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General Theory of Reflexivity: George Soros’s latest thinking on economics and politics Lecture Series February 11, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in General Theory of Reflexivity, George Soro.
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Reflexivity, fallibility and uncertainty

 

In order to facilitate understanding of Soro’s theory, we are interested to reintroduce reflexivity as it is  defined and elaborated in Wikipadia as follows:

Reflexivity refers to circular relationships between cause and effect. A reflexive relationship is bidirectional with both the cause and the effect affecting one another in a relationship in which neither can be assigned as causes or effects. In sociology, reflexivity therefore comes to mean an act of self-reference where examination or action “bends back on”, refers to, and affects the entity instigating the action or examination.

To this extent it commonly refers to the capacity of an agent to recognize forces of socialization and alter their place in the social structure. A low level of reflexivity would result in an individual shaped largely by their environment (or “society”). A high level of social reflexivity would be defined by an individual shaping their own norms, tastes, politics, desires, and so on. This is similar to the notion of autonomy. (See also Structure and agency and Social mobility.)

In economics, reflexivity refers to the self-reinforcing effect of market sentiment, whereby rising prices attract buyers whose actions drive prices higher still until the process becomes unsustainable and the same process operates in reverse leading to a catastrophic collapse in prices.

It is an instance of a feedback loop.

In social theory, reflexivity may occur when theories in a discipline should apply equally forcefully to the discipline itself, for example in the case that the theories of knowledge construction in the field of sociology of scientific knowledgeshould apply equally to knowledge construction by sociology of scientific knowledge practitioners, or when the subject matter of a discipline should apply equally well to the individual practitioners of that discipline, for example when psychological theory should explain the psychological mental processes of psychologists. More broadly, reflexivity is considered to occur when the observations or actions of observers in the social system affect the very situations they are observing, or theory being formulated is disseminated to and affects the behaviour of the individuals or systems the theory is meant to be objectively modelling. Thus for example an anthropologist living in an isolated village may affect the village and the behaviour of its citizens that he or she is studying. The observations are not independent of the participation of the observer.

Reflexivity is, therefore, a methodological issue in the social sciences analogous to the observer effect. Within that part of recent sociology of science that has been called the strong programme, reflexivity is suggested as a methodological norm or principle, meaning that a full theoretical account of the social construction of, say, scientific, religious or ethical knowledge systems, should itself be explainable by the same principles and methods as used for accounting for these other knowledge systems. This points to a general feature of naturalised epistemologies, that such theories of knowledge allow for specific fields of research to elucidate other fields as part of an overall self-reflective process: Any particular field of research occupied with aspects of knowledge processes in general (e.g., history of science, cognitive science, sociology of science, psychology of perception, semiotics, logic, neuroscience) may reflexively study other such fields yielding to an overall improved reflection on the conditions for creating knowledge.

Reflexivity includes both a subjective process of self-consciousness inquiry and the study of social behavior with reference to theories about social relationships.

The principle of reflexivity was perhaps first enunciated by the sociologist William Thomas (1923, 1928) as the Thomas theorem: that ‘the situations that men define as true, become true for them.’

Sociologist Robert K. Merton (1948, 1949) built on the Thomas principle to define the notion of a self-fulfilling prophecy: that once a prediction or prophecy is made, actors may accommodate their behaviours and actions so that a statement that would have been false becomes true or, conversely, a statement that would have been true becomes false – as a consequence of the prediction or prophecy being made. The prophecy has a constitutive impact on the outcome or result, changing the outcome from what would otherwise have happened.

Reflexivity was taken up as an issue in science in general by Karl Popper (1957), who called it the ‘Oedipal effect’, and more comprehensively by Nagel[who?] (1961). Reflexivity presents a problem for science because if a prediction can lead to changes in the system that the prediction is made in relation to, it becomes difficult to assess scientific hypotheses by comparing the predictions they entail with the events that actually occur. The problem is even more difficult in the social sciences.

Reflexivity has been taken up as the issue of “reflexive prediction” in economic science by Grunberg and Modigliani (1954) and Herbert A. Simon (1954), has been debated as a major issue in relation to the Lucas Critique, and has been raised as a methodological issue in economic science arising from the issue of reflexivity in the sociology of scientific knowledge (SSK) literature.

Reflexivity has emerged as both an issue and a solution in modern approaches to the problem of structure and agency, for example in the work of Anthony Giddensin his structuration theory and Pierre Bourdieu in his genetic structuralism.

Giddens, for example, noted that constitutive reflexivity is possible in any social system, and that this presents a distinct methodological problem for the social sciences. Giddens accentuated this theme with his notion of “reflexive modernity” – the argument that, over time, society is becoming increasingly more self-aware, reflective, and hence reflexive.

Bourdieu argued that the social scientist is inherently laden with biases, and only by becoming reflexively aware of those biases can the social scientists free themselves from them and aspire to the practice of an objective science. For Bourdieu, therefore, reflexivity is part of the solution, not the problem.

Michel Foucault’s The Order of Things can be said to touch on the issue of Reflexivity. Foucault examines the history of western thought since the Renaissance and argues that each historical epoch (he identifies 3, while proposing a 4th) has an episteme, or “a historical a priori“, that structures and organizes knowledge. Foucault argues that the concept of man emerged in the early 19th century, what he calls the “Age of Man”, with the philosophy of Immanuel Kant. He finishes the book by posing the problem of the age of man and our pursuit of knowledge- where “man is both knowing subject and the object of his own study”; thus, Foucault argues that the social sciences, far from being objective, produce truth in their own mutually exclusive discourses.

In economics

Economic philosopher George Soros, influenced by ideas put forward by his tutor, Karl Popper (1957), has been an active promoter of the relevance of reflexivity to economics, first propounding it publicly in his 1987 book The Alchemy of Finance.[1] He regards his insights into market behaviour from applying the principle as a major factor in the success of his financial career.

Reflexivity is inconsistent with equilibrium theory, which stipulates that markets move towards equilibrium and that non-equilibrium fluctuations are merely random noise that will soon be corrected. In equilibrium theory, prices in the long run at equilibrium reflect the underlying fundamentals, which are unaffected by prices. Reflexivity asserts that prices do in fact influence the fundamentals and that these newly influenced set of fundamentals then proceed to change expectations, thus influencing prices; the process continues in a self-reinforcing pattern. Because the pattern is self-reinforcing, markets tend towards disequilibrium. Sooner or later they reach a point where the sentiment is reversed and negative expectations become self-reinforcing in the downward direction, thereby explaining the familiar pattern of boom and bust cycles [2] An example Soros cites is the procyclical nature of lending, that is, the willingness of banks to ease lending standards for real estate loans when prices are rising, then raising standards when real estate prices are falling, reinforcing the boom and bust cycle.

Soros has often claimed that his grasp of the principle of reflexivity is what has given him his “edge” and that it is the major factor contributing to his successes as a trader. Nevertheless, there is little sign of the principle being accepted in mainstream economic circles.

In anthropology

In anthropology, reflexivity has come to have two distinct meanings, one that refers to the researcher’s awareness of an analytic focus on his or her relationship to the field of study, and the other that attends to the ways that cultural practices involve consciousness and commentary on themselves.

The first sense of reflexivity in anthropology is part of social science’s more general self-critique in the wake of theories by Michel Foucault and others about the relationship of power and knowledge production. Reflexivity about the research process became an important part of the critique of the colonial roots[3] and scientistic methods of anthropology in the “writing cultures”[4] movement associated with James Clifford and George Marcus, as well as many other anthropologists. Rooted in literary criticism and philosophical analysis of the relationship of anthropologist, representations of people in texts, and the people represented, this approach has fundamentally changed ethical and methodological approaches in anthropology. As with the feminist and anti-colonial critiques that provide some of reflexive anthropology’s inspiration, the reflexive understanding of the academic and political power of representations, analysis of the process of “writing culture” has become a necessary part of understanding the situation of the ethnographer in the fieldwork situation. Objectification of people and cultures and analysis of them only as objects of study has been largely rejected in favor of developing more collaborative approaches that respect local people’s values and goals. Nonetheless, many anthropologists have accused the “writing cultures” approach of muddying the scientific aspects of anthropology with too much introspection about fieldwork relationships, and reflexive anthropology have been heavily attacked by more positivist anthropologists.[5] Considerable debate continues in anthropology over the role of postmodernism and reflexivity, but most anthropologists accept the value of the critical perspective, and generally only argue about the relevance of critical models that seem to lead anthropology away from its earlier core foci.[6]

The second kind of reflexivity studied by anthropologists involves varieties of self-reference in which people and cultural practices call attention to themselves.[7] One important origin for this approach is Roman Jakobson in his studies of deixis and the poetic function in language, but the work of Mikhail Bakhtin on carnival has also been important. Within anthropology, Gregory Bateson developed ideas about meta-messages as part of communication, while Clifford Geertz‘s studies of ritual events such as the Balinese cock-fight point to their role as foci for public reflection on the social order. Studies of play and tricksters further expanded ideas about reflexive cultural practices. Reflexivity has been most intensively explored in studies of performance,[8] public events,[9] rituals,[10] and linguistic forms[11] but can be seen any time acts, things, or people are held up and commented upon or otherwise set apart for consideration. In researching cultural practices reflexivity plays important role but because of its complexity and subtlety it often goes under-investigated or involves highly specialized analyses.[12]

One use of studying reflexivity is in connection to authenticity. Cultural traditions are often imagined as perpetuated as stable ideals by uncreative actors. Innovation may or may not change tradition, but since reflexivity is intrinsic to many cultural activities, reflexivity is part of tradition and not inauthentic. The study of reflexivity shows that people have both self-awareness and creativity in culture. They can play with, comment upon, debate, modify, and objectify culture through manipulating many different features in recognized ways. This leads to the metaculture of conventions about managing and reflecting upon culture.[13]

Reflexivity and the status of the social sciences

Flanagan has argued that reflexivity complicates all three of the traditional roles that are typically played by a classical science: explanation, prediction and control. The fact that individuals and social collectivities are capable of self-inquiry and adaptation is a key characteristic of real-world social systems, differentiating the social sciences from the physical sciences. Reflexivity, therefore, raises real issues regarding the extent to which the social sciences may ever be viewed as “hard” sciences analogous to classical physics, and raises questions about the nature of the social sciences.[14]

See more at:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reflexivity_%28social_theory%29

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Oromo: Torture survivor inspired by Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’ February 11, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in Africa, Amnesty International's Report: Because I Am Oromo, Ethnic Cleansing, Sexual violence, Torture survivor.
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Torture survivor inspired by Elie Wiesel’s ‘Night’

By Feyera Negera Sobokssa*

Rehabilitated Feyera celebrates X-Mas with his family

February 10, 2015 (Washington Jewish Week) — I am a torture survivor who was persecuted by the government of Ethiopia because I was advocating for the Oromo ethnic group in the country. I suffered so much between 1991 and 1996; even now I feel the severe trauma of what I experienced at the hands of torturers. I was trying to search for the right vocabulary to explain what happened to me.

After traveling to the United States in 2000, I came across a book called Night by Holocaust survivor Elie Wiesel. This book helped me describe the human brutality and the need to speak out for others who did not have the same opportunity.

This paragraph in Night (p. viii) helped inspire me to become a voice for other victims of torture. Wiesel wrote about the importance of becoming:

“a witness who believes he has a moral obligation to try to prevent the enemy from enjoying one last victory by allowing his crimes to be erased from human memory.”

When I was a young boy in the 1950s and 60s, I witnessed how the government treated my people, the Oromos. The Oromos are the largest ethnic group in Ethiopia, more than one-third of the population. They have their own culture and traditions; our language, Afan Oromo, was banned in schools, government offices and the courts. As a child, I remember seeing Oromo boys beaten if they spoke the language. Even today, the ruling elites in Ethiopia still use the term “galla” to refer to Oromos. “Galla” is a horrible, derogatory word used to dehumanize Oromos and to keep them in a low position.

I was distributing a book called “History of the Galla” in 1991 the first time government agents arrested me. They grabbed me by the arms and took me to a military camp. They forced me to drink something, probably a hallucinogenic drug, and made me dance in front of the soldiers. They wanted to know what types of books I was reading, besides “History of the Galla,” I told them Exodus by Leon Uris was one of my favorite books.

Ethiopian regime's brutally torturing Oromo Students

My worst torture experience was in a military camp in 1995. Soldiers inflicted a terrible kind of torture called “Code Number Eight.” They tied my elbows together, causing terrible pain in my chest and damaging my ligaments and muscles. Then they suspended me on a metal object and kept me like that for long hours for two nights. It was so horrible I remember asking the security forces to kill me. They said “We don’t want you to die, we want you to suffer.”

Torture scene in Ethiopia

I finally escaped Ethiopia in the year 2000, leaving my children behind. My wife was in a special refugee camp in Germany which used to be a Nazi concentration camp. I immediately was granted political asylum. Shortly after that I discovered the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). TASSC is a place that helps survivors give meaning to their lives. They assigned me a case manager who talked to me about PTSD, she listened and cared about me. She also helped my family by writing a recommendation to bring my daughter from Ethiopia to Washington. Today, TASSC provides counseling, housing, health care and pro bono legal services to survivors in the Washington area. It also has an advocacy program where survivors meet congressional staff to create awareness about the impact of torture on victims and their families.

I have always thought the Oromos and the Jewish people have a lot in common because Oromos were persecuted just like the Jews. I realized this a long time ago after readingExodus and visiting the Holocaust museum. It was unbelievable to read about the gas chambers and what happened in Auschwitz and other concentration camps. But Exodus also gave me hope. People who were persecuted can rise from the depths of despair to be free. That made me think that one day Oromos can be free too.

This picture proved for us how the government security forces are beaten those who Protested (Women and youth) against vote rigging.

Last April, TASSC organized a Passover Seder that focused on the universal desire for freedom by honoring survivors and their journey from persecution to freedom. The Bible teaches us the story of Moses, Pharaoh and the Exodus. I brought Night to the seder and shared what the book means to me with the Jews and the other survivors. The Seder was a wonderful connection for survivors because it helped us transform our pain into strength.

Even, innocent women are not spared from torture in Oromia and Ogaden

Ultra-nationalistic totalitarian movements brought Nazism and Fascism to Germany and Italy, creating hatred for minorities. Many people do not know that we also have a totalitarian regime in Ethiopia controlled by a small ethnic group who are oppressing the Oromos and other ethnic groups. We have to fight these kinds of movements everywhere in the world. According to the human rights group Genocide Watch, Ethiopia has already committed “genocidal massacres against many of its peoples.”

Elie Wiesel was right when he said “Silence helps the perpetrators, not the victims.” For this reason, over the last ten years, I have become a TASSC “truth speaker,” going to schools, universities and churches to speak about torture and create awareness about the persecution of the Oromo people. If given the chance, I would welcome the opportunity to connect with the Jewish community in Washington by visiting synagogues and Jewish groups.

*Feyera Sobokssa is a torture survivor from Ethiopia who received political asylum in 2001. He began his political activities as a young man employed as an accountant by Ethiopian Airlines, helping to distribute publications about the Oromo ethnic group and their history of persecution by the Ethiopian government. Feyera is now a spokesman against torture with the Torture Abolition and Survivors Support Coalition (TASSC). He is a strong advocate for human rights and for raising awareness about the plight of the Oromos in Ethiopia.

Sources:

Washington Jewish Week

http://ayyaantuu.com/human-rights/torture-survivor-inspired-by-elie-wiesels-night/

Read more at:

http://ayyaantuu.com/human-rights/torture-survivor-inspired-by-elie-wiesels-night/

http://washingtonjewishweek.com/19569/torture-survivor-inspired-by-elie-wiesels-night/

Quantum model: Two physicists have put forward a radical new model which suggests the Big Bang didn’t take place – and that our universe has no beginning and no end. February 11, 2015

Posted by OromianEconomist in 10 best Youtube videos, 25 killer Websites that make you cleverer, Big Bang, Our universe, Quantum model, Science.
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Oour Universe

Did the Big Bang ever happen? Quantum model predicts universe has NO beginning – and it could even explain dark energy

 

Current physics can’t explain what happened during the Big Bang

 

The new theory combines general relativity with quantum mechanics

 

The equations found that quantum particles can never meet or cross

 

‘Since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning,’ Professor Saurya Das told Dailymail.com

 

The model also has the potential to explain dark energy since the quantum particles create a constant outward force that expands space

Our universe, according to Einstein’s theories, is around 13.8 billion years old and formed from an infinitely small point during the Big Bang.

While most people accept this model, scientists still can’t explain what happened inside this tiny point – called a singularity – or what came before it.

Now, two tphysicists have put forward a radical new model which suggests the Big Bang didn’t take place – and that our universe has no beginning and no end.

Our universe, according to Einstein's theories, is around 13.8 billion years old and formed from an infinitely small point during the Big Bang (illustration pictured) While most people accept this model, scientists still can't explain what happened inside this tiny point - called a singularity – or what came before it

‘The math and the Big Bang theory itself break down because of the infinities,’ Professor Saurya Das at University of Lethbridge, Canada told Dailymail.com.

‘In other words, the theory predicts its own demise. It also does not explain where that initial state, came from.’

The scientists began with equations created by physicist David Bohm (left), who in the 1950s attempted to use quantum theory in place of classical equations. They then combined this with an equation by Professor Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University (right)The scientists began with equations created by physicist David Bohm (left), who in the 1950s attempted to use quantum theory in place of classical equations. They then combined this with an equation by Professor Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University (right)

The scientists began with equations created by physicist David Bohm (left), who in the 1950s attempted to use quantum theory in place of classical equations. They then combined this with an equation by Professor Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University (right)

They then combined this with an equation by Professor Amal Kumar Raychaudhuri at Presidency University, in Kolkata, which described a fluid of small particles that pervades space.

This fluid is the quantum version of gravity, which has dubbed a graviton by Professor Das and co-author Ahmed Farag Ali at Benha University.

They showed that unlike classical trajectories – which are paths of particles going into the future or past – the quantum particles can never meet or cross.

‘As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning,’ said Professor Das.

‘It lasted forever. It will also not have an end…In other words, there is no singularity.’

But if there was no Big Bang, what is the history of our universe?

‘The universe could have lasted forever,’ speculates Professor Das.

‘It could have gone through cycles of being small and big.

‘Or it could have been created much earlier.’

The theory may also potentially explain the origin of dark matter and dark energy.

'As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning,' said Professor Das. Pictured is a star cluster that popular cosmology believes formed following the Big Bang. The current research suggests stars such as this always existed

‘As far as we can see, since different points in the universe never actually converged in the past, it did not have a beginning,’ said Professor Das. Pictured is a star cluster that popular cosmology believes formed following the Big Bang. The current research suggests stars such as this always existed.

These elusive substances constitute respectively about 25 per cent and 70 per cent of our universe.

‘We showed that a giant Bose-Einstein condensate of gravitons may have formed very early on, have lasted forever, and which accounts for both dark matter and dark energy,’ said Professor Das.

In the late 1990s, astronomers found that the expansion of the universe is accelerating due the presence of a dark energy.

Their model has the potential to explain it since the fluid creates constant outward force that expands space.

And when the team set the mass of the graviton, they could make the density of their fluid the same as the universe’s observed density of dark matter.

‘It is satisfying to note that such straightforward corrections can potentially resolve so many issues at once.’ Professor Das said.

Source: dailymail.co.uk

Read more: http://www.dailymail.co.uk/sciencetech/article-2947967/Did-Big-Bang-happen-Quantum-model-predicts-universe-NO-beginning-explain-dark-energy.html#ixzz3RP9LxYX3
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