Archive for November, 2011

Worry and insurance

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

Context: All state ad, asks do you worry about your life, about your home, about your car? Solution is All State.


Makes me wonder if we worry about things after they become insurable. Perhaps pre-commodification of labour, one would not have to worry about unemployment. I think it is correct that insurance came out after the worrying moment, at least in the past, whether it participates in creating thi worry today, by advertising it and by existing is not really clear to me.


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Agency and Determinancy as explained in Sports

November 27, 2011 Leave a comment

The goalkeeper takes a goal-kick, it hits a midfielder, he passes to the right wing-man who lobs the ball into the center where it’s headed into the goal by the attacking forward! The crowd goes wild!

This kind of scenario can be seen in any team sport, generally in basketball, football, american football, and basketball, assists are counted, but they only count the last player to touch the ball prior to the player scoring. The question then is, who gets credit for scoring the goal? It seems like the commonsense answer is that the last person to touch the ball is the one who scores it, but the role of the assist is so important that it is counted, and an award is given for most assists. But why do we stop there? Why not count the mid-fielder or even the goalkeeper who set all the events in motion as assistants as well. How much credit does the scorer really take? Had the goalie made a different play he would have never gotten his feet on the ball.

But why stop there? What if the goalie had had a particularly good morning, maybe his partner made him breakfast in bed, maybe the sun was shining, maybe something triggered a particular memory. The answer is that practically it becomes impossible to locate agency anywhere, so we just assume that all of the chaos cancels out and that only immediate factors are important, in football its the second to last touch on the ball.

What about larger things though, things like war, or crime, how can we hold anyone culpable and why? That’s why i don’t think it is practical or useful to discuss agency and perhaps even causation. It may be, as post-structuralists argue, that this is simply a problem of language, that the phrases we use are simply unable to cope with understanding a world in which “agency” is different. Or it may be that there really is a logical problem with agency and that out language though insufficient still captures a problem.

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The purpose of Undergraduate Education

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

Context: Futures seminar for International Studies.

Most in the meeting argued that employees want to hire people who think critically, and that they will teach them the skills later. Undergraduate education is supposed to allow students to grow as people, develop time organization skills, to experiment and test themselves. It is not necessary to gain a vocation from a liberal education. The program must not market itself as leading to any specific job, but focus on broadening student horizons, emphasizing the limits and humility of problem solving, look at the world as a challenge not as a problem.

Liberal Education

I really had trouble agreeing with all of this. Education costs so much it must lead to a job. It is not worth spending that much money simply to grow as a person. otherwise all students could simply go to community colleges. There is a reason students go to top schools, and although that reason is supposedly to get a better education what that means is that students want to get better jobs and make money while getting a good experience. But the good experience happens anywhere, as a product of the age of the student, as a product of delayed adulthood etc… If college is to teach life skills then it should make no difference which university you go to. Employers hire students from top universities because they are supposed to be smart, because the university offsets selection costs of trial and error. Yes But also add to that, that universities are supposed to prepare students for vocations. Obviously there is a difference between doing engineering and doing English Literature, or political science, but ultimately each degree should prepare the student for the job market. The growing process and time management are nice side effects, but they are not necessary. It is irresponsible to establish this program without an eye toward what graduates will do and how they will reoup their investment. Granted this is a very capitalist way of thinking of the issue and there is a commodification of labour and of education here. But I am separating my social activist side, from the side that feels responsible to deal with the structural constraints of a capitalist system.

Liberal education is nice and dandy to talk about but it is foolish advice and guidance to leave students without vocational preparation. The idea that the MA is what prepares students for specific problem solving skills, and that we can link up to SAIS is part of the problem with degree inflation that is pushing society and labour in impossible directions which decrease vertical mobility.


Update 1:

So the case being made is that education does prepare you for the workforce, but in the way of giving you flexibility of skills for the liberal studies. I am now realizing education is not about educating at all, but about accrediting. Which is why a Harvard or JHU student has massive advantages. Not because the university is much better than a community college (which it might be) no matter how you define better, but because you rub elbows with rich people and when you come out you have networks and a paper which tells you that you are valuable. Why? Because that’s the socially implicit agreement. In any case having a degree whether liberal arts of hard sciences helps only if you get it from the right university. So the assumption that education is for training is flawed because it is for accrediting and weeding out the bad from the good, itself an unfair process.

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Final notes for Intro to IR

November 23, 2011 Leave a comment

When using dyad interactions for statistics (measuring frequency and number of interaction,m war events) It is not useful to use dyad years. This forces the data to duplicate if an event falls across to years, or if more than one vent falls within the same year. Instead interaction between individuals and states tend to cluster (see book Bursts which is lame but makes this same point) SO instead of a Dyad year, once should use dyad cluster of interaction. (Dyad means that an event is counted twice from perspective of both actors interacting).

Game theory assumes first game to be T0 but this isnt really the case, there are a long list of previous interactions that come previously, and actors change after every round played. Game theory is good as an analytical type, to explain, but not to predict. If history is a single event, point 0 is in three thousand BC.

There is no point in talking about theory without referring to empirical examples. The cases make the theory. If every case is unique then the only way to create theory is from experience. (phenomenology Husserl)

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