Friday, 16 January 2009

Creative Destruction

I think I must have nodded off in front of the radio last night. I dreamed there was a broadcast on Radio 4, given by a hedge fund manager, arguing for the strengths of the theories of the Austrian economist Joseph Schumpeter, as a sort of anti-Keynesian, entrepreneur-friendly remedy to the current financial crisis. The expression "creative destruction" figured largely (something my subconscious had clearly devised with the intention of winding up Paul Butzi over at the Musings on Photography blog ...)

Things got whacky when, in this very realistic but utterly boring dream, I heard that the Librarian at Schumpeter's university had challenged him to a duel, with swords, because he and Schumpeter had quarrelled over students' access to books. Thank you, Dr. Freud ... Like that would ever happen!

Anyway, as I'm sure you realise, this all turns out to have been true, which just goes to show (well, I'm not sure what). I confess the idea of duelling as a way of managing the excessive demands of academics on our library services has a certain appeal. I may advocate to my boss the appointment of a Library Champion for just such a purpose. ("You have a problem with our policy on the late return of short-loan books? Step this way, please ... May I introduce Dr. De'Ath?")

I have no opinion on Schumpeter whatsoever, though I read this in Wikipedia:
In the same book, Schumpeter expounded a theory of democracy which sought to challenge what he called the 'classical doctrine'. He disputed the idea that democracy was a process by which the electorate identified the common good, and politicians carried this out for them. He argued this was unrealistic, and that people's ignorance and superficiality meant that in fact they were largely manipulated by politicians, who set the agenda. This made a 'rule by the people' concept both unlikely and undesirable. Instead he advocated a minimalist model, much influenced by Max Weber, whereby democracy is the mechanism for competition between leaders, much like a market structure. Although periodical votes from the general public legitimize governments and keep them accountable, the policy program is very much seen as their own and not that of the people, and the participatory role for individuals is severely limited.
I'm confused: isn't that the way it works now? Have I missed something?

Stop Press: Actually, the duelling may not be necessary, at least as far as the paying customers are concerned: in the Times Higher Education annual Student Experience Survey, our library has scored very highly (Ahem. In the top ten of 100 odd universities). They love us, they really love us, after all! [sobs incoherently]

No comments: