A year in posts

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This blog was born at the end of 2011 and we already have had more than four thousand visitors! This is also, the 75th post in this blog and is again one more reason to celebrate!

Following the tradition of UDADASI and the blog of The Harvard University Press here’s my summary of the top 5 posts for 2011 by the amount of unique visitors,

  1. Joel Cohen: Top 10 key population trends on Earth with 7 billion
  2. The Drug War in Guatemala: A Conversation with Giancarlo Ibarguen
  3. On Free Press and On Capitalism
  4. At the Monument to the Battle of the Nations
  5. On Globalization

The burning of a Library in Egypt and the Philosophy behind it

The damnation of this earth as a realm where nothing is possible to man but pain, disaster and defeat, a realm inferior to another, “higher,” reality; the damnation of all values, enjoyment, achievement and success on earth as a proof of depravity; the damnation of man’s mind as a source of pride, and the damnation of reason as a “limited,” deceptive, unreliable, impotent faculty, incapable of perceiving the “real” reality and the “true” truth; the split of man in two, setting his consciousness (his soul) against his body, and his moral values against his own interest; the damnation of man’s nature, body and self as evil; the commandment of self-sacrifice, renunciation, suffering, obedience, humility and faith, as the good; the damnation of life and the worship of death, with the promise of rewards beyond the grave—these are the necessary tenets of the [mystic’s] view of existence, as they have been in every variant of [mystical] philosophy throughout the course of mankind’s history. Ayn Rand

Yesterday December 17, 2011 during conflicts between some Egyptian protests, the Egyptian Scientific Institute which established in 1798 by Napolean Bonaparte was burned. The Egyptian Scientific Institute was the oldest scientific institute in Egypt and Middle East at all. It has the most rich and rare library in Egypt.

Eyewitnesses were reported to have seen protestors throwing a Molotov cocktail at stone-throwing soldiers at the Shura Council building, but the projectile missed the intended target and instead landed in the Egyptian Scientific Institute.

The library contains about 40.000 items of rare books and manuscripts, however it has unvaluable items, like:

  •  The original copy of the french book “Description de l’Egypte”
  • Atlas of Old Indian arts.
  • German atlas about Egypt and Ethiopia, 1842.
  • “Egypt: the mother of the world”, 1753.

Professor Mahmoud al-Shernoby, the general secretary of the institute, told state TV in a phone interview that the damage is a “great loss” to Egypt and that those “who caused this disaster showed be punished.”

Photos about burning the Egyptian Scientific Institute:

Amazon’s top 10 History Books of 2011

In the Garden of Beasts: Love, Terror, and an American Family in Hitler's BerlinLost in Shangri-La: A True Story of Survival, Adventure, and the Most Incredible Rescue Mission of World War IICatherine the Great: Portrait of a WomanThe Greater Journey: Americans in ParisA History of the World in 100 Objects

The Best Books of 2011

Save up to 40% on our editors’ picks for the top 100 best books of the year, plus year-end top 10s in over two dozen categories

So many books. So many choices. It’s not easy putting together a list of the year’s best books, but we’ve held many meetings and votes, we’ve pored over the books and occasionally poured our hearts out to get you this final Top 100. For every book on the list, there has been an impassioned plea and an argument made–so don’t just look at the Top 10 or 20. There are great books all up and down the Top 100 list. One of them might be the perfect read for you.

The Great Sea: A Human History of the Mediterranean
Radioactivity: A History of a Mysterious ScienceDestiny of the Republic: A Tale of Madness, Medicine and the Murder of a President

The Longest War: The Enduring Conflict between America and Al-Qaeda1861: The Civil War Awakening

Rendez-vous with History. Weimar, Germany (4-6 November, 2011)

City hall of Weimar

“Hatred is something peculiar. You will always find it strongest and most violent where there is the lowest degree of culture.”
Johann Wolfgang von Goethe

Today I’ll be traveling to Weimar, Germany to participate in the Festival “Rendez-vous de l’histoire”.  The theme of the 3rd. Year of this “Rendez-vous with history” in Weimar is: Human Violence, Human Violence.

AS the website of the conference reads,

‘Violence’ is complex and disturbing. It is a historical, present and future threat. “Violence” in all its forms, including counter-violence and non-violence as a deliberate departure from the traditional and new power relationships will be discussed at the Weimar festival. Human societies as always dream of peace – but at the same time, violence is a constant and seemingly unavoidable part of our personal and political relationships.

Weimar’s international history festival will address not only the cruel dimensions of violence in history, but also ask for their anthropological origins and its liberating potential.

In about 20 panel discussions and lectures be at Weimar history festival tensions between freedom and violence, beauty and violence, explored “legitimate” and “illegitimate” violence – the relationship between media and violence, language, literature and violence, violence and reconciliation presented. The spectrum ranges from the Middle Ages to the year 2011, and is not geographically limited. But the focus is primarily on Europe – in particular the countries of the Weimar Triangle – and also to Weimar and Thuringia.
A film series and cultural evenings will complete the program.

Some of the lecturers are:

And many other wonderful lecturers!

I hope to share with you news and insights from this interesting event!

Manuel Baldizón amenaza al periodismo independiente en Guatemala

Coat of arms of Guatemala. Extracted from the ...
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El dia de hoy me enteré de una terrible noticia (link al artículo escrito por Sylvia Gereda) para Guatemala. La independencia de ElPeriódico, uno de los medios impresos más importantes de mi país ha sido capturada por la corrupción, el crimen organizado y las elites del narcotráfico vinculadas al candidato a Presidente de Guatemala por el Partido Líder el Sr. Manuel Baldizón.  Debido a esto, la Señora Sylvia Valenzuela de Gereda, Directora de este Diario, ha presentado su renuncia a la Dirección y anunció su salida defintiva como accionista del periódico.

Con su salida “Atlas se encogió de hombros” y muchos de nosotros junto con ella. Espero que la decisión de la Señora Sylvia Gereda sea comprendida e imitada por muchos guatemaltecos que diariamente deben de decidir si sacrifican sus valores y principios; o deciden luchar por sus propias armas sin nunca sacrificar los valores que con tanto amor protegen.

Esta es la carta que escribí para la Sra. Gereda y los encomio a reproducir sus muestras de apoyo de todas las formas que estén a su alcance (cartas al lector, publicaciones en medios, calco-manías en sus autos, y cuantas otras formas puedan crear).

Estimada Sra. Gereda,

Le deseo muchísimos éxitos en su carrera empresarial y la felicito por tomar una decisión tan importante basándose en principios morales.

Gracias por no claudicar y sacrificar el amor que siente por su familia, por Guatemala y por Sus valores. Porque, tal y como dijo el héroe de la novela “La rebelión de Atlas” en esta época de crisis moral,

“Todo lo que es apropiado para la vida de un ser racional
es lo bueno; todo lo que la destruye es lo malo.

La vida del hombre, como requiere su naturaleza, no es la
vida de un salvaje insensato, de un rufián saqueador o de
un místico gorrón, sino la vida de un ser pensante – no la
vida por medio de fuerza o fraude, sino la vida por medio
de logros – no la supervivencia a cualquier precio, pues
sólo hay un precio que paga por la supervivencia del
hombre: la razón.

La vida del hombre es el criterio de moralidad, pero tu
propia vida es tu objetivo. Si la existencia en la tierra es tu
objetivo, debes elegir tus acciones y valores de acuerdo
con el criterio de lo que es apropiado para el hombre –
con el fin de preservar, enriquecer y disfrutar el
irreemplazable valor que es tu vida.”

Con su partida de ElPeriódico toda Guatemala hizo como Atlas y se encogió de hombros. Pero tengo la certeza de que muchos otros héroes como usted seguirán luchando por construir un mejor mundo para los seres a los que tanto amamos.

Cuenta conmigo y con mi apoyo incondicional.


Guillermo Pineda

Paper on “Craftying analytical tools to study institutional change”

Today I did a presentation on the methodological plan for a study in the Internationalization of Leipzig’s Gallery of Contemporary Art.  I received very important critics that helped me correct the way of my research.  The critics were directed at focusing on the institutional evolution of the Gallery’s agenda (to understand what was behind of the internationalization process we had identified in our preliminary research). Indeed, crafting a study is not an easy thing and today I read that UDADISI had re-posted a great article on something related to the issue I’ll be dealing with in the next couple weeks.  So it was worth republishing. 😉 Here’s the article by Ostrom and Basurto,
These are some ideas on the evolution of institutions from the [very interesting!] paper:
What are rules:

[S]hared understandings by actors about enforced prescriptions concerning what actions (or outcomes) are required, prohibited, or permitted.

[Rules] are linguistic statements containing prescriptions similar to norms, but rules carry an additional, assigned sanction if forbidden actions are taken and observed by a monitor (Commons, 1924).

What are norms:

Norms are prescriptions about actions or outcomes that are not focused primarily on short-term material payoffs to self. A participant who holds a truth- telling norm gains an internal reward (that can be modeled as an additional value added to their utility function) for telling the truth even when material payoffs would be greater when telling a lie (Crawford and Ostrom, 2005).

Some lessons from institutional analysis:

Some of the lessons coming out of our institutional analyses in Nepal and elsewhere show that resource users who have relative autonomy to design their own rules for governing and managing common-pool resources frequently achieve better economic (as well as more equitable) outcomes than when experts do this for them.

How do rules originate on farmer irrigation systems

Farmers in old and established systems tell researchers that they do not know much about the origin of the rules they use. In Bali, for example, rules are encoded in a sacred religious system and are monitored and enforced by priests (Lansing, 1991, 2006).

What are some of the processes of rule change?

[T]he evolution of a rule system is not synonymous with progress. Certainly, evolutionary processes do not entail a priori judgments on the outcome. Evolutionary processes do involve, however, the generation of new alternatives, selection among new and old combinations of structural attributes, and retention of those combinations of attributes that are successful in a particular environment. In evolving biological systems, genotypic structures are changed through blind variation or directed variation (such as in the case of the domestication of many species of plants and animals). In evolving human-based rule systems, rule configurations within an action situation can change as a result of many self-conscious or unconscious mechanisms, including trial-and-error efforts, especially in collective-action processes. In some instances, the capacity of the biophysical resource system to buffer abuse from trial-and- error of different rule systems seems to play a necessary but not sufficient role in the emergence of successful self-governed rule systems (Basurto, 2008; Basurto and Coleman, 2010). Mechanisms for change in rule configurations can be roughly divided into relatively self-conscious and unconscious processes of change. Among examples of self-conscious processes that are frequently mentioned in the literature are those driven by imitation (Richerson and Boyd, 2005). Imitation of rules used by others can lead to rule evolution over time, especially if the farmers from multiple irrigation systems in a region regularly interact in a local market or other regular meeting place.

Imitation of entire rule systems that are thought of as ‘successful’ can also take place at the constitutional-choice level, such as the case of the adoption of the US National Parks’ law system by the Costa Rican nascent national park system. Other self- conscious processes of change in rule systems include some cases of external development interventions, such as when external aid support is conditioned to changes in local institutions based on foreign views of fairness, productivity, democracy, or development itself.

Competitive processes can also lead some users to self-consciously favor some institutional arrangements over others. Similarly, conflict over the interpretation of rules is also a process that frequently leads to self-conscious change.

Most self-conscious processes of change are based on the ability of humans to learn (Henry, 2009), such as when members of a rural fishing community organize to modify rules to control levels of exploitation based on past experiences (Basurto, 2005).

Unconscious processes of change include forgetting, like when there is a very large number of rules and no one ‘remembers’ them all without extensive research, or when laws are never practiced. The same phenomena are observed when certain taboos disappear through language loss, cognitive dissonance, technological change, or non-enforcement. These mechanisms can slowly erode rule systems, which then wither away and eventually can be replaced by new practices and norms of behavior (Kofinas, 2005).

Our dependence on language to communicate and the inherent ambiguity of language can lead to a number of unconscious processes of rule change as well. Rules are composed of mere words and, as Vincent Ostrom (1997) has frequently pointed out, words are not always understood by everyone with the same meaning (see also 2008a, 2008b). A guard may not understand the rules the same way as users. A guard, for example, may interpret rules that place heavy costs on the guard in contrast to those rules that involve low costs. Babbling equilibrium problems are widespread, even among scholars studying rules and norms systems! And, it is a key problem for the social sciences (E. Ostrom, 2005: 179).

Dopfer et al. (2004) view an economic system as a population of rules, a structure of rules, and a process of rules, where the micro domain refers to the individual carriers of rules and the systems they organize, the macro consists of the population structure of systems of meso, which is where processes of rule change take place.

It is worth restating that it would be naıve to assume that any evolutionary process always leads to better outcomes. In biological systems, competition among populations of diverse species led to the weeding out of many individuals over time who were outcompeted for mates and food in a given environment.