laborious joy

It is a while back already … a small …, well, lets say dispute with Laurent:
A propos, I am very happy with your article. Of course you have problems  to explain your thoughts (you know this) but according to me what you said is very interesting.
I know that you are to some extent right with what you say about my difficulties to explain certain things; however the other half is that we – probably all of us – unlearned accepting that reading and understanding is WORK, the stuff just flying at us is usually unruly rubbish, lacking depth and appearing nicely, deceiving. People jump into the water and … did you ever jump into a pool at the shallow end …, only sometimes you get away with it,
Yes, yes, and in Dutch we should say  tja, tja
Right, reading and understanding is ‘work’. Right. But……it can not be an argument  to write something what can be better articulated.
took a while, Ja Ja …, oder: na eh [that could be Bavarian I guess …]
I think again 50/50, it is too often wrong that things are expressed in simple ways, leaving out the needed provocation, and that was part of that article too. Iin general, from my current experience: we have a major ’translation problem’, actually two problems – and this is important, without joke:
myself, being a hybrid, face again and again the problem that it is nearly impossible to understand things as soon as we ‘leave the box’. There are things in economics we cannot even think, articulate  in law and vice versa. Add political science and sociology and …
Second, I talked the other day with a colleague from Bolivia – she is also working here and asked me for some advise: she has to review an article for a book, the author being from Peru. There we have entirely different understanding of certain legal facts, paradigms etc. The author uses a more or less narrative style. However, somebody else in her project does not understand that and will not accept it, as he is academic in the area of law, strictly. So, while highly qualified, he has at times a narrow approach as well when it comes to putting things into forms. Now, you can do this, it is easy to ’understand’ ,…, and mostly wrong. I guess this is also part of …’s [or who ever wrote it] article on CSR. There had been in the first version [the one I know] at least certain things that cannot be written this way in an international journal: they had been simply wrong – so to be skipped or to be ’translated’ – and such translation would mean: the reader has to work it out. – Sure, in that case, the reader had to be informed about the Chinese context ….
This … had been a more or less great though rare pleasure in China: being together with a Chinese friend, and getting ‘permanently into trouble’, knowing that we need[ed] to work out what we mean. Dictionaries only tell shadows of truth — thus, coming back to the work, somewhat ruthless debate would be good, daring to dispute things, to disagree and speak about it and come to a conclusion …. . It may even end in lasting love if this is the correct term …
—— —— ——
The afternoon of the very day, after sending the last mail I was standing in the Lenbach Haus, the issue returning to me while looking in the one room at some paintings

Carl Friedrich Lessing: Eichenwald mit rastendem Jaeger, 1839

Joseph Wopfner: Haensel und Gretel, 1875

Adolph Henrich Lier: Buchenwald im Herbst, ca 1874

I would say ‘nothing special, though lovely capturing for the moment’. And of course it is hopeless to convey the clandestine, inner beauty by reproducing these works. Also as such beauty is one of the moment, the mood: permanent because immortal and nevertheless quickly elapsing as any shadow does with the change of the light by which it is aroused. It is the mood of the spectator that is part of the spectre.
The question of the said moment, linking paintings and the conversation is somewhat straightforward, presuming that the reader accepts that reading is more than the deciphering of sequences of letters – extensively discussed in semiotics anyway.
Paintings do what academics are expected to do – isolating certain matters, cutting the environment off in order to be able to cut the matter itself into pieces. That is what we see in the paintings: it does not give us any idea of the forest – where it is, its seize, its location in the universe … this way a lot of information is cut-off: not accessible.
  • It is like the surgeon – during some heart surgery the heart is somewhat disjoint from the body, its functions taken over by an artificial machine …, it is no problem, for some time …
  • It is like the economist who calculates opportunity cost when looking at the feasibility of the investment in a new technology – calculations may be for instance conjoined with what is called demographic scenarios, or with an estimated behavior of a competing investor or with any other variable. Even a Richard Thaler or Eleanor Estrom are depending by and large on such contractions – stimulating and still it remains cut off realities.
  • It is like a lawyer, looking at what exactly was happening, but taking it as action, at most as behaviour without being able to understand the entire ’scene’ as part of complex societal practice.
—— —— ——
Have a look at the paintings then – though isolating a small scene, delving enormously into details [especially the one by Lessing applying an extremely fine brushstroke; but also Bear’s, seemingly presenting a broad lash] maintain somewhat magically the universe within the painting
Fritz Baer: Abend im Walde, ca 1914
— the light, the movement … , magically, and requiring to work, with this arriving at the real joy of being spectator and magically e-merging as part of the spectre, playing in the best of its meanings   …
… yes, it may well be that this made life so laborious before the disenchantment, so-called at is still left us with its own bifurcation. And this work makes some prone to populism, and others obsessed to pretended clarity, in particular clarity dressed up in digits.

Easily ending in the death of the theorist and the emergence of data and algorithms in digital social researc.and then in boxing humans.


one of the root causes of bad academics today

One of the root causes of the problems of academic work today is surely the lack of open, possibly confrontative communication. Instead of sitting alone in the offices, and ‘communicating’ by way of gathering information, we may learn from a kind of small print we find in the preface to Keynes’ General Theory of Employment, Interest and Money.

The writer of a book such as this, treading along unfamiliar paths, is extremely dependent on criticism and conversation if he is to avoid an undue proportion of mistakes. It is astonishing what foolish things one can temporarily believe if one thinks too long alone, particularly in economics (along with the other moral sciences), where it is often impossible to bring one’s ideas to a conclusive test either formal or experimental.

Well, there is so much in economics – even in unexpected veins – one could sometimes think economists are just ordinary human beings.