New bottles for old wine

–People are still struck by the same-old/same-old despite whatever new jargon is now in play. The point here is that even if new bottles for old wine, that bottling is necessary for pushing complex policy, management and politics further.

–New bottles are pertinent in two ways. First, common terms are useful when taking on more nuanced meaning(s): When I use “risk,” I am not subscribing to the ISO 31000 definition; when I use “contingency,” I do not mean the way, say, Marxist Louis Althusser positioned it; when I call for humility, I mean to include a vigilance others do not single out; by “ignorance” I mean not just an engineer’s unstudied conditions, but also unstudiable ones.

Second, more nuanced terms can mean a greater level of granularity with regard to what matters. For example, I use “policy palimpsest” instead of its seeming synonyms–“language games,” “discourse systems,” “dispositif.” Why? Because a policy palimpsest is always with respect to a specific policy, management issue, or complex of issues (e.g., failed states) and at a level of detail that matter for changing the issue(s) now, and not just later.

–Of course, bearing witness, permanent critique, and long-term planning remain other kinds of approaches. They and such are not the only options, however, or even primary ones. Even when classic theories—sociological, post-structuralist, more—get us a good distance along, they fall short of where policymakers and practitioners are to go: case by case, pros ton kairon (“as the occasion merits”).

What, after all, is jargon anyway, but concepts that prematurely cease to go far enough?

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