Friday, July 18, 2008


An Italian Example

There's a line in Primo Levi's Moments of Reprieve: A Memoir of Auschwitz that I came across. Reflecting on Italy, he says:
It often happens these days that you hear people say they’re ashamed of being Italian. In fact we have good reasons to be ashamed: first and foremost, of not having been able to produce a political class that represents us and, on the contrary, tolerating for thirty years one that does not.
Now there's a fine statement of the American situation as well!

Wednesday, July 16, 2008


A Lesson from Free Software

I’ve just finished reading through Christopher Kelty’s Two Bits, which is a review of the Free Software movement from an ethnological standpoint, as well as an exploration of his concept of the ‘recursive public’. (True to the open source mission, the book is available free on the Web.) I was particularly struck, though, by the remark he makes in the Conclusion:
The Mertonian ideals [disinterestedness, communalism, organized skepticism, objectivity] are in place once more, this time less as facts of scientific method than as goals [for society]. The problem of stabilizing collective knowledge has moved from being an inherent feature of science to being a problem that needs our attention.

I think this translates into a very powerful statement about what the Forum approach can address. It can encourage the participants to strive to the ideals Robert Merton defined in the context of the scientific method, but in the context of understanding political discourse and governance. And it sets a goal of achieving stable (i.e., tested, validated, and accepted) collective historical and social knowledge with which to pursue that understanding.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008


Lest Ye Despair

Arthur Schlesinger, Jr., was fond of this quote from Finley Peter Dunne's Mr. Dooley:
I've seen the Dimmycratic party hangin' to the ropes a score iv times. I've seen it dead an' buried an' th' Raypublicans kindly buildin' a monymint f'r it... I've gone to sleep nights wonderin' where I'd throw away me vote afther this an' whin I woke up there was that crazy- headed ol' loon iv a party with its hair sthreamin' in its eyes, an' an axe in its hand, chasin' Raypublicans into th' tall grass. 'Tis niver so good as whin 'tis broke.

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