Crumb Trail
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Tuesday, August 26, 2003

An interesting essay about the foundations of public sector policy confusion.
Being a ‘Renaissance person’ was a lot easier in the Renaissance than it is now. Trying to bring together knowledge from different pools risks ridicule from the inhabitants of each of these highly specialised knowledge ponds.


I was, for a decade or so in the 1970s, a Marxist of the Trotskyist, new left, variety. It was an article of faith on the left - not just Marxists but virtually all progressives - that there was no such thing as ‘human nature’. Whenever argument flared on this issue the works of anthropologists like Margaret Mead and her famous ‘Coming of Age in Samoa’ were called in aid of the infinite variety of human cultures that ‘proved’ there could be no such thing as human nature. Human behaviour was constrained by social-economic, political and cultural forms not by inheritance. Both individually and collectively any ‘bad’ behaviour was merely the result of inadequate social systems, and new and better ones had to be created either by reform or revolution.


I believe some of the major problems in social sciences today are a result of the on-going split between social and physical sciences. Social scientists have only avoided confronting the findings of modern biology, behavioural genetics and evolutionary psychology by remaining in splendid isolation and even ignorance of these developments. This has left us vulnerable to those who have developed more consistent approaches, especially the (one-sided) views of the rational-choice economists. On the other hand, I believe that evolutionary psychologists could benefit from the challenge of the ideas about paradox, derived from organisational theory, which I have tried to develop in this article. It is time, I believe, for a little more ‘militant eclecticism’, more ‘consilience’, and a little less academic isolationism.

This essay is another aspect of the idea in the previous few posts that multidisciplinary approaches can allow progress on a host of problems that have bedeviled public policy.

posted by back40 | 8/26/2003 08:38:00 PM


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