Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Interdisciplinary Connections, Complexity Theory, Classical Liberalism, Integrated Coastal Management, Sociology of Science, and Symbolic Anthropology

As my doctoral studies slowly advance I am beginning to perceive ideological connections between various disciplines that have not, at least from my reading of the literatures, obviously influenced each other very much. I can think of a few reasons why I might be drawing these connections where others have not.

The first, and most unlikely, explanation is that I am a really clever fellow who has managed to stitch together some unified threads that coherently tie all of these seemingly disparate disciplines together.

A more likely explanation is that my relative isolation from academic interactions, (living on an island in the middle of the Yellow Sea) has resulted in a much more random, almost hodgepodge, journey through the major thinkers in academia than is typical for doctoral students. This lack of guidance has allowed me to wander about, so to speak, with greater freedom through the thoughts of academics from diverse disciplines and backgrounds.

The final explanation is that this aimless wandering has caused me to see mirages. Like a man lost in a desert without a guide and water Ive started seeing connections that arent really there.

So as a corrective I thought I would briefly list why I think the above disciplines are connected by common philosophical or ideological sympathies.

1. All of the disciplines understand the world to be a deeply complex place about which we can have only partial and imperfect knowledge.

2. None of the disciplines think that this complexity can be made unproblematic, mastered, or overcome.

3. All of these disciplines are skeptical of centralized and distanced authority and hierarchy.

4. All of these disciplines recognize and value diversity and believe it to be very deeply seated. Believing the world to be ontologically one thing, while admitting the existence of multiple epistemologies, is not sufficient. Rather they all argue, without necessarily retreating into relativism, that one should have a very humble opinion of ones own opinions.

Does anyone else who is familiar with these disciplines agree, or not?



  1. I wouldn't disagree with you, I would say that "clever fellows" tend to come to the same general opinions about differant subjects via different methods, hence the broad similarities of the theories. What would be interesting (in my perspective at least) is to understand which theories "lay" people associate with most and to see if that could be a tool for education. Maybe there is a place for the phrase "Jacksonian democracy" in marine conservation after all.

  2. Thanks for the comment.
    There is a supposedly good new biography about Andrew Jackson, called American Lion. Apparently he was quite a character.
    And I agree with you that bringing more "Jacksonian democracy" to marine conservation is a good idea. In ICM (integrated coastal management) we have usually called this "co-management." Some of the projects in this regard have been really interesting (see my earlier post about Chile) but my personally experiences have been pretty disappointing. We Westerners, despite a lot of good talk, are pretty shit at getting outside ourselves so our co-management initiatives tend to be pretty shallow in terms of really working through and with indigenous partners rather than imposing foreign cookie-cutter solutions.