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Between Fear and Disappointment: Critical, Empirical and Political Uses of Habermas by Dr Ricardo Blaug

Since the foundation of the Frankfurt School, critical theory has conceived of its relation to practice in a number of ways. While it sought to produce a theoretical analysis which might, in some way, assist those actually participating in processes of enlightenment, it was also careful to limit its direct application to practical matters. Theory was, variously, to have indirect effects, to be sub- ordinate to the primacy of practice, or even to itself be conceived as a kind of practice. Yet no matter how limited, critical theory always had some irreducible utopian element.

 
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Cognition in a Hierarchy by Dr Ricardo Blaug

To contribute to the organizational turn in research on participatory democracy, this paper examines the effects of organizational hierarchy on individual thinking. Power corrupts, but neither political scientists nor psychologists can really tell us how. To identify mechanisms by which it does so, the paper introduces recent advances in the field of cognitive psychology, here to suspicious political theorists. The study of cognition shows that we actively make meaning, and that we do so with a discernable neurological apparatus. The paper presents hierarchy as a social construct that ‘fits’ this apparatus in such a way as to assist the capture of meaning by the interests of power.

 
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Engineering Democracy by Dr Ricardo Blaug

This paper presents a critical assessment of current initiatives to deepen democracy and seeks to examine why they often fail. By analysing their various, and conflicting, conceptions of participation and associational life, it argues that many of the difficulties they encounter can be attributed to a usually unexamined set of organisational assumptions. These assumptions are then inspected in order to analyse the breakdown of communication that can occur between incumbent social engineers trying to institutionalize more democracy, and those more critical and grassroots initiatives which emanate from the periphery of power. With this distinction in view, a series of recurrent problems around the institutionalization of democratic processes are investigated. Finally, the paper explores the implications of the distinction for how we can aid and deepen democracy more effectively.

 
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Outbreaks of Democracy by Dr Ricardo Blaug

Nowadays, everyone's a democrat. Everyone believes that authority rests on the consent of the governed. Even dictators hold elections, and claim they represent the will of the people. Democracy boasts a moral superiority as well as a unique performance. As the safest, most decent and most effective method of government, it has at last triumphed over its enemies, and now claims to be the only legitimate and viable political form.

 
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How Power Corrupts - A digest of Dr. Ricardo Blaug, How Power Corrupts: Cognition and Democracy in Organisations, London: Palsgrave Macmillan, 2010, paperback 2014.

For democrats, we do not manage our leaders well. Be they members of parliament or investment bankers, they endlessly misbehave. Ask anyone if they agree with Lord Acton’s observation that power corrupts’, and they will nod knowingly. Then they will offer other examples, and perhaps a caveat. Before long they are holding forth on one of the classic problems of politics.

 
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Pathologies of Power and Cognition by Dr Ricardo Blaug in P. Garrard & G. Robinson (eds.), The Intoxication of Power: Interdisciplinary Insights, London: Palgrave Macmillan, (2015).

Leadership and hierarchy are effective ways of coordinating human activity, but they also tempt us into making chronic mistakes. Students of history have long been concerned by the psychological effects of gaining power over others and can point to numerous examples where seemingly reasonable individuals have become pathologically destructive and cruel upon the assumption of social roles of high status. Similarly, myth and fable caution against the pathologies of power, while standard accounts of notorious emperors (Nero, Caligula), infamous warlords (Genghis Khan, Coriolanus) and psychotic dictators (Hitler, Stalin) have long served to highlight the dangers of tyrannical, hubristic or corrupted thinking. Well-worn popular quotes inform us that power ‘goes to the head’ and ‘absolute power corrupts absolutely.’ More recently, researchers in organisational and management studies, psychoanalysis, social psychology, linguistic and neural science6 have sought to provide additional tools by means of which to identify, explain and manage this troubling tendency. Of particular interest are current attempts to determine clinical indicators for hubris as a psychopathology. Given our apparent inability to adequately manage power in our society, a better account of the scope of these pathologies and the mechanisms by which they occur would be of considerable value.

 
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Blind Hierarchism & Radical Organisational Forms by Dr Ricardo Blaug

This paper explores the challenge posed by current initiatives in anti-institu- tional theory and practice. It outlines these initiatives, and then proceeds to clarify the criticisms made against them, concentrating on their alleged ineffectiveness and undem- ocratic nature. When carefully analysed, however, such criticisms are seen to be more an expression of a particular organizational paradigm than the product of rational evalu- ation. By explicating the nature of this paradigm, here termed “hierarchism,” the paper shows how radical organizational forms become occluded, with the result that the important advances they offer are missed.