Posts Tagged ‘Impact’

Certain strands of contemporary ancient economic history have a tendency to suffer from economics envy, rather as some social scientists suffer from science envy: partly it’s the apparent solidity and certainty of the knowledge that it generates, and the confident assertions of its practitioners, unconstrained by the sorts of wishy-washy historicist doubts that plague humanities scholars; partly it’s the fame and the money; and partly, at least some of the time, it’s about the possibility of direct engagement with the world, the fact that ‘real’ people (i.e. policy makers and governments) will actually listen to economists now and again. This envy is then one of the drivers of the adoption of economic theory in the study of the ancient economy – by no means the only driver, as there are entirely sound reasons why some economic ideas can be useful, but it’s surely a factor; hence (again, if we’re being pedantic, among other reasons) the popularity of the New Institutional Economics, which allows ancient historians to align themselves ostentatiously with contemporary (well, only slightly dated) economic approaches without actually having too abandon too much of the complexity and historical specificity that is our bread and butter. It also fuels the ongoing disparagement of alternative approaches to pre-modern economies as naive primitivism, obsessively raking over the fruitless debates of the 1970s rather than facing up to post-1989 reality. As I’ve argued elsewhere – can’t for the moment remember whether it’s here or in a forthcoming publication, or possibly both – the neoliberal agenda is pretty unmistakeable in ancient economic history as elsewhere. (more…)

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Brace For Impact

For obvious reasons, the CIA is desperately casting around for friends and allies at the moment, and isn’t inclined to be too fussy about cosying up to groups with equally blemished reputations, declining public support and clouds of accusations of dubious practice. Naturally this includes Classics and Ancient History. At any rate that’s my reading of a recent piece in the Harvard Review on ‘Classical Studies and Today’s Middle East’ by one Andrew S. Gilmour, a member of the CIA’s Senior Analytic Team. Of course the article comes with a lengthy caveat to the effect that all views, opinions and analysis are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the US Government or any of its agencies, but why else would a high-level spook be waxing lyrical about the potential contribution of Altertumswissenschaft to making sense of the intractable conflicts of the region? “Let us invite professional classicists and their supporters to join the discourse. Then, we may also succeed in winning new students to a discipline too formative to abandon and too useful to forgo.”

I cannot be the only UK-based classicist to read those words and instantly think “IMPACT!!!” (more…)

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I have, now and again, made the jokey claim that if only I were pursuing my research project into the modern influence of Thucydides in the US rather than in Bristol, I would be deluged with offers from well-funded think-tanks and the like, and would have no problem at all in demonstrating Impact. It’s certainly the case that, for any number of different reasons, Thucydides is far more widely cited in public life over there, and there is an obvious precedent for a Thucydides-focused academic getting involved in policy debates in the case of Donald Kagan, whereas here in the UK I’ve been confronted by complete indifference (and a lot of unanswered letters and emails) in attempting to interest anyone in my project to use annotated extracts from Thucydides as a basis for debating key issues about citizenship in schools. The project pre-dates the Impact Agenda, so I was never required to produce an Impact Plan or build any outreach activities into the design; the Thinking Through Thucydides idea was a late and spontaneous development, and I don’t know whether it might have got off the ground if I’d been working at it from the beginning, or whether the lack of interest in Thucydides in the public sphere in the UK would have been grounds for rejecting the whole project. The application I’m developing for Phase II (strictly speaking, Phase III) of the whole enterprise has the TTT project fully integrated into the plan, so perhaps this is the opportunity to test that counterfactual.


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