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The RSA recently published an excellent pamphlet by Paul Ormerod entitled N Squared.

The RSA recently published an excellent pamphlet by Paul Ormerod entitled N Squared.

He was on Radio 4 yesterday if anyone heard it?

As I said, I think it is an excellent pamphlet which strongly makes the point that an understanding of the way networks behave is vital for the future of policy making.

However, I was left annoyed by the pamphlet for dredging up that old Karl Marx quote that “Philosophers have hitherto only interpreted the world in various ways; the point is to change it”.

Ormerod concludes that “Politicians have sought to change the world. The point is that they need to interpret it correctly”

A nice rhetorical flourish but one which completely misunderstands the point Marx was making.

No one could really believe that Marx thought interpreting the world was pointless; after all he spent his whole life doing exactly that!

I am not claiming to fully understand the point Marx was making, which is written in a complex Hegelian style.

However, I think what he is getting at is that we should not think that we can separate interpretation and action. Instead we should aim for a type of interpretation which is bound up with action.

An example of this approach might be the way that the Connected Communities project is looking at how reflexivity works in social network analysis. Our theory is that the very process of mapping social networks itself has benefits, since it encourages those who take part to think of themselves in network terms, and thereby reflect on their responsibility to use, sustain and develop their networks.

I will be running some workshops in New Cross Gate next week. In these workshops we will look at how reflexivity works in some detail. Hopefully, in some small way, we will both interpret and change the world.


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