Ситуационный анализ и институциональная теория прогресса К. Поппера и их применение

Ситуационный анализ и институциональная теория прогресса К. Поппера и их применение

by Евгений Волков -
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The Poverty of Historicism appeared as three is best known as a demolition of the idea of historical inevitability although there were positive as well as critical aspects. The positives are the theory of situational logic in history, and the institutional theory of progress. Sections 31 and 32 provide an extremely compact statement about the need for institutional studies and a call for the kind of work that Douglas North pursued to win a Nobel Prize in Economics (North 1933). " Economic Performance Through Time, December 1993 http://www.nobelprize.org/…/laureat…/1993/north-lecture.html

Popper urged the use of institutional analysis as an alternative to the psychological approach of Comte and Mill to explain the phenomenon of human progress. They believed that progress in science and industry is an absolute trend, based on the progressive tendency of the human mind. Popper noted that there are other tendencies of the human mind like forgetfulness, indolence and dogmatism. 
"This immediately leads to the realization that a psychological propensity alone cannot be sufficient to explain progress, since conditions may be found on which it may depend. Thus we must, next, replace the theory of psychological propensities by something better; I suggest, by an institutional (and technological) analysis of the conditions of progress".(154)
He flagged the social nature of science in Chapter 23 of The Open Society where he described both the emerging sociology of knowledge and the push for central planning as twin dangers to be confronted after the war. In place of the psychological approach he suggested that a more tenable theory will consider the conditions of progress and he addressed this in a rather counter-intuitive way by trying to imagine conditions under which progress would be arrested. For example he suggested that might be achieved by closing down (or subjecting to political control) laboratories for research, scientific periodicals, congresses and conferences, universities and printing presses. 
"Science, and more especially scientific progress, are the results not of isolated efforts but of the free competition of thought. For science needs ever more competition between hypotheses and ever more rigorous tests. And the competing hypotheses need personal representation, as it were: they need advocates, they need a jury, and even a public. This personal representation must be institutionally organized if we wish to ensure that it works. And these institutions have to be paid for, and protected by law. Ultimately, progress depends very largely on political factors; on political institutions that safeguard the freedom of thought: on democracy." (155)

After the war Popper turned to his primary interests in physics, probability theory and biology so it was left to associates and followers to put flesh on the bones of his Situational Analysis framework in the social sciences. Tullock was inspired by Popper to write The Organization of Inquiry which describes how particular attitudes to research and the institutional constraints imposed by journals and granting agencies can undermine the quality of the work (Tullock 1965).

Ian Jarvie was an early adopter of Popper’s “three world” theory of objective knowledge and he explored how this worked in conjunction with Popper’s situational logic in relation to some contemporary issues in sociology in Concepts and Society (1972).

He pursued the theme in a paper “Action Theory from the Viewpoint of Anthropology and Ethnography” (Jarvie 1984). http://www.yorku.ca/jarvie/online_publications/Action.pdf 
This appeared as a booklet in 1984 Rationality and Relativism, In Search of a Philosophy and History of Anthropology.

Later in “Rationality and Situational Analysis in Popper’s Scientific Work” (1984) he took a novel tack to show how Popper exemplified the practice of situational analysis in relation to intellectual problems. He challenged the generally accepted view that Popper did not contribute to substantive problems in the social sciences. He demonstrating how Popper’s signature ideas allied with situational analysis (of texts) produced at least nineteen important contributions in The Poverty of Historicism and The Open Society and Its Enemies. The signature ideas are methodological individualism, logic of the situation, unintended consequences and the rationality principle.

Jarvie noted complaints that “What Popper says on each…is skimpy and unclear, possibly not coherent. But clarity, for Popper, is relevant to problems and situations…In this paper…the approach is to treat Popper as a social scientist and to look at his scientific practice to illuminate his signature ideas”. In a summary table (supported by the text) Jarvie grouped the nineteen contributions in three sections; history, sociology and political science. The history section includes the critique of historicism, an analysis of the rise of nationalism and conjectures about the Socratic Problem and the dating of Plato’s works. In sociology; the hypothesis of the “strain of civilization” in the transition between closed and open societies and a sociological account of objectivity in science. In political science; the protectionist theory of the state, the paradoxes of sovereignty, freedom and tolerance, and a proposal to maintain peace without punishing the people of a belligerent nation (such as Germany) in the aftermath of war (WWI). 

The art historian Ernst Gombrich (1909-2001), the man who saw The Open Society and Its Enemies through the press, wrote “The Logic of Vanity Fair: Alternatives to Historicism in the Study of Fashions, Style and Taste” (Gombrich, 1974). He applied situational analysis driven by strategies such as “watch me” to the competition between French Gothic cathedrals (each taller than the last) and the adoption of innovations and fads in architecture, fashion and music. A more sinister example of the process came from Jonathan Swift’s satire of the war between Lilliput and Blefusco due to a dispute between the “Big-Endians” and the “Little-endians” over which end to open to eat a boiled egg. Gombrich used this fictional example to demonstrate the logic of escalation of conflict over trivia when the issues become politicized and this has achieved contemporary relevance due to the push for political correctness in the use of language and personal pronouns.

Roger James identified what he called the solutioneering approach to public policy-making in Return to Reason: Popper’s Thought in Public Life (1980). This can be described as the game of “watch me” applied to social engineering. It means jumping to a solution before clearly formulating what the problem is, then making the main goal of policy to achieve the solution regardless of the cost and the unintended consequences which might have been avoiding or minimised with appropriate planning and risk management. The idea is to think of a project, over-estimate the benefits, underestimate the costs and the time required for implementation and insist that it is so urgent that there is no time to lose. If all else fails, describe the cost as a social benefit. James described the process at work in Britain after the war in town planning, the national health service and some major government projects which were launched during the heyday of nationalization.

Tyrell Burgess adopted Popper’s ideas in his work on education in Britain, looking for immediate action on problems such as illiteracy without trying to fix everything that was supposed to be the underlying cause – race, unemployment, inequality, poor housing, ill health, old school buildings, unsupportive parents. He called this “multiple digression analysis” and suggested instead to go straight to the immediate situation and develop more effective teaching methods by evaluating the outcome from the various methods that are available. He pursued the practical implications of Popper’s four stage problem-solving schema and also the 27 points which Popper spelled out to sum up his position at the start of the 1971 debate with the Frankfurt School in Germany (Burgess, 1985).

Paul Knepper drew a comparison between the approach of the Austrians and Popper in his account of “situational crime prevention” based on analysis of the opportunities which criminals exploit and taking steps to reduce the opportunities and increase the costs. He cited Popper and Gary Becker as the inspiration for this approach and he cited a body of literature on the topic (Knepper, 2017).

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