Friday, August 13, 2010

Bureaucracy of the Imagination


There is an arresting statement deep within the 9/11 Commission Report, that makes explicit an organizing theme, suggesting an opening for attitude adjustment.  It is therefore crucial to find a way of routinizing, even bureaucratizing the exercise of imagination (p. 344).  The immediate context is concern that security experts had not foreseen the scenario of the hijack attacks, despite many contextual signals. The comment is made in a chapter entitled "Foresight -- And Hindsight," in which imagination is listed, along with the categories of policy, capabilities, and management, as the four categories of failure demonstrated by the surprise attack.  We may be witnessing the creation of an addition to the list of oxymoron jokes:  military intelligence, jumbo shrimp, bureaucratic imagination.  The wording in the Report suggests a misunderstanding about imagination, as if it were a way to eliminate surprise, when the reality is just the opposite. The desired effect might be the same, which is to say that there is strategic value in imagination.  To admit this truth is already a proposal for a transformation in American education.  Our project is to take this sentiment at face value, and take up the challenge of constructing a concept of Routine that includes a capacity (an ability, a virtue, a power, a faculty) of auto-surprise:  surprisability.

No comments:

Post a Comment