Reflections on the relationship between science and society from the perspective of physics

Piccirillo moves from the premise that science, in any form and format, is a valuable enterprise. If this is accepted, then scientists should enjoy a substantial degree of freedom from various forms of restrictions. Financial restrictions obviously call into question wider issues about the morality of resource rationing. Other forms of restrictions, based on ignorance, fear or political or ideological credo, are harder to justify. Scientific freedom is not just a political or ideological matter. It is also a matter for scientists to actively deal with: it is the role of scientists to explain, in accessible terms, the importance of scientific endeavours that may appear either grand and remote, incomprehensible and detached from the life of many laypeople, or otherwise frivolous and trivial. Piccirillo takes on this role and discusses examples of seemingly grand and frivolous science, such as the Large Hadron Collider and the Markov chain, explains their purposes and importance and shows that there is a big added value to society from small and big science if they work together.

in The freedom of scientific research

In recent years, cities have become key sites of political interactions. World Bank data suggests that 65% of the region’s population live in cities, although in the Gulf, this figure is much larger. As a consequence, regulating life in cities has become increasingly important. Legislation designed to regulate life finds most traction within urban areas, where jobs and welfare projects – not always under the auspices of the state – offer a degree of protection. Beyond this, the aesthetics of a city can be used to develop a national identity, which also brings about exclusion. Decisions over infrastructural and development projects are taken for political reasons, driven by domestic and regional concerns, but impacting on the lives of citizens and non-citizens within states and across space. Within the urban environment, identities, groups and networks interact and collide, simultaneously reinforcing and challenging communities, identities and the state itself. Amidst an array of tribal, ethnic, religious, political and ideological loyalties, regulating life within the city is of paramount importance for regime survival. As such, the city is the arena through which networks of patronage – family, tribal, religious or bureaucratic – can be mobilised to retain power.

in Houses built on sand
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Edmund Howes’s Annales

The chronicler Edmund Howes was interested in trade and, like his more illustrious contemporaries Francis Bacon (ch. 1) and William Camden (ch. 2), provided an analysis of the state's management of commercial affairs. Howes, however, had much closer connections with the workshops, warehouses and offices of the City than the other writers discussed in this book. And it was through describing the activities of individuals attached to these locales, the chapter argues, that he was able to develop a highly innovative account of English commercial history. In dealing with Howes's writing, the chapter begins by looking briefly at his life, before exploring the account of Jacobean immigration, manufacture and trading companies developed in the Annales (1615, 1632). The chapter's final section shows how Howes's work shaped the approach to Jacobean commerce of one of the most popular historical works of the seventeenth century: Richard Baker's Chronicle (1643).

in Commerce, finance and statecraft
Staging class aboard the omnibus

This chapter considers the omnibus as a central urban site where class relations and class identity were articulated, debated, and contested. Contemporary writers noted that the name omnibus was particularly well-suited to a mode of public transport that was by law open to everyone regardless of class, rank, or social standing. In theory, this vehicle embodied democratic promise, class equality, and French Republican values. Yet a careful analysis of contemporary documents shows that the omnibus was a much more ambivalent class signifier than heretofore believed. While some works hailed it as a symbol of progress and democratic potential, a space in which social distinctions became irrelevant, and all passengers were treated equally, others bemoaned that the omnibus fell short as a vehicle of equality. Finally, some documents reveal a profound anxiety about class mixing aboard the omnibus, which for many symbolized the upending of existing social hierarchies. The omnibus was thus a locus for engaging with both class aspirations and class anxieties. Some urban observers perceived social mobility as a promise, while others saw it as a dangerous challenge to the social order.

in Engine of modernity
Contested narratives of the independence struggle in postconfl ict Timor-Leste

Timor-Leste's struggle for independence cost the lives of more than 108,000 people, the majority of them unarmed civilians. The supposedly unifying narrative of the nation struggling as one for independence, of which the claim of the nation over the remains of the dead heroes is one manifestation, is however not uncontested. This chapter focuses on three aspects of the socially, culturally and politically complex debate. Following a brief historical outline, it looks at the role of the dead in narratives of the state, the role of narratives of continued struggle and competing efforts of state and non-state actors to collect the remains of the fallen and demand recognition. The end of the struggle and the 'realness' of independence is questioned not only through the dead, however, but also through the state's politics of recognition.

in Governing the dead
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History, time and temporality in development discourse

This chapter focuses on two areas in which history can make a contribution, conceptually and methodologically, to understanding constructions of time and the past in development policy. First, it explores the problematic way in which the discourse writes and conceals its history, and addresses how we can usefully engage an historical perspective to move beyond a bounded history that simply charts a linear chronology of events and sequential theoretical positions. Second, the chapter argues that how we understand, invoke and imagine time and temporality in development, particularly in relation to other people in different places, reproduces and embeds global hierarchies and distinctions. It suggests that a postcolonial historical analysis can offer ways of writing different histories and of moving beyond the problematic framing of time.

in History, historians and development policy
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Why might history matter for development policy?

When economists analyze development policy, the first requirement is a description of the economy, of individuals, households, firms, farms and any other relevant entities, how they behave and how they interact. Having set up the 'non-policy' outcome the policy is introduced and the consequences are worked out given the model of the economy specified earlier. Clearly, history matters, and it matters in important and interesting ways for policy. History matters also to how a ruling elite perceives its objectives and its constraints. It should be clear that the way in which history matters is more than as a series of facts and events in the past related to the policy in question, say. Rather, what is equally if not more important is how and in what form these events of the past came to be embedded in the consciousness of the present generation.

in History, historians and development policy
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Can historians assist development policy-making, or just highlight its faults?

History can highlight previously successful strategies; aid reflection on the policy-making process itself; and expose the origins of current ideas. Development policy-making, in the broadest sense, is as old as society. At the simplest level, historians can reveal which brilliant new programs have actually been tried before, then buried, as well as what has worked in the past. Historians, uniquely, can examine circumstances before, during and long after particular interventions, and thus assess their multiple impacts over a far greater time period and in a more nuanced way than is possible for contemporary programs. It is possible for history to assist, positively, in the development of better policy, precisely by showing, negatively, where the obstacles have been to desirable outcomes, whether within policy-making processes themselves or in reactions to them. Public health policy is useful to consider in this respect, because its goals are uncontroversial.

in History, historians and development policy
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Remembering the forgetting in schooling

This chapter begins with three different strands of intellectual history. First, there is a large 'business management' literature, the stuff about business one can buy in airports and read on airplanes. Second, the approach of economics is pithily expressed in the fact that the branch of game theory that deals with the possibility of allowing people to communicate during negotiations is called 'cheap talk'. The third element is a bit less intellectual history but a bit more pragmatic. Perhaps nowhere are these three points better illustrated than in the government ownership and control of schooling. Government-produced schooling is arguably the most wildly successful movement of the twentieth century. The shift towards government schooling is not that societies previously did not educate their young and now they do, but rather a contestation about what constitutes an education.

in History, historians and development policy
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Natural resources and development – which histories matter?

This chapter presents a distinction between 'natural resources' in general (including fertile soil and balmy climates) and what are usually labelled 'point natural resources', i.e. resources like oil, gas, minerals and deep shaft diamonds. To more fully understand the political dynamics of the contemporary 'resource curse', it provides a little schematic economic history. The history of mining in Africa is certainly driven by rents, including the political privileges that they can buy and the political competition and conflicts that they generate. History is not a pristine discipline unaffected by contemporary developments in economics and other social sciences. As in the real world of international trade, intellectual imports, exports and re-exports among disciplines need to be encouraged but also monitored for potential hazards.

in History, historians and development policy