Wednesday, October 22, 2008

The Ins and Outs of Crisis

I'm going to have to write a longer post about this a some point, but I want a get a few thoughts down. I have long held that academic research ought to be a series of "ordinary crises", which, being ordinary, would be unthreatening while at the same time offering a continuous challenge to one's foundations. The coming and going of such crises, and the habit of dealing with them, is what would turn our writing into what I call "critical occasions", i.e., opportunities to rethink things at pretty deep level.

Academic research is "critical" in way that is very different than what you might find at the "critical care" unit at your local hospital. And yet, it's the same sort of idea. As an academic your work is connected to the possiblity of your being fundamentally wrong. The important difference is that in academics you survive, even if your ideas don't. You have a right to be wrong.

But there are other kinds of crisis. There is, for example, the financial crisis (though I am told this industry is relatively "recession proof"). There is disease, divorce, and, yes, there are broken bones. It makes life difficult, throws you off your game and makes work harder. Like I say, this is not a finished thought. But as I look forward to casting off my knee-brace, I am begining to see the importance of various kinds of a "critical conditions". Now back to the couch.

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