Reading on Monday 30 January

Janan Ganesh’s column in the weekend FT was all about social climbers.  One of the books he mentions, the Red and the Black by Stendhal, is a personal favourite of mine, for obvious reasons.

A couple of weeks ago, I read this piece by Bradford DeLong about thinkers for the next 50 years.  One of the three he put forward was Karl Polanyi.  DeLong has now written a follow up piece, of sorts, attempting to make Polanyi’s somewhat impenetrable prose understandable.

This article in defence of academic jargon is one of the most patronising things I have ever read.  Firstly, if you agree with the author that the proper response to anti-intellectualism is to double down and become ever more wordy then go to bed, would you please!  The author’s inferiority complex vis a vis the sciences is stark – “people” think the humanities are useless and “nobody” denies scientists their academic jargon.  If you genuinely think that it isn’t worthwhile making complex ideas understandable to the lay reader and that nobody expects scientists to be able to do this then I urge you to read Richard Feynman, Richard Dawkins, or Stephen Hawking and appreciate the clarity of their writing.  I’m saying this as a philosophy graduate – if you take an attitude like this article, you are making us all look bad! 

I have written in the past about using social network analysis for stakeholder engagement mapping.  Always on the lookout for new tools and this blog by Duncan Green on a handy guide to SNA for NGOs is a really good read.  Not every organisation has the kind of resources needed to do a full bells and whistles analysis (and most of the teams I work with certainly don’t!) so a guide to quick and useful results like this is always welcome.


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