Issue Entrepreneurship

In July I wrote a longish entry, “It’s hard to predict”, where among others things I stressed the importance of what I call ‘network thinking’. I concluded that section by saying “the strongest advice I could give to any individual or business is to become sensitive to where you fit in your networks, learn to think in terms of nodes and connections and the complex interactions and feedback between them, and be conscious of the dynamics of your patterns of connection. Whether you are aware of it or not, your success or failure is going to bound up in how well or not you identify, create and navigate your networks.”
I was pleased to find the other day a piece by Philip Agre, whose work I have long admired, making a similar point:
“Successful people, in my experience, engage in a great deal of issue entrepreneurship, repeatedly evolving their issues and expanding their networks as they go along. A well-chosen issue will identify what sociologists call a structural hole: a bunch of people, preferably already well-connected in other ways, who ought to know one another but don’t. By identifying such an issue, the issue entrepreneur spots an opportunity to become centrally located in newly emerging social networks — a position that can generally be converted to some kind of advantage, even if the details of that advantage are not necessarily clear at the outset. There is nothing wrong with this. It is a powerful way of understanding the world, and I wish that everyone knew how to do it. Yet this central skill of social life is a mystery to almost everyone, with the result that society is filled with misguided theories, e.g., that power is completely seamless and static, or that success is simply a matter of hard work or else entirely arbitrary.”

The other September 11th

Thirty years ago on September 11th there was an attack from the air on another building of symbolic importance. Then it was La Modena – the Presidential Palace in Santiago de Chile – and the planes were Chilean Air force jets. While the numbers killed in the Palace were relatively small, about 3000 disappeared in the events that followed and thousands more were imprisoned, tortured, forced into exile or lived in fear. This too was an assault on a country with a democratically elected government by people who believed they had God on their side.
There will be others better qualified than me who will no doubt be drawing parallels between the two September 11ths over the next few days. What I would like to draw attention to is another less remarked loss from the first – the destruction of a cybernetic system designed to run a national economy in real time.

Continue reading The other September 11th