Being reflexive.

Better night last night with almost 4 hours REM in one hit, what’s the frequency Kenneth?

Throat still sore but just managed some toast and a small cup of tea.

Mucal sputum lessening?

Well reading yesterday’s and today’s Grauniad there were a number of pieces that reminded me of my masters thesis, good to know the world’s beginning to catch up with me, probably because I’ve been ill.

The first was an obituary about Ulrich Beck a German sociologist. His best known work was called Risk Society: Towards a New Modernity and was a significant book referenced in my thesis. In it he outlines his concept of “reflexive modernisation” which suggests that we need to reframe the way we understand and examine the effects of globalised industrialisation. That there are many unintended consequences, climate change being an obvious and good example, and we need to develop this reflexive approach. My understanding of reflexive is that it goes beyond the reflective, i.e. just looking at what is happening, and places ourselves in the process and how our norms, politics, desires and so on play their part. Lately he’d been working on trying to develop international institutions that actually work!

Shit that was hard to write, like I was back writing my thesis but no apologies as it made me sad to read of his death, and he died of a heart attack not cancer.

The second piece was by Peter Scott in yesterday’s education section, he typically writes about higher education and the shenanigans that have been going on. I also referenced him in my thesis, oh what a small world I inhabit. But he is bemoaning the loss of a sense of public purpose in higher education. Partly this is about what I’ve already written about in that our public services have become increasingly ‘corporatised’ and now look, behave and operate more like private corporations than public institutions. His argument is that as our universities and other higher education institutions become more like the private behemoths they are losing their “sense of public responsibility and wider social purpose”. One key loss is the one I’ve always believed to be vital for a flourishing higher education system and therefore society is that of the space disinterested science and scholarship needs to flourish. Instead the ‘bottom line’ is increasingly all that matters. Just look at the way the chief executives of universities now behave paying themselves grotesque amounts and the rest.

Listening to the Oysterband, most apt with what I’m writing.

Finally George Monbiot bemoans the way housing developments don’t consider children at all as they include little in the way of open spaces or places where children can play. I’m sure pretty much every one of us writing and reading this blog have said how different it was for us when we were children with the freedom and space to play. Basically because it is very true. The reasons for this change are many, but I think significantly include parental fear. Harking back to Beck our increasingly technological and industrialised world has unleashed a range of hazardous risks and we have not yet developed ways of effectively managing them, let alone understanding them. This has raised all our levels of fear and we’ve imposed these fears onto our children. Traffic is an obvious fear and there are far fewer child deaths and injury caused by road traffic accidents, mainly because far fewer children play near traffic. But there are also so many other fears in our modern world and which modern media and advertising so effectively play on. I think my following story beautifully illustrates this.

I used to do some training at my school and in one exercise people were asked to rate different scenarios as dangerous or not. During this a trainee said they wouldn’t let their daughter out alone after dark (remember this is in Swanage), I asked them how old their daughter was, they said 16. At this point I started to feel a little guilty as I let my much younger daughter out after dark. Anyway I then asked why, they said because of all the bad things that might happen to them. I then asked where they got this information of bad things, they said the TV and papers. Finally I asked if they knew of any of these things happening in Swanage, they replied no.

Monbiot’s article is about how market forces have dictated this lack of play areas for children (actually wouldn’t play areas for adults also be good?), but my thoughts I think add how our thinking and behaviour have played their part as well. Our children are already suffering from this. One solution would be to ask children what they want for play and public spaces. Thing is companies already do this but with regard to car design; they ask what children would want in a car, put these things in and then sit back as children pester parents to get these certain cars. Oh that canny old market.

Manifesto 56:

  • all housing developments to involve public input in their design and to include significant public and play areas.

Keep on keeping on, love Duncan.


One thought on “Being reflexive.

  1. Sort of apologies that it’s me again – worked with Peter Scott for several years at Leeds,; invited him to Plymouth to talk to educationalists – he and I spoke of failings in HE (higher education) governance amongst other things. He is inspirationally humane and fairness runs in his blood. Throughout his talk however, the erstwhile CEO who is now abusing the role of VC kept leaping to ‘their’ feet (from the front row, facing Peter), to wave at whoever was twittering in the back rows – while PS was speaking. I was slack-jawed in disgust. But then I am oldskool.

    Today’s piece Duncan is inspired; please do not stop writing – is it time yet to dig out the grauniad contact?
    love and respeck, xx
    PS, listen to Peace piece by Bill Evans, jazz pianist – came across him recently, superb, though Kate won’t agree despite the title…


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