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Isaiah Berlin

We Are All Copycats (and that includes you)

Sina Odugbemi's picture

In theory, we admire and aspire to originality. We claim to be different, in fact, singular in every way. Yet, according to the authors of an important new book on social behavior, we are far less original than we think. We don’t like to acknowledge it, but we borrow ideas and practices promiscuously and we imitate others with feverish abandon.

The book is titled I’ll Have What She’s Having: Mapping Social Behavior, and the authors are two leading anthropologists plus a marketing and communication consultant: Alex Bentley and Michael J. O’Brien are the anthropologists and Mark Earls the consultant on marketing and communication.

Isaiah Berlin on Political Judgement

Sina Odugbemi's picture

Technocracies love complexity, especially technical complexity. If you can't hurl regressions at a problem, well, that is not interesting. Yet at the heart of effective development specific contexts is an art. That art is political judgement, not partisan politics but sound judgement when it is the domestic political process that determines whether or not you succeed. 
 

The trouble is this: saying something is an art gets many technocrats nervous. Technocrats love numbers. But as reflective practitioners of the so-called social sciences have often pointed out, the reason you cannot claim that these are sciences is that the subjects being studied think. Human beings are not numbers; they are full of surprises. Which is why when it comes to how to achieve your objectives in Gugu Republic, you being the head of a development initiative being implemented in Gugu Republic, you will not be successful unless you can display sound political judgement. 

"Out of the crooked timber..."

Sina Odugbemi's picture

There is a global debate going on concerning why the global financial crisis erupted. The technical debate is what it is; so far there is far more heat than light. But in addition to the technical debate is a debate about how certain underlying assumptions about human nature entertained by economists and even famous central bankers have turned out to be incorrect. It turns out that human beings - as consumers, investors, bankers, stock traders - have not behaved in precisely the ways "rigorous" economic theories predicted that they would. Even Alan Greenspan, former Chairman of the Federal Reserve, showed his surprise at human nature at a congressional hearing late last year: "I made a mistake in presuming that the self-interests of organizations, specifically banks and others, were such as that they were best capable of protecting their own shareholders and their equity in the firms."