranged by calling + 43 1 8120209-30 or by mailing echo@echoraum.at

Dams are damned?

Water governance can only be appreciated and acted upon systemically.  In the past this has rarely been the case, and the failures of our historical ways of thinking and acting in relation to water, just like the chickens, seem to be coming home to roost! This article makes compelling reading: 


The water crisis in the West has renewed debate about the effectiveness of major dams, with some pushing for the enormous Glen Canyon Dam on the Colorado River to be decommissioned.

Monday, May 30, 2016

SCiO Open Day in London - 11th July

SCiO is holding an open day event in London in July.  The programme is now available as are details for registration at the event.

"SCiO is a group for systems practitioners and is based in the UK, but has members internationally. It is focused primarily on systems practice and practitioners rather than on pure theory and on systems practice as applied to issues of organisation."

I have been invited to give a talk: 


Session: Ray Ison - Governing in the Anthropocene: towards systemic governance

The talk will reprise themes associated with a number of international addresses given in 2016 that address the question of what does the field of 'cybersystemics' have to offer for governing in the Anthropocene? A response to this question entails examining how the concept 'system' has gone feral and its implications as well as what a field of cybersystemics might look like, and why? Through groundings in his own research Ray will explore what ways governing might be understood and enacted into the future whether globally, nationally, organisationally or at the level of programme or project. Some of the framing considerations for a new book will be explored (Diamonds are not Forever?); this is a collaboration with Ed Straw that emerged from the SCiO meeting in London in 2015.


Sunday, May 29, 2016

Why universities are failing 5. The Kelsky critique

As recently reported in the Guardian Education, Karen Kelsky is a former acadmic turned job consultant for academics who has a very strong critique of particularly US universities where 75% of academic staff have no job security, health insurance or other work benefits.  She is a critic of privatisation and 'corporatisation' of Higher Education (HE) including "of how higher education has changed, including the financial burden on post-graduates". She goes on to say:

"Every country should adequately fund its institutions of higher education,” Kelsky says. The consequences of this lack of public moral purpose include reduced participation by people from disadvantaged backgrounds. “The most privileged institutions that serve the most privileged classes will survive. They have private endowments and funding models that are actually wealthier now than they were five years ago.”

While the UK may not be as far down the track of privatisation – or as she puts it the “vitriolic anti-intellectualism” – or suffering the outlandish student debt of the US, Kelsky warns that it is “stunningly far down the road” on what she calls “neoliberal productivity rubrics”. She means the REF, or Research Excellence Framework, the system used to assess UK academics’ “output”, which includes targets, for example, on the number of journal articles published.

“You can’t quantify academic productivity the way you can other kinds of productivity. You could point to countless people who probably wrote one book in their entire career but that book changed the way we think.”"

Clearly not all share the Kelsky critique as reponses to her article demonstrate.  This is clearly a systemic issue that warrants careful unpicking and interpretation.  I cannot help but feel that the proponents of HE reform, and thus what universities are becoming, engage in simplistic analysis and inadequate and uncritical boundary judgements re the 'system of interest'.  In part this claim can be gleaned by considering Aditya Chakrabortty's article (What the great degree rip-off means for graduates: low pay and high debt) and a critical response from former Higher Education Minister, Bill Rammell.

In the UK the new Higher Education White Paper is out without, it has to be said, many ringing endorsements.  In the Guardian Opinion pages the writer notes:

"There is something hypocritical about this instrumentalist approach where the marketplace is to be the only judge. It may be true that the old idea, often persuasively advanced by the academic Stefan Collini, that the university is “a partly protected space in which the search for deeper and wider understanding takes precedence over all more immediate goals” cannot survive unscathed in a world where there is huge unmet demand for technically literate and numerate graduates to staff the knowledge economy. Yet, by sleight of hand, it seems Mr Johnson is promoting the latter for most students, while for a shrinking elite the old ideal quietly prospers. It is hard to see how the Office for Students, which will absorb the Office for Fair Access and the Higher Education Funding Council, will be able to shape the university landscape so that the small elite improves outreach to less privileged applicants. A new research and innovation body that has overall responsibility for the annual £6bn research budget will not reverse the trend towards its concentration in a shrinking number of universities. In years to come, most students will go to lower-status teaching-only colleges."

It thus needs to be asked what is 'the' university becoming such that it can be claimed to be failing...or not?