It is hard now for me to pinpoint the moment when I became aware of the work of Edward Said and when it entered my personal and intellectual radars so to speak. (If interested in other posts on Edward Said, please see the post on On Being an Academic and a Public Intellectual and on Edward Said: Last Public Intellectual). Certainly, my first exposure to him was during my year in Oxford when I was trying to figure out who the Said Business School was named after. It turned out that there was another Said, someone who has nothing to do with the Said Business School, but who is a much more interesting man than the benefactor. But then my knowledge of Edward Said was limited by the odd fact I read that he was throwing stones at Israeli tanks somewhere in the Middle East, and at the same time, was an unlikely professor of English Literature at Columbia University. (more…)
We live in the times of democracy in crisis. This is obvious not only in authoritarian countries, but also in traditionally democratic societies such as the US and The Netherlands. Those that are between the worlds, such as Hungary and other Eastern European countries, democracy is a patient in the emergency room. A prominent public policy scholar Helen Ingram delivered a plenary keynote speech last year at the International Conference on Public Policy in Milano, and there is a footage of this speech about democracy, politics and public policy. I invite all public policy students, scholars and professionals to watch this wonderful lecture. Click on the picture to get linked to the video of Helen’s talk. Apologies in advance for the poor quality of the recording.
What happens when a policy idea becomes internationally popular? An idea that becomes a darling of international policy communities that propagate it and institute a system of reward and punishment around its application. And how then do we know if an idea is only a buzzword or a real instrument that solves problems on the ground? At what level do we start such an examination, and using what set of criteria? Are we starting with the question of effectiveness, that is whether or not a policy is of any good in terms of problems it has been evoked to solve; or rather with the question of how an idea is proliferated and spreads around, that is the question of mechanisms, actors and interests of the process. In other words, what is to be studied first: the process of spread or the outcome o (more…)
Karl Wittfogel, in 1957, published his seminal book “Oriental Despotism“, his claim that state-formation and organization of societies in hierarchies originated from large structural works, mainly irrigation in Mesopotamia and in the Yellow River in China, received much attention. While the hypothesis of Wittfogel on the link between large-scale irrigation works and “despotism” is currently rejected, the Chinese water engineers can be credited for another achievement: they laid the foundation of the game of chess. Dr. David Lee in “The Genealogy of Chess” directly tied the control of water and disastrous flooding to the creation of the ancient board game of Go and the later game of Xiang Qi, which is seen as a prototype of modern chess. Chess, like water management, reached Europe through the Arab world from where the Moors brought it to the Southern Europe in their conquests. (more…)