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, November 28, 2017

intellectual shamans

Words have suddenly become sterile for me…..significantly, perhaps, after a series of posts about the writing on public administration…..and an earlier series this year on the global crisis.
Strangely, contemplation of such complexities doesn’t seem to bring either understanding or resolution - but rather a world-weariness….Activism is more exciting – but its closed focus, lack of cooperation and proper links to the world of rational analysis are but several deficiencies which always seems to bring it down.
Are we therefore forced to choose between technocratic rationality on the one hand… and strident activism on the other?

What other ways are there to pass the “autumn of one’s days”??? Music? Family and Friendship? Wine?
I had imagined that composing an open (and extended) letter to my daughters with reflections about the understandings I feel I’ve developed since 2000 might have wider interest…..simply because I consider myself a typical baby-boomer - if one with wider inter-disciplinary and nomadic experiences than normal…..Hence the draft Dispatches to the post-capitalist generation.  I had always regretted that my father (and a couple of other father figures) had not left me with such reflections……
But the present draft is no more than a pseudo-intellectual’s reading notes….a modern commonplace book. It doesn’t move the soul….

The one “issue” that has tempted me into a post this past month has been the ongoing Brexit saga in Britain (Ireland and Gibraltar) but that very fact reminds me of a quotation from a great book Breakdown of Nations;by Leopold Kohr which I read some years back - 
the chief blessing of a small-state system is ...its gift of a freedom which hardly ever registers if it is pronounced.....freedom from issues....ninety percent of our intellectual miseries are due to the fact that almost everything in our life has become an ism, an issue... our life’s efforts seem to be committed exclusively to the task of discovering where we stand in some battle raging about some abstract issue...The blessing of a small state returns us from the misty sombreness of an existence in which we are nothing but ghostly shadows of meaningless issues to the reality which we can only find in our neighbours and neighbourhoods

I hope still to write soon about Brexit – since it is something currently devouring and destroying a nation I once belonged to……

But if I cannot, at the moment, easily write or read about “issues”, I find that I can still devour material about individuals……and was very taken this morning with a book about 28 people who clearly had “made a difference” ….eg to someone who had the grace to write about the contribution she felt these people had made not only to her own profession but to the world - Intellectual Shamans – management academics making a difference; by Sandra Waddock (2015). Such books – which profile key figures in intellectual disciplines – are quite rare but always worthwhile (available also, to my knowledge, for political scientists; development economists; and sociologists).

I know only 4 of the 28 figures included in the book - Henry Mintzberg, Robert Quinn, Ed Schein and Otto Scharmer - but all seem to have this “inner light” which allows them to inspire an alternative vision. More excerpts from the book are available here
I came across the book thanks to a post by the author in this month’s Great Transition Initiative (GTI) . Waddock’s article on “large systems change” is also well worth a read…..It's one of many articles you can read in the interesting Journal of Corporate Citizenship - most of whose content can be accessed freely.

It may not be an emotional response we need these days but it is certainly something more than ratiocination - more on the spiritual/humanistic dimension?