Tuesday, July 03, 2012

"Something Wicked This Way Comes," from the New Yorker.

This excellent essay (thanks, R) offers a view of the difference between wicked and tame problems, and more strikingly to me, reference to three basic forms of reactionary response to progress and social advancement: Perversity, futility, and jeopardy. We've heard these troglodyte responses so many times in New Albany that the effect is somewhat numbing. We'll hear them again, won't we?

SOMETHING WICKED THIS WAY COMES, posted by Atul Gawande (New Yorker)

... Two decades ago, the economist Albert O. Hirschman published a historical study of the opposition to basic social advances; “the rhetoric of intransigence,” as he put it. He examined the structure of arguments—in the eighteenth century, against expansions of basic rights, such as freedom of speech, thought, and religion; in the nineteenth century, against widening the range of citizens who could vote and participate in government; and, in the twentieth century, against government-assured minimal levels of education, economic well-being, and security. In each instance, the reforms aimed to address deep, pressing, and complex societal problems—wicked problems, as we might call them. The reforms pursued straightforward goals but required inherently complicated, difficult-to-explain means of implementation. And, in each instance, Hirschman observed, reactionary argument took three basic forms: perversity, futility, and jeopardy.

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